What is the importance of the operant conditioning in humans?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Operant conditioning is a process of behavioral training proposed by B.F. Skinner in which a combination of actions followed by immediate reinforcement is used to propel a behavior. Slowly the reinforcement is removed as the behavior continues to occur until it becomes a habitual occurrence.

You can see operant conditioning mostly used with animals during the training processes. As the animal does a behavior, the trainer gives the animal a treat so that the animal would repeat it over. Over time, the reinforcement is removed and the behavior occurs.

With humans operant conditioning is a good interventionto use in the classroom, or in learning new behaviors of any kind such as quitting smoking, drinking less, dieting, or exercising more. When you present humans with a motivating factor followed by immediate feedback the behavior is more likely to be repeated and followed.  It is a good strategy for learning because when students receive motivation and feedback they are more able to retain information due to affect in their stimuli.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Operant conditioning is a method of behavior modification using positive and negative reinforcement. B. F. Skinner is the behaviorist who first discovered and employed this type of conditioning; it works upon the principles of reinforcement and punishment, both of which have positive and negative consequences.

With regard to positive reinforcement, there are rewards for behavior that is desired. This is called appetitive stimulus; for example, the child who behaves in a desired manner is treated to something she desires. With negative reinforcement, there is a conditioning of the subject to avoid some type of painful experience, physical or psychological.

With regard to punishment, there are both positive and negative aspects, as well. An example of positive punishment involves a negative consequence given after undesirable behavior is exhibited (e.g., a scolding). Negative punishment involves a type of removal of a pleasant experience given after undesirable behavior is exhibited (e.g., the loss of a privilege).