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B. F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory Essay Sample

The following essay sample shall focus on Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, the components and schedules of operant conditioning, and its examples of it.

Operant conditioning is known as instrumental conditioning which is a learning process in behavioural science. It determines the probability of repetition of an action or response and its results.

B. F. Skinner's Operant Conditioning Theory Essay Sample

Any rewarding behaviour is more likely to be repeated in the future while the behaviour which is punishing is less likely to be repeated in the future.

This process of conditioning is influenced by the principle of the law of effect given by the famous psychologist Edward Thorndike. He believed that reinforcement of behaviour makes it strong and not reinforcing behaviour makes it die out or extinct.

An operant conditioning is an association between behaviour and the result or consequence of it.

For example

In a labratory, there is a lever device with a green and red light. A rat presses the green light and in return receives a reward while on pressing the red button it gets a mild shock. So it learns to press the lever when the green light is on and to avoid the red light for the obvious reasons.

This reinforcement takes place even in formally structured settings, classrooms, therapy sessions, and workplaces.

Skinner believed that it is not needed to analyze the inner thoughts in the mind of a person to explain his behaviour but rather only the external behaviour must be analyzed to understand human behaviour.

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Category of behaviour by B.F. Skinner 

Skinner distinguished between the respondent and operant behaviour.

Respondent behaviour is those which occurs automatically in the response to external stimuli. For example – We immediately take back our hand when brought too close to the fire. It is a common behaviour that we don’t need to learn or get trained for.

Operant Behaviours are under the control of the consciousness of the mind and are done either instantly or with a purpose that influences the consequences of our actions in the future. It is a part of our learning process.

Skinner in the early days of his life devised some instruments like the Skinner Box and the Cumulative Recorder to study operant conditioning.

Components of Operant Conditioning  

The operant conditioning process has two components namely reinforcement and punishment which can either be positive or negative.

Reinforcement is an event that ensures there is an increase in the repetition of the same actions or behaviour in the future. It is most rewarding to the recipient to increase their behaviour.

Positive reinforcement is the favourable events or outcome that is being presented after the behaviour. A reward, praise, or appraisal helps in strengthening the behaviour.

While removal of any unfavourable event results in the improvement of response and behaviour which is a negative reinforcement.

Punishment is an event that decreases the behaviour or the cause of it. It discourages or refrains any person to repeat the same actions in the future.

Positive punishment presents the unfavourable event to weaken the response while any negative punishment refrains from a particular outcome or removes any event to get a desirable outcome.

Reinforcement Schedules in Operant Conditioning 

Reinforcement is not a simple process and is influenced by several factors. Reinforced behaviour plays a vital role in the strengthening of the acquisition.

Skinner identified some of the schedules of reinforcement that can impact the operant conditioning process.

  • Continuous Reinforcement involves the delivery of reinforcement regularly whenever there is a response. Here there is a quick learning process, quick extinction with a low rate of response. As the reinforcement ceases response gets extinct. 
  • A fixed Ratio Schedule is a partial reinforcement where responses are reinforced only after a specific number of responses have occurred with a steady response rate.
  • A fixed Interval Schedule is partial reinforcement after a certain period gets elapsed. The response rate remains the same with an increase in time but the response declines right after the delivery of reinforcement.
  • A variable Ratio Schedule is meant for reinforcing the behaviour after a varied response. It has a high response rate with slow extinction.
  • A variable Interval Schedule is a partial reinforcement which is responsible for the delivery of reinforcement after a variable amount of time has elapsed. It has a fast response rate with slow extinction.

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Examples of the Operant Conditioning 

We will discuss some real-life situations in which operant conditioning can be determined easily. It may include :

  • Training a pet animal at home and offering it a treat every time he completes his training session daily or on good behaviour. Patting on his head and back can also be part of the reward which is positive reinforcement.
  • If a student fails to complete his task or project on time then the professor in the college becomes angry and scolds him for the non-performance in front of the other students. This acts as a positive punishment which makes it less likely to finish projects late in the future.
  • A teacher instructs in a classroom that if the students attend the extra classes in the evening after school they will not have to attend the test. This counts as a negative reinforcement to make the students attend extra classes.

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The above sample mentions the operant conditioning process by B. F. Skinner and its various aspects.

Behavioural Studies QQI Level 5, Applied Psychology QQI Level 5, Healthcare QQI Level 5, Psychology QQI Level 5 students can read this sample to gain an understanding of the concept of human behaviour and psychology.

Our website of Ireland assignment help can provide you with behaviour and psychology assignments for reference by the students.

Classical conditioning in behavioural science is one topic that is very closely associated with this essay which is also available on our website.

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