1.3 Operant Conditioning

Lesson: 1.3 Operant Conditioning

1.3 Operant Conditioning

Presented by Sevilay Dogan

Operant conditioning was informed and influenced by Thorndike’s earlier experiments. The premise of operant conditioning is that it focuses on the relationship between behaviour and the consequences and the ways in which the consequences influence the behaviour.

So we know that behaviours have consequences and in operant conditioning, we have two main types of consequences: reinforcement vs punishment.

Here, it is important to note that the concepts of positive and negative do not equate to good vs bad.

Below is a diagram explaining each of the four concepts:

(Hover your mouse over each concept box to learn more)

Positive
Applies Stimulus
Negative
Removes Stimulus
Reinforcement
Increases the frequency of desirable behaviour
Punishment
Decreases the frequency of undesirable behaviour

Positive

Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement = addition of something that will hopefully serve to reinforce and increase the desired behaviour

Negative

Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement = taking away something that will hopefully serve to reinforce and increase the desired behaviour
Punishment
Decreases the frequency of undesirable behaviour

Positive

Punishment
Positive punishment = adding something to decrease an undesirable behaviour

Negative

Punishment
Negative punishment = taking something away to decrease an undesirable behaviour

So let us go through a quick example to better understand these concepts and solidify them.

In this example our target behaviour is “safe driving”.

On the left-hand side is a diagram of our example. Click on each button on the right-hand side for an example of each concept.

So let us go through a quick example to better understand these concepts and solidify them.

In this example our target behaviour is “safe driving”.

Below is a diagram of our example. Click on each button underneath for an example of each concept.

These four types of consequences all have a reciprocal relationship and all influence and shape our behaviour.

Positive Reinforcement

For every driver who is deemed a ‘safe driver’ they are rewarded with a gift card for free petrol.

This is an example of a positive reinforcement, such that the safe driving behaviour will occur again through positive reinforcement of a gift card.

Negative Reinforcement

When you get into your car and turn the engine on, you hear a very loud and repetitive buzzing sound. This buzzing sound will simply not stop unless and until you put your seatbelt on, so the behaviour of putting your seatbelt on, takes away the loud and annoying buzzing sound.

This is an example of a negative reinforcement, which in turn will increase the behaviour that safe driving will occur again.

Positive Punishment

When you speed, which is unsafe driving, you get a speeding ticket.

This is an example of positive punishment as it is adding something to decrease the tendency of a behaviour occurring again. The ticket is being added so that you do not speed again or in hopes that you do not repeat the unsafe behaviour again.

Negative Punishment

When you are consistently engaging in unsafe driving, your license is taken away from you completely.

This is an example of negative punishment as it is taking something away to decrease unsafe driving.