Operant Conditioning

“Any behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be stopped.”-Thorndike (1898)

This theory is what B.F Skinner’s theory and experiments were based of.

Operant theory is a theory to explain the way that people learn. This theory was invented by the psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F Skinner) based of the theory of Thorndike in the law of effect.. His theory is that an individual changes its behavior based of the consequences of the behavior.The way that B.F Skinner tested his theory was on animals.He invented a box that would shock the rat and when a button is pressed it would dispense a treat and stop the shock. This experiment was based on Thorndike’s experiment with a cat in a box that would be released when a button is pressed. He called this box the Skinner box:

This is another experiment that Skinner did:

Skinner believed that behavior is shaped by reinforcement and punishment. Here are the definitions and some examples of the different type’s of behavior and reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement: This is the process of rewarding someone or something (a pet) for doing something good continually so they learn that it is a good behavior this increases the likelihood for a desired response. An example of this is that a worker will get given a bonus for working hard in a business. Making them want to continue this behavior.

Negative Reinforcement: This is giving an individual a chance to escape from a bad situation. The experiment in Skinner’s box with the rat is an example of negative reinforcement.This method increases the likelihood of a response.An example of this is a child at a dinner table having t eat its vegetables to escape the situation that it is in ,or a car buzzer going of once you put the seat belt on this is how you escape the situation.

Positive Punishment: This is when there is an undesired consequence of what the person does making them not want to do it again. This decreases the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. An example of this is that when someone touches an oven they will burn there hand making them not want to repeat the behavior as it injures them.

Negative Punishment: This is when someone has a desired object taken away from them in response of them behaving in the wrong way. An example of this is a teenager getting their mobile phone taken away from them because they didn’t do their homework.

The way that Operant Conditioning applies to modern society is that it is used in prison. Prison is both positive punishment and negative punishment. This is because it is punishing someone for what they have done and negative punishment as there freedom is being taken away from them. I believe that negative reinforcement is used also in prison as when an inmate behaves well they made be released earlier for good behavior giving them the chance to leave the bad environment by changing their behavior and attitudes.There is a debate in psychology on whether prison time is positive or negative punishment.


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