Is operant conditioning best described as a behavior-response relationship, where the behavior elicits the response?

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Yes, if you want to put it very simply, you could summarize operant conditioning as a behavior-response relationship where the behavior elicits the response. However, I would argue that it doesn’t stop just there—the chain of consequences continues beyond this behavior-response connection.

After all, the kind of response received, according to operant conditioning, will then influence future decision-making and future behavior. If a certain behavior is to be encouraged, then the response to this behavior will either have to be a reward (also known as positive reinforcement) or the removal of something negative (known as negative reinforcement). On the other hand, if the behavior is to be discouraged, then punishment will be used as a response instead (either by adding a negative consequence or by removing something positive).

If a person receives a response of reinforcement to their behavior, which they see as a positive outcome, then the person in question is more likely to repeat the same action again in the future. A positive outcome will motivate the repetition of an action in order to keep getting a positive response. However, if the response is negative, then this will very likely lead to an avoidance of this behavior in the future, given that the person will want to avoid any negative consequences.

So, in answer to your question, one could say that behavior elicits a response according to operant conditioning, but this response in return will also determine and influence future behavior.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 4, 2020
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