Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning
Rewards and punishments
Classical vs. Operant Conditioning
Classical Conditioning
Behavior is determined
by what PRECEDES it.
Operant Conditioning
Behavior is determined
by anticipation of what
Dog salivates after a
Dog sits in anticipation
of getting a treat.
Classical or Operant?
Alice leaves her clothes and toys all over her room. It
seems that the only time she cleans up her room
is when her mother yells at her. When she yells
at her, Alice picks up her clothes and put away
her toys.
Operant Study: Skinner Box!
A very bright (mildly
painful) light is turned on
a rat. The rat has
learned that he can turn
off the light by pressing a
lever on the other side of
his cage. As soon as
the light comes on, the
rat runs across the room
and presses the lever.
Operant Conditioning
Positive Reinforcement: give you something
you like or want in order to make a behavior
more likely (+) (most like a reward)
If you work quietly for an hour, I’ll let you listen to your Ipod at
the end of class. (+)
Negative Reinforcement: taking away
something you don’t like in order to make a
behavior more likely (-)
I won’t make you do your chores IF you come to your
grandmother’s this weekend.
Operant Conditioning
Omission: Removing a thing you like in
order to make a behavior less likely.
Taking away your cell phone to decrease the times you come
back late from curfew.
Punishments: add something you don’t like
in order to make a behavior less likely.
I’ll smack you across the face if you don’t stop talking in class.
Mistakes Teachers/Parents Make
Paying attention to students/kids’ bad behavior
(positive reinforcement, which increases
Not paying attention to good behavior (actually,
a form of punishment… DOESN’T WORK!)
Suspending students…why does this almost
never work? (is it omission? Punishment?)
Trying to use omission (cell phone, groundings)
as punishment (why does a kid see this as
Problems with Punishment
it models aggression as a
way to solve problems,
which is ineffective in “the
real world”
breeds anger in the
recipient/towards the
doesn’t teach an alternative
behavior. the behavior only
goes away when the
punisher is around.
“There is unanimous accord among
experts that harsh punishment is
detrimental for children.”
Reinforcement Schedules
fixed ratio – set number (every three
responses you give, you get a chocolate)
variable ratio – unpredictable number of
responses (slot machine payouts, not
knowing what assignments will be graded)
fixed interval – set amount of time (pay you
every hour you work)
variable interval – unpredictable amount of
time (getting messages on Facebook/text)
Reinforcement Schedule? You
Sarah is paid on a commission basis. She
gets a bonus for every 3rd sale.
Juan's teacher gives him a gold star for
every book he reads.
Martha is fly fishing. She casts her line and
a fish is caught 5 times throughout the day,
at unpredictable times.
When it rains, you use an umbrella, which
keeps your dry.
Reinforcement Schedules:
Variable schedules are more resistant to
 Continuous reinforcement causes the fastest
 Immediate reinforcement is more effective than
If reinforcement doesn’t follow the response, the
behavior might become extinct.
If you study and don’t get A’s like you
thought…you might stop studying.
Skinner’s Method of Learning
In Skinner's book The Technology of Teaching, he said there
are five main obstacles in learning:
People have a fear of failure.
The task is not broken down into small enough steps.
There is a lack of directions.
There is also a lack of clarity in the directions.
Positive reinforcement is lacking.
Skinner suggests that any age-appropriate skill can be taught
using five principles to remedy the above problems
Give the learner immediate feedback.
Break down the task into small steps.
Repeat the directions as many times as possible.
Work from the most simple to the most complex tasks.
Give positive reinforcement.
Overjustification Effect
Overjustification effect:
when we are rewarded
for behaviors that we
naturally enjoy, we
sometimes lose our
intrinsic motivation.
Learning and grades?
Professional athletes?
Criticisms of Behavioralism
Deemphasizes the
role of internal
thoughts and
feelings in
Presents humans
as lacking free will
Ignores biological
Support for Criticisms
Experiments with humans
and animals both indicate
that biological
predispositions influence
a. Animal training
b. Human societies built
on behavioralist
Support for Criticisms
2. Expectations alter the
effectiveness of
conditioning (i.e.,
alcoholics and nauseaproducing drug;
overjustification effect).
3. Learning occurs in the
absence of rewards or
punishments (this is called
latent learning)
- mice and cognitive maps
Observational Learning
Observational Learning
Also known as
Albert Bandura –
Bobo doll
Prosocial Behavior – constructive behavior
Antisocial Behavior – unproductive or
destruction behavior