Describe the basic principles of operant conditioning

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial