What Is Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning is a behavior modification technique that is used for controlling the occurrence or the intensity of a particular kind of behavior. It is often used for reducing the incidence of certain kind of upsetting behaviors. Operant Conditioning uses the most established types of mind conditioning principles. This refers to the fact that organisms respond in different ways to the same stimuli. Thus, if a certain individual can be trained in associating a particular kind of stimulus with a specific type of behavior, the tendency of the individual to either avoid or indulge in that behavior can be manipulated. This is done by varying the kind of stimulus used.

Skinner differentiated between different types of behavior. The developed the concept of active behavior. This kind of behavior was postulated by him to be affected by the kind of environment and the stimulus that surrounds and individual. Skinner’s theory tried to explain the wide range of behaviors that humans displaying, indicating that most of them are learned behaviors that surface as a result of our mind being repeatedly exposed to a certain kind of stimulus.

Operant Conditioning is found in many real life scenarios and hence, its applicability is not questioned. For example, employees often compete among themselves to finish their assignments faster than their counterparts for the sake of being praised by their bosses. Similarly, children are seen competing in classroom activities, trying to get that enticing reward from their teachers or parents. If the Skinner concept of Operant Conditioning is used to explain these examples, it becomes clear that the lure of rewards induces a certain kind of behavior including competitiveness and can also include jealousy between competitors. However, if operant conditioning is used effectively, the competitive behavior among these individuals can be further raised or reduced.

Another application of Operant Conditioning is seen among disciplining children. Using physical punishment or removal of certain privileges like watching TV represent two very different methods of disciplining a child. While one includes physical pain, the other is based upon the concept of inducing the threat of some appreciated activity or object being taken away. Both methods are used for controlling disruptive behaviors and both of these can be further conditioned via Operant Conditioning.

Operant Conditioning uses some standard components for yielding results. This includes the concept of reinforcement. This refers to any method that is used for strengthening a certain kind of behavior. This includes both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement includes favorable outcomes which are offered after the desired behavior is established. The above example of individuals vying for praise or rewards is an example of positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is the exact opposite. It involves reduction of unwanted outcomes following a behavior. Here, the response is modified by removing factors that are deemed unfavorable. The example of punishment quoted above is an example of negative reinforcement.