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Operant Conditioning


Looking at operant conditioning now. Okay, so operant conditioning does form the basis of this lesson, but it also is very central to the next couple we're gonna look at. The thing to know about operant conditioning is that the behavioral change in this case is inspired or sometimes even coerced by both positive and negative reinforcement, and in this lesson we'll look at Skinner.

So if Pavlov is the famous guy associated with classical, Skinner is very much tied to operant, he coined the term. You should know that operant conditioning and operant conditioness, that field of psychology, is tied to behaviorism. It's a type of, it's a perspective really in psychology. And what behaviors are interested in are observable behaviors.

They're not so interested in what's happening inside the animal or the person. They're mostly just interested in what aspects in the environment cause human or other animal to behave in certain ways. They don't really care about the how, they just care about stimulus responses associations. It's really easy to get these terms mixed up or reversed.

And I'll admit that the first time I took the practice MCAT I hadn't seen this material for awhile, and I had difficulty remembering what aspect of the word related to the positive and the negative. And how that differed from the reinforcement and the punishment. And so, I think you'll see how it easy it is to reverse these concepts. One thing to keep in mind, is that the goal of all reinforcements, and that's whether it's positive or negative, because you can have positive and negative reinforcements, positive and negative punishments.

Reinforcements are design to increase behavioral frequency. And then, punishments or punishers, are designed to decrease behavioral frequency. In the next slid I'm going to show you just an overview of these four terms and it might be enough for you to just run with it. So if it is feel free to skip ahead, of course. In positive reinforcement we want to increase some kind of a behavior and to do that we give the person or animal some kind of a goodie.

It's not always something tangible, kt could just be praise. In negative reinforcement we're still wanting to increase behavior, because we have this word reinforcement. But instead of doing that by giving the person or animal something, we're actually trying to encourage them by I have here, avoiding a slap. And by that I mean, it's removing the threat of something bad, or removing something in your environment that is negative.

I'll be going through a lot of examples, but a really quick example would be, clean up your room if you don't wanna be spanked, that's negative reinforcement. Positive punishment sounds like an oxymoron. And here, the goal is to decrease the frequency of a behavior by actually giving a slap, by giving an active punishment. Doling out some kind of negative consequence, it could just be yelling at a kid for something like tracking mud in the the house.

In that case, you're doling out something negative, the yelling, as a way to decrease the behavior of tracking mud in the house. Now if positive punishment sounds like an oxymoron, negative punishment sounds redundant to us. For operant conditioners, for a psychologist, it means trying to decrease the frequency of a behavior by removing a goodie.

Not doling out a punishment but taking away something good, like an allowance. Okay, so that's the gist of it, and if you want more detailed examples, I encourage you to keep listening. Positive reinforcement, another example, if you're visual, I've printed this out. So it's something favorable that's given as a consequence of a person engaging in a wanted behavior.

Student turns in homework on time to get a good grade, and maybe to get praise. Negative reinforcement, something unfavorable is taken away or avoided as a consequence of a person engaging. Again, in a wanted behavior. In this case, the student shows up to class on time to avoid the embarrassment, or maybe the grade penalty of arriving late.

Positive punishment, something undesirable is given or experienced as a consequence of a person engaging in something that is unwanted. Child is chastised by the teacher, maybe for running in the hall. Or negative punishment, something desirable taken away in order to decrease behavior. Here, maybe the child loses recess.

Confusion about Positive Punishment, many students think positive punishment refers to a situation where a person is being punished for a positive behavior. For example, maybe a kid is being laughed at for picking up litter after school by their peers, positive behavior but being punished. And actually here we do have an example of positive punishment, but not for the reasons you might assume.

There are is some kind of initial behavior picking up litter, it results in a punishment, and then the net effect is a lower likelihood of engaging in that behavior. The thing to be aware of is it has nothing to do with the qualitative assessment of whether or not picking up litter is a positive thing. To demonstrate that we can look at the same behavior from a negative punishment perspective.

So, a kid picks up litter after school, as a consequence maybe the kids left behind when other kids go to the park or maybe to the mall. And so here there's a lower likelihood of engaging in the behavior in the future, but that's because something positive is being removed. Here we have a diagram of an operant conditioning chamber, and it's also referred to as the Skinner Box.

And Skinner set up a bunch of these for all different types of animals all different features within the box. The general idea is that these boxes were interactive, so the animals could do things such as maybe in this case manipulate particular lever. And when the animals perform certain behaviors correctly, food would dispense, and rats learn this very quickly.

They learn to associate the lever with the food coming out and it's more than an association, this is an actual reinforcement. And that's what makes it operant conditioning, they're getting reinforced or rewarded with the food pellet. With Pavlov and the dog, if you remember ,it was never about giving the dog the meat.

He was really just focused on the salivation, the association. And what he was really trying to do is figure out how learning differs based on the strength of a reinforcement, based on its frequency. Maybe based on how quickly the reward is dispensed after the behavior is completed. And he looked at this from all different angles of reinforcement. So you might have noticed, there's an electric grid over here, and that represents what?

What kind of reinforcement would an electrified grid be? It's a positive punishment, it could be that there's something on this side of the chamber that is interesting to the rat, but when the rat goes over there, the electrified grid comes into play. And so the behavioral frequency of going to that side of the box decreases because of the doling out of a negative consequence.

In some versions of this study, they might, for instance, rig the box so that the only time this lever over here works is if there is a flashing light beforehand and that other times, the lever is completely useless. So the food is dispensed only in those cases when the lights come on first and of course rats learn that too. They learn how to ignore the lever altogether if the light is not flashing beforehand.

And in the next lesson we'll look at reinforcement schedules and look a little bit at what types of patterns of reinforcement are most successful at increasing the speed of learning, also the consistency. And keep in mind as we go there that all of this really does go back to Skinner and his operant conditioning chamber.

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