Operant Conditioning Essay

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Operant Conditioning
Brian Sopko
University of Phoenix
12/5/13
Dena High Rodgers
Operant conditioning (or instrumental conditioning) is a type of learning in which an individual's behavior is modified by its consequences; the behaviour may change in form, frequency, or strength. Operant conditioning is a term that was coined by B. F. Skinner in 1937 (J. Staddon & D. Cerutii 2010). The word operant refers to, "an item of behavior that is initially spontaneous, rather than a response to a prior stimulus, but whose consequences may reinforce or inhibit recurrence of that behavior".
Operant conditioning is distinguished from classical conditioning (or respondent conditioning) in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of "voluntary behavior" or operant behavior. Operant behavior operates on the environment and is maintained by its consequences, while classical conditioning deals with the conditioning of reflexive (reflex) behaviors which are elicited by antecedent conditions. Behaviors conditioned via a classical conditioning procedure are not maintained by consequences (Domjan, 2003).
Positive reinforcement is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future. Negative reinforcement is when a certain stimulus/item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative stimuli. Negative reinforcement should not be thought of as a punishment procedure. With negative reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are decreasing a behavior. While both lead the person or animal in the desired behavioral direction, they have their own differing approaches; one being reward, the other being the loss of something valued by the person or animal.

I believe both positive and negative reinforcement are equally effective and equally ineffective. By trying to side only with one or the other, the subject would have a very one sided way of looking at things. I believe that you need a combination of both in order to create a well-rounded adult who can think on their own. If desired behaviors are rewarded but undesired behaviors are not, then the individual will have trouble understanding what is happening when the rewards stop. On the other hand, if only negative behavior is given negative reinforcement, then the individual may grow up thinking if they are good then they will be left alone, but alone or without reward may not be the best place for them. By rewarding good behavior with positive reinforcement and bad behavior with negative reinforcement, the individual will have a balanced sense of right and wrong, but also very quickly eliminate any undesirable behaviors and continue desirable ones.

Personally, I would attempt to apply operant conditioning to any child showing sociopathic tendencies. If a child cannot understand the concept or right and wrong, then they need to be taught at an early age…