Operant Conditioning

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Operant conditioning is a learning theory that was postulated by Burrhus Frederic Skinner and it states that learning takes place through rewards and punishments for certain behavior. In other words, through operant conditioning, a correlation between particular conduct and the consequences of this kind of conduct is built (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).

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Skinner believed that animals, while going about their business in everyday life, are in the process of operating in their environment. During such operations, the animal may encounter a special kind of stimulus that is referred to as a reinforcer, or a reinforcing stimulus. Such reinforcer has the chance of increasing the likelihood of the behavior occurring just before the stimulus is encountered by the animal (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

My position concerning the usage of operant condition is that it is possible to train animals by applying the principles of this theory. Through studying Skinner’s work and experiment using the Skinner box, it is clear that his research made it possible for the animal to repeat the operant response several times in the conditioning situation. His experiment involved pecking pigeons, and pressing rats (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).

Through his experimentation, Skinner attempted to prove that behavior can be classified into two subcategories. These categorizations include operant behaiour and respondent behavior. He further postulated that their consequences control voluntary conducts, as opposed to the preceding stimuli (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

Skinner made a postulation that the consequences, which follow a particular response, impact on the future strength or probability of the response. Operant behaviors are voluntarily demonstrated by the organism (Henton & Iversen, 2012). Therefore, through reinforcing desirable conducts in animals, it is possible to train them. This is because positively reinforcing such behavior, on the one hand, increases the likelihood that the animal may learn it. On the other hand, negative reinforcement can be used to discourage behaviors that are considered to be undesirable (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).        

Operant conditioning has been advanced to the level of introducing the concept of teaching machines that has continuously shaped learning in smaller steps and offers rewards for correct behaviors (Coon & Mitterer, 2008). The theory of reinforcement has been applied by many organizations. The application of operant conditioning has made it possible for employees to share company’s objectives and participate in business ownership (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).

Besides, in child development, reinforcing good behaviors increases the chances that such conduct may be learnt and bad one will be ignoreed. This approach is used to discourage a child from learning the latter (Coon & Mitterer, 2008).  

In rehabilitation, it is clear that the use of drugs is commonly seen among the drug addicts since it is a behavior that is reinforced with the positive reinforcement that is founded on certain pharmacological properties of that particular drug. Therefore, once an individual is addicted to a given drug, it is useful to note that operant conditioning stipulates that drug use witnessed by the drug addict is reinforced with negative reinforcement of removing or with painful drug withdrawal syndromes (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

In behavioral therapy, the use of learning methods is employed to change abnormal conduct, feelings and thoughts. The behavior therapist makes use of operant conditioning techniques and modelling (Coon & Mitterer, 2008). In this regard, learning of new response is encouraged through systematic desensitization, which involves relaxation paired with a stimulus that initially encouraged anxiety. Additionally, behavior therapists also use aversive conditioning in which an unpleasant event is paired with a stimulus to reduce its attractiveness (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

In conclusion, operant conditioning is the effective learning theory that is now used in different fields such as child development, rehabilitation of addicts, behavioral therapy, and many other areas.

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