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Operant Conditioning

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❶Accessed September 15,

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According to Salkind , the second is that information on the conditioning should be given in small gradual steps which will enable the subjects to undergo reinforcement. Finally, the reinforcement observed on a subject is taken to be representative of the overall population. In order for operant conditioning to work effectively, the subject must link the punishment or reinforcement to the behavior, and this dictates that it is given immediately. Performing reinforcement or giving punishment is especially important when dealing with animals or very little children, since they do not have verbal skills and this is the only way that they can link the stimulus with the response.

However, when dealing with adults, it is possible to separate the behavior and consequence, due to the presence of verbal skills which can be used to explain the reason for stimulus. There are sociologists who are of the opinion that the operant conditioning theory possesses fundamental weaknesses. The first criticism of the theory is that it ignores the genetic make up of the subjects, whether human or animals. For instance, the theory does not analyze the effects of biological problems to the learning process.

Some children possess various mental and physical disorders, which affect their learning process, and this is ignored by the theory. According to Lee , another weakness relates to the assumption that positive reinforcement will lead to higher frequency of occurrence of the particular behavior, and that negative reinforcement will lead to the reduction in frequency of occurrence of the particular behavior.

This does not occur to all subjects since the society has deviants and other people who rebel authority. Such people are likely to continue with the undesirable behavior in the event that they are punished for it.

Other factors such as peer pressure, economic pressures and others, may make people commit undesirable behavior regardless of the punishment given to them. It is therefore wrong to generalize the findings across the whole population without giving exceptions to the rule.

There are also people who are of the opinion that positive reinforcement does not always motivate the subject to practice the desired behavior. For instance teachers usually try to reinforce the practice of hard work in studies; with the explanation that it will provide opportunities in later life, but this does not motivate many students to study hard. Real life application of operant conditioning. In testing the effectiveness of the operant conditioning theory, I decided to visit the local kindergarten with the aim of finding out how practical the theory is.

The kindergarten program of activities runs between 8am and 1pm, with a one hour break between 10am and 11am. I had spoken to the head teacher and class teacher about my intended visit and they had no objections about the visit.

The only condition I was given was that I should not interrupt the class. I arrived early that morning and sat at the back of the class. Once the students arrived, I was introduced as a visitor, and the about twenty children were excited.

However, the lessons began as normal and the subject of the day was spelling. Initially, the students did not want to answer the questions, either due to lack of concentration or the fact that they were shy due to my presence.

Only two children participated in the class activities. The teacher soon realized that the students were not motivated to participate in class. She took a box of candy from her drawer and asked the class if they were interested in eating the candy. The students soon became very excited and all agreed that they wanted the candy. The teacher promised to give one candy to any student who correctly spells a word. I suddenly became alert as I recognized this to be a form of operant conditioning.

The teacher was using positive reinforcement in a bid to encourage the desired behavior. The positive reinforcement in this case was the candy while the desired outcome was participation in class.

The situation also possessed another characteristic of operant conditioning. This was the fact that behavior is voluntarily chosen by the subjects. The children had the choice of not answering the question if they did not want to, and their choice was solely motivated by the desire to get the candy. In light of these observations, I waited to see the outcome of the strategy. It did not take long, since soon, the children started fully participating in the class activities.

I counted fifteen hands which were raised in an attempt to participate in class. They were literally fighting to answer the questions. Initially, the children were eager to spell the words, but most of them would end up making mistakes in spelling. However, the teacher still gave them candy and announced that she would give anyone who undertook a piece of candy. Soon all twenty students participated in class and the situation remained the same throughout the lesson. In subsequent lessons, the children were still enthusiastic about participating in class since the same teacher taught the other lessons.

This experienced proved the theory to be practical, and the candy was seen to achieve the desired behavior by students. The teacher used positive reinforcement in a bid to encourage the desired behavior.

This resulted in achieving the desired behavior since all students eventually participated in class activities. It is also important to note that they participated voluntarily and were not forced by anyone to do so. This small experiment proves that the operant conditioning theory works. It is however subject to debate if the theory works just as well in schools for children with special needs.

This will be the objective in my future experiment. Hour Activity Hour 1: I analyze their class participation. Only two students participate in class. Introduction of candy as stimulus. By rewarding responses that are ever closer to the final desired behavior, and ignoring all other responses, researchers can gradually shape complex behaviors.

A reinforcer is any event that increases the frequency of a preceding response. When the desired response is reinforced every time it occurs, continuous reinforcement is involved. More common are partial reinforcement schedules. Fixed-ratio schedules reinforce behavior after a set number of responses; variable-ratio schedules provide reinforcers after an unpredictable number of responses.

Fixed-interval schedules feature an equal pause after each reinforcer, and variable-interval schedules reinforce the first response after varying time intervals. Like reinforcement, punishment is most effective when strong, immediate, and consistent.

However, punishment is not simply the opposite of reinforcement, due to the fact that it can have several undesirable side effects, such as increased aggression and fear of the punisher. Even when punishment suppresses unwanted behavior, it often does not guide one toward more desirable behavior. The cognitive perspective has led to an important qualification concerning the power of rewards. By undermining intrinsic interest, rewards can carry hidden costs.

Critics argue that he dehumanized people by neglecting their personal freedom and by seeking to control their actions.


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- Classical and Operant Conditioning QUESTION ONE Classical conditioning is a technique of learning that occurs when an unconditional stimulus is paired with a conditional stimulus. The unconditional stimulus is biologically potent, the conditional stimulus is neutral (Kalat, ).

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B.F. Skinner was the first to describe operant conditioning and used the term operant to refer to active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences (Coon & Mitterer, ). Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

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Classical and Operant Conditioning Essay Words | 4 Pages. world. Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are both basic forms of learning, they have the word conditioning in common. Conditioning is the acquisition of specific patterns of behavior in the presence of well-defined stimuli. Operant conditioning involves operant behavior that actively operates on the environment to produce stimuli. Skinner’s work elaborated a simple fact that Edward Thorndike called the law of effect: rewarded behavior is likely to recur.