The Theory of Operant Conditioning Essay

1146 Words Sep 25th, 2014 5 Pages
The Theory of Operant Conditioning
PSY390
October 6, 2014

Introduction

The study of human behavior by psychologists such as B.F. Skinner, Edward Thorndike, Ivan Pavlov, and Watson is fascinating. These five psychologists each have different theories on human behavior. There are similarities and differences in each of the theories. Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory, studied animals and formed the basis for behavioral psychology (Cherry, 2013). Edward Thorndike’s theory of connectionism consisted of studying the learning process of behavior in animals. His studies also included problem solving, administering and evaluating tests and law of effect, the bases for Operant Conditioning. John B. Watsons
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Skinner’s designed a box called the Skinner box for his studies. The Skinner box is designed to observe, study, and modify the behavior of lab rats using his theory of operant conditioning. Skinner placed the rat in the box with a lever at one end. The rat was subject to electric shock and the lever in the box turned the electric current on and off. The rats discovered that by moving the switch the electric current stopped. The rats also discovered that when light was turned on the electric current would be turned on as well. The rats learned to move the switch the moment the light came on therefore eliminating shock from electrical current (Mcleod, 2007). “Operant behavior is behavior “controlled” by its consequences. In practice, operant conditioning is the study of reversible behavior maintained by reinforcement schedules” (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003, para. 1).

Positive and negative reinforcement
The theory of operant conditioning consists of negative and positive reinforcements. B.F. Skinner used these two types of reinforcements in his studies to obtain a desired result in behavior. While both types of reinforcers are designed and effective in modifying behaviors in individuals, one is considered more effective. Negative reinforcers are used to strengthen a behavior by the removal of an unpleasant or adverse stimulus. Negative reinforcers are not negative and designed to strengthen a behavior not to punish a behavior. A positive reinforcer strengthens a repeat

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