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.