The Explanation Behind Operant Behavior

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The Explanation Behind Operant Behavior

Reward and punishment is commonly used to discipline a child / Photo by Getty Images


Reward and punishment are two sides of the same coin. They are both forms of extrinsic motivation which are commonly used in disciplining a child or making someone do what they are told to do. It is a conditioning, where the punishment stops action while reward encourages it. Many people use punishment with the intention to persuade people of what they should do. Punishment could go out of hand and cause the individual to become dysfunctional and it could discourage the person. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, seeks to build deep personal motivation through inspiration and other more difficult forms of motivating people.

The main problems for many leaders are that intrinsic motivation is harder, requiring more time and skill. In general, the Civil Secret Teachings puts far more emphasis on intrinsic motivation, which illustrates the maturity of the author, even though it was written many centuries ago. Reward and punishment are potent modulators of associative learning in instrumental and classical conditioning. However, the effect of reward and punishment on procedural learning is not known. The striatum is known to be an important locus of reward-related neural signals and part of the neural substrate of procedural learning.

Operant conditioning is defined by Very well Mind as the method of learning which happens through the form of rewards and punishments. They also explained that the operant conditioning has a vital role in an individual life since it happens every day in natural settings such as the inside of the classroom, therapy sessions, and even in daily life inside the house.

Behaviorist B.F. Skinner defined operant conditioning. He believes that it is not important to focus on looking at the internal thoughts and motivations in order to explain the behavior of the person, but psychology experts should look at the external causes of why human behaves. Meanwhile, John B. Watson emerged with the idea of classical conditioning which states that the person could be trained regardless of their unique backgrounds and personalities.

Explaining Operant Conditioning

According to a website called Bohatala, B.F Skinner believes that there is a special kind of stimulus that has an effect on the organism and the behavior of the living organism is followed by effects and consequences. He explained that the organism’s reaction to punishment is negative since the individual won’t repeat what he did that makes him/her receive the punishment. The work of Skinner was rooted in a view that classical conditioning was far too simplistic to be a complete explanation of complex human behavior. He believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences.

B.F Skinner’s work on operant conditioning is based on Thorndike’s law of effect. According to this principle, behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. However, Skinner introduced a new term into the Law of Effect- Reinforcement Behavior which is reinforced tends to die out or be weakened.

B.F Skinner identified three types of responses or operant that can follow behavior. These types of responses include neutral operant, reinforcement, and punishment. Neutral operants are the responses from the environment that neither increase or decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated. reinforcement, on the other hand, is a response consequence that causes a behavior to occur with greater frequency. Reinforcers can be positive or negative. Meanwhile, punishment is a response or consequence that causes a behavior to occur with less frequency. Just like reinforcements, there can be two types of punishment: positive and negative.


A punishment can be both negative or positive / Photo by Getty Images


What Are the Schedules of Reinforcements?

In operant conditioning, if no food pellet is delivered immediately after the lever is pressed then after several attempts the rat stops pressing the lever. Behaviorists discovered that different patterns of schedules have different effects on the speed of learning and extinction. Ferster and Skinner devised different ways of delivering reinforcement and found that this had effects on the response rate and extinction rate. Simply psychology defined the response rate at which the rat pressed the lever while the extinction rate is the rate where the lever pressing dies out.

Skinner found that the type of reinforcement which produces the slowest rate of extinction is variable-ratio reinforcement. The type of reinforcement which has the quickest rate of extinction is continuous reinforcement. These schedules of reinforcements include continuous reinforcement, fixed ratio reinforcement, fixed interval reinforcement, variable ratio reinforcement, and variable interval reinforcement.

Very Well Mind also explained that continuous reinforcement where learning happens quickly but the response rate is quite low. Fixed-ratio schedules are the responses that only happens after the specified number of responses happen. Meanwhile, fixed-interval schedules are the reinforcements that are given after a fixed time interval providing at least one correct response that has been made. Variable ratio reinforcement is a behavior in which the reinforced after an unpredicted number of times and the response rate is fast and the extinction rate is slow. Furthermore, variable interval reinforcement where the reinforcement is given after an unpredictable amount of time has passed on every five minutes.




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