A child snaps her fingers until her teacher calls on her. Is this an example of Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, or punishment?I'm really confused about Operant Conditioning for...

A child snaps her fingers until her teacher calls on her. Is this an example of Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, or punishment?

I'm really confused about Operant Conditioning for Psychology 101.

Asked on by eberkz

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I am assuming that you are asking about the act of the teacher responding to the student.  If you are asking about this, then the teacher is giving the student positive reinforcement when it comes to snapping her fingers.  The teacher's actions are rewarding the student for snapping her fingers.

The eNotes page I've linked to below says

Positive reinforcement results when the occurrence of a valued behavioral consequence has the effect of strengthening the probability of the behavior being repeated.

You can see this happening here -- the student gets the consequence she wants (the teacher's attention).  This makes it likely that she will repeat the finger snapping.

Presumably, snapping her fingers to get the teacher's attention is a bad behavior--one that you do not want to encourage.  However, by calling on the student after she has snapped her fingers, the teacher is sending the message that if you snap your fingers long enough, you get called on.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Operant conditioning, also called instrumental conditioning refers to learning to perform a response as a result of what happens before the response is made. In this case the original behavior is the snapping of fingers by the student. The teacher calling on the student as a result of the student snapping the fingers is the occurrence after the original response and an example of positive reinforcement.

If the teacher reprimands the student for snapping the fingers, the result of the original behavior is undesirable or negative. In this case the the student will refrain from snapping the fingers in the class. This is the case of negative reinforcement. The extent to which the behaviour of the student will actually be modified by the teacher will depend on how frequently the teacher calls on the student for snapping the fingers and how undesirable this action by the teacher is for the student.

A negative reinforcement results in a person learning not to behave in the ways that evokes resulting reinforcement response. In contrast, a positive reinforcement results in the person learning to behave in the ways evoking the response.

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