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Operant Conditioning
The learning is NOT passive.
Learning based on actions and consequences!!!
The Law of Effect
• Edward Thorndike.
• Locked cats in a cage & when
they stumbled on the lever they
would be released. Eventually,
cage time would decrease bc the
kitties figured out that lever =
freeeeeeeeeeedom!
• Behavior changes because of its
consequences.
• Rewards strengthen behavior.
• If consequences are unpleasant,
the Stimulus-Reward connection
will weaken.
• Called the whole process
instrumental learning.
B.F. Skinner
• The Mac Daddy of Operant
Conditioning.
• Nurture guy through and
through.
• Used a Skinner Box (Operant
Conditioning Chamber) to
prove his concepts.
• He said we will do things to
get rewarded.
Skinner Box
Key Ingredient = Reinforcement
• A reinforcer is anything
that INCREASES a
behavior.
Positive Reinforcement:
• The addition of something
pleasant.
Negative Reinforcement:
• The removal of something
unpleasant.
• Two types of NR
• Escape Learning
• Avoidance Learning
(Getting kicked out of class
versus cutting class)
Positive or Negative?
Putting your seatbelt on so
the buzzer goes off.
Faking sick to
avoid your
dreaded AP
Psych class.
Getting $5 for every A
you get on a test.
Breaking out
of jail to
avoid the
bad food.
Having a headache and
taking an aspirin.
Getting a kiss
for doing the
dishes.
Punishment
Meant to decrease a
behavior.
Positive Punishment:
• Addition of something
unpleasant. Ex. spanking
Negative Punishment:
• Removal of something
pleasant. Ex. Taking
away your cell phone.
Punishment works best
when it is immediately
done after the behavior
and if it is harsh!
Primary vs. Secondary Reinforcers
Primary Reinforcer
• Things that are in
themselves
rewarding.
Secondary Reinforcer
• Things we have learned
to value.
• Money is a secondary
reinforcer (because it
can be traded for just
about anything).
How do we actually use Operant Conditioning?
Do we wait for the
subject to deliver the
desired behavior?
Sometimes, we use a
process called shaping.
Shaping is reinforcing
small steps on the way
to the desired
behavior.
To train a dog to get
your slippers, you would
have to reinforce him in
small steps. First, to
find the slippers. Then
to put them in his
mouth. Then to bring
them to you and so
on…this is shaping
behavior.
To get Barry to become a better student, you
need to do more than give him a massage when
he gets good grades. You have to give him
massages when he studies for ten minutes, or
for when he completes his homework. Small
steps to get to the desired behavior.
Same Terminology as Classical
Conditioning
If a mom wanted to
reinforce her son’s
dancing, she can give
him lollipops when he
dances.
• Acquisition
• Extinction
• Spontaneous
Recovery
• Generalization
• Discrimination
Token Economy
• Every time a desired
behavior is performed,
a token is given.
• They can trade tokens
in for a variety of
prizes (reinforcers).
• Used in homes, schools,
prisons, etc.
Premack Principle
• You have to take into
consideration the
reinforcers used.
• Is the reinforcer
wanted… or at least is it
more preferable than
the targeted behavior?
McDs burgers might (i.e. using the reward of
be a great positive
McDs burgers to get a
reinforcer for me,
child to clean up their
but it would not
work well on a
room.)
vegetarian.
Reinforcement Schedules
How often to you give
the reinforcer?
• Every time, or just
sometimes you see
the behavior.
Continuous vs. Partial Reinforcement
Continuous
• Reinforce the behavior
EVERYTIME the
behavior is exhibited.
• The vending machines
here at school are a
good example.
• Acquisition comes
really fast.
• But so does extinction.
Partial
• Reinforce the behavior
only SOME of the
times it is exhibited.
• Acquisition comes more
slowly.
• But is more resistant
to extinction.
• FOUR types of Partial
Reinforcement
schedules:
Ratio Schedules
Fixed Ratio
• Provides a
reinforcement after a
SET number of
responses.
Fixed Ratio – You get a
free ice cream every after
every 10 that you buy.
Variable Ratio
• Provides a
reinforcement after
a RANDOM number
of responses.
• Playing the lottery or
a slot machine is a
good example; they
are very resistant to
extinction.
Interval Schedules
Fixed Interval
• Requires a SET
amount of time to
elapse before giving
the reinforcement.
Fixed Interval – You get
paid every other Friday.
Variable Interval
• Requires a RANDOM
amount of time to
elapse before giving
the reinforcement.
• A man waiting 10
minutes to catch a
fish or 20 minutes to
catch one. Very
resistant to
extinction.
Response Patterns for Partial Schedules of Reinforcement
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8RIqJLUYSE
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