1.5 Operant Conditioning (other principles)

Lesson: 1.5 Operant Conditioning (other principles)

1.5 Operant Conditioning (other principals)

Presented by Sevilay Dogan

Another important concept for us to understand is Shaping, which is rewarding successive approximations of target behaviour. So rewarding and/or reinforcing responses closer to the desired outcome.

Here we will use the example of learning to do a headstand. The keyword here is to ‘learn’.

Learning to do a headstand involves practice and that learning through practice is termed ‘Shaping’ in operant conditioning. So Shaping is the process of learning to perform a headstand.

The target behaviour here is to perform a headstand. So you’re going to learn this gradually through a series of behaviours which may include taking up some yoga classes.

(hover your mouse over each step in the process)

Initially you’re going to reinforce simply showing up to class.

But obviously a headstand requires more than just showing up, so the next thing you’re going to maybe do is get into a position of putting your hands down on the mat.

Then the next step might be lifting your legs off the floor - so lifting legs becomes the next behaviour that is reinforced until such time you have learned to perform the target behaviour.

Next you might need to reinforce placing your forearms on the mat. And again, you’re going to practice steps again and again until this is learned.

Diagram images sourced from Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/

Sensitisation and Habituation

The next couple of concepts to grasp are sensitisation and habituation.


Habituation is a decrease in an innate response to a frequently repeated stimulus

Results in a decrease in responsiveness


Sensitisation is the increased reaction to a stimulus after repeated exposure

Results in an increase in responsiveness