Understand Operant Conditioning Correctly Psyc 1

Understand Operant Conditioning Correctly Psyc 1

Understand Operant Conditioning Correctly Psyc 1

Skinner believed that human beings were organisms – just like rats and pigeons – who could be trained to have either good or bad habits. Let’s see if you can train yourself!

Choose a behavior of yours that you’d like to modify. For example, you may want to stop smoking, or eat healthier, or wake up earlier, or….

Create an operant conditioning program that would help you successfully reach your goal. You may not use the example given below because you are changing a behavior about yourself, not someone else.

Start with your

  1. identify your baseline behavior; and
  2. identify your target behavioral goal
    1. you should have ONE behavioral goal for all 4 concepts.

For example

  1. the baseline behavior is every Sunday, when I take my child to the supermarket, she throws a tantrum.
  2. the target behavioral goal is to get the child to sit nicely in the supermarket 5 minutes each Sunday.
    1. the 4 concepts will be applied to:
    • Reinforce the child sitting nicely in the supermarket
      • positively reinforce the child – give a concrete example of how you would do it
      • negatively reinforce the child – give a concrete example of how you would do it
    • Punish the child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket
      • positively punish the child – give a concrete example of how you would do it
      • negatively punish the child – give a concrete example of how you would do it

By reinforcing or punishing the child’s above behaviors, you should be able to see that you are addressing the same behavioral goal of the child sitting nicely in the supermarket (“sitting nicely” and “not throwing a tantrum” are the same goal. You will be reinforcing “sitting nicely.” You don’t want to punish “sitting nicely,” so you will be punishing the behavior that is the “opposite-of-sitting-nicely”).

You don’t have to explain each concept unless you want to, but each of your concrete examples should show me that you understand the components of “giving,” “taking,” “increasing behavior,” and “decreasing behavior.” You should also show me that you understand the importance of shaping. Plan for just one week; don’t worry about future goals or actual outcomes – you are just creating a plan. You may only create a plan for behaviors you want to modify in yourself.

  • I strongly recommend that you find a behavior that is easy to measure. For example, “sitting nicely” is NOT easy to measure. “Losing weight” is also NOT easy to measure, but it would be easy to measure something like “jog for 15 minutes each day.”
  • Also, do not create a plan where you reinforce yourself for a behavior and then not-reinforce yourself when you don’t do the behavior – you do not understand operant conditioning correctly; not-reinforcing is not the equivalent of punishing.
    • For example, students write that they will reinforce themselves by getting a candy bar if they do X (that is correct).
      • then they write that they will punish themselves by taking away the candy bar if they don’t do X
        • you have essentially reversed your reinforcement; reversing the reinforcement is not the same as punishment (it is not correct).
          • come up with a different consequence when you don’t do X

For your response postings, (gently) tweak a colleague’s plan; if there’s something that you think won’t work, let him/her know and explain why. Or, you can tell your colleague about a reinforcement/punishment that you’ve used for that same behavior that worked (or didn’t work) for you; explain why you think you got the outcome that you did.

We’ll be seeing dramatic changes in our behaviors!