Describe the basic principles of operant conditioning

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The basic principle of operant conditioning is that the ideas of classical conditioning are not complex enough to explain the ways in which human beings learn.  Operant conditioning is based on the idea that human beings use their intelligence to interact with their world.  They experiment with behaviors and learn which behaviors should be repeated based on the responses they get from their environment.  In this view, human beings are experimenting with their environments to find out what behaviors elicit desireable results.

Because of this, B.F. Skinner (the father of operant conditioning) argued that behaviors are learned through negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, and punishment.  People learn how to behave based on which of those reactions they come to associate with various behaviors or types of behaviors.

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Operant conditioning- Behavior that operates on the environment, producing consequences. (your actions are associated with consequences). Actions followed by reinforces (a stimulus that strengthens or weakens the behavior that produced it) increase; those followed by punishers decrease.


Designed Operant Chamber: (skinner box) containing a bar or key that an animal can manipulate to obtain a food or a water reinforce; records the animal’s rate of pressing or key pecking.

Used Shaping: procedure in which reforcers like food guide behavior toward closer and closer approximations of the desired behavior.The animal is rewarded for getting close to the behavior, then rewarded for going a bit further, and finally rewarded for the actual behavior.

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