Operant Conditioning With Respect to Children

Operant conditioning, which is often referred to as instrumental conditioning, is a kind of learning in which a person’s behavior is adjusted via the use of incentives or penalties. Creating new erudition requires regularly connecting the desired action with a result in order to develop a connection between the two.

Operant Conditioning

As an example, when laboratory rats pull a pedal when a green light is on, they are rewarded with a food pellet for their efforts. They will get a little electric shock if they push the lever when the red light is on. As a consequence of this, they learn to pull the lever only when the green light is on and to avoid doing so while the red light is on.

However, operant conditioning is not just something that takes place in untried settings when teaching laboratory animals. It may also take place in natural settings. It also plays an important part in the learning that occurs in daily life. Both reinforcement and punishment are often used in natural settings, as well as in more controlled settings such as schools and therapy sessions. This is because both are used to shape behavior.

The Origins and Development of Operant Conditioning

Because of the behaviorist B.F. Skinner was the one who initially defined operant conditioning. You could also overhear it referred to as Skinnerian conditioning. Skinner was a behaviorist who held the belief that it was not really essential to investigate an individual’s interior thoughts and motives in order to provide an explanation for their behavior. Instead, he recommended that we focus only on the factors that can be seen from the outside, such as what influences people’s actions.

Within the field of psychology, behaviorism emerged as a dominant school of thought throughout the first half of the 20th century. Early on, this school of thinking was mostly influenced by the thoughts of John B. Watson. Watson centered his work on the concepts of classical conditioning, and he was famously quoted as having said that he could take any individual, regardless of their past, and teach them to be whatever he desired.

Operant conditioning

At the beginning of behaviorism, people were mostly interested in associative learning. Skinner was more concerned with the ways in which the outcomes of people’s activities impacted their subsequent conduct.

Skinner was more concerned with the ways in which the outcomes of people’s activities impacted their subsequent conduct.

Law of Effect

The work of the psychologist Edward Thorndike, who had developed what he termed the law of effect, had a significant impact on his idea, which was greatly impacted by that work.

This concept asserts that behaviors that are followed by desired results have a greater likelihood of being repeated, while behaviors that are followed by negative consequences have a lower likelihood of being repeated.

Operant conditioning is based on a very frank assumption. It states that behaviors that are then rewarded with strengthening will be merged. Making them more probable to be repeated in the forthcoming. If you tell a hilarious tale in front of your classmates and they laugh at it, you will almost certainly repeat that story again in the future.

Outcomes for Operant Conditioning

If you want to ask a question or make a remark in class and your instructor compliments you on your courteous conduct after you raise your hand to ask a question, you are more likely to raise your hand the next time you want to ask a question or make a statement. The action that came before it was enhanced as a consequence of the detail that it was followed by reinforcement, also known as a positive consequence.

On the other hand, behaviors that end up getting someone punished or leading to unfavorable outcomes will be devalued and will have a lower probability of occurring again in the future. If you tell the same tale in a different class, and this time no one laughs, you will be less inclined to share the story again in future classes. If your instructor reprimands you for answering a question out loud in class and you do it again, you may think twice about disrupting the class in the future.

The Various Forms That Operant Conditioning Can Take

Optimistic reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment are the four forms of operant conditioning. The fifth type of operant conditioning is classical conditioning. The target behavior is decreased when it is reinforced, whereas it is increased when it is punished. Reinforcement and punishment are two different forms of outcomes that might have an effect on new learning. Skinner identified these two types of consequences via his research.


Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are the two distinct styles of reinforcement that may be used. In the field of psychology, “positive” means “adding a stimulus,” and “negative” means “removing a stimulus.”

Positive reinforcement

It is possible to enhance or increase the possibility that the desired behavior will occur again by using a technique known as positive reinforcement, which involves adding a gratifying result as a positive reinforcer to the action in question. The removal of a negative signal in order to improve the desired behavior in the future is an example of negative reinforcement.

When a behavior is seen, it is followed by positive occurrences or results, which are known as positive reinforcers. In scenarios that include positive reinforcement, you can improve a reaction or behavior by the addition of commendation. Or a direct reward in order to encourage further performance. If you consistently do well at work and your boss rewards you with a bonus. You will receive a positive reinforcer in the form of the bonus.

Reinforcement in a negative way

When a behavior is there, a negative reinforcer can remove an undesirable occurrence. Or consequence from the equation after the behavior is on display. In these kinds of circumstances, a you can improve reaction by getting rid of anything that is unpleasant. For instance, if your kid begins to cry in the midst of a restaurant but stops once you deliver them a treat, this demonstrates that your activity was the cause of the removal of the unpleasant environment, which negatively reinforces your conduct (and not your child’s behavior).


The presentation of a negative event or consequence with the intention of reducing the conduct that follows is what we mean when we talk about punishment. There are two distinct forms of retribution. The behavior improves in both of these scenarios.

Positive punishment

The purpose of positive punishment, also known as “punishment by application” or “punishment by presenting,” is to bring about a negative occurrence or consequence with the intention of reducing the subsequent reaction. The administration of a smack on the bottom as a form of corporal punishment is one example.

Negative punishment

When a positive event or consequence is not there as retaliation for the conduct. This is an example of negative punishment, which is often as “punishment by removal.” One example of a negative kind of punishment would be to take away a child’s video game as a result of their disobedience.

What Are Reinforcement Schedules

The process of reinforcement is not always one that is easy. And there are a variety of elements that impact the rate at which child takes new information. As well as the quality of that information. Skinner discovered that the timing and frequency of reinforcement for actions had a role. It is in both the speed and the intensity. It is of the acquisition process. In other words, the timing of new behaviors and the frequency of existing behaviors changing were both there. It is by the frequency and timing of reward.

A consistent application is necessary for the alteration of behavior. It is via the use of reinforcers and punishers in order for it to be successful. The process of extinction refers to the progressive weakening and eventual disappearance of a behavior. It is once its reward or punishment is not there.

Even Skinner saw it as a surprise to realize that the frequency and pattern of reinforcer applications may have an effect. It is on how quickly reinforcing works and how well learning is in the memory.

Different Schedules

Schedules available on intervals include the delivery of reinforcers at predetermined time intervals. It is possible for the period to be either correct (on a schedule with set intervals) or flexible (variable-interval schedule).

Schedules that are on ratios provide reinforcers only after a certain number of replies. It is possible to have a set number of replies (a fixed-ratio schedule) or a variable number of responses (variable ratio schedule).

Operant conditioning

According to the findings of studies, you can learn behaviors via variable-ratio schedules. These are the most resilient and are less likely that children will forget. This finding is crucial because it enables us to successfully use reinforcement and punishment in a variety of contexts, which before was impossible.

The Use of Operant Conditioning in Examples

The world around us is rife with real-life instances of operant conditioning in action. Take, for example, the situation of youngsters who do their schoolwork in the hopes of earning a reward. It is from a parental or teacher or the situation of workers who finish their tasks in the hopes of receiving acclaim or promotions. Additional instances of operant conditioning in operation include the following examples:

Some Examples

  1. The crowd applauds your performance in the play after you’ve finished your part in the community theatre production. This serves as a positive reinforcer, encouraging you to audition for other performing positions in the future.
  2. You may teach your dog to retrieve by fawning him whenever he successfully completes the activity you want him to learn. Another positive reinforcement is provided here.
  3. A teacher explains to the class that in order to avoid having to take the final comprehensive test. They must maintain a flawless attendance record during the whole semester. The elimination of a stressful factor (the final exam) serves as a negative reinforcement. It is for students to maintain consistent attendance in class.
  4. Your employer gets upset and criticize your performance in front of the other employees. It is if you are unable to hand in a project by the specified deadline. This serves as a constructive kind of punishment, reducing the likelihood that you will ever complete assignments behind schedule in the future.
  5. A teenage girl’s parents take away her phone for the remainder of the day since she disobeys their request that she tidies up her room as instructed. An illustration of a negative punishment would be the removal of a positive stimulus, as in the case given above.

In some of these scenarios, an increase in conduct is there about as a result of the prospect or promise of incentives. Operant conditioning is also to reduce a behavior by either removing a favorable consequence. Or replacing it with a less desirable one and then perceiving the effects of this change. If a youngster talks during their turn during class, for instance, the teacher may threaten to take away the child’s ability to go to recess. Because of the possibility of having a punishments, potentially disruptive acts may become less frequent.


Despite the fact that behaviorism has likely lost much of the preeminence it formerly had. In the early part of the 20th century, instrumental conditioning continued to be an essential. And often utilized instrument in the process of learning and behavior change. There are times when the natural repercussions of our actions cause us to alter. In other circumstances, incentives and punishments can be purposeful with the intention of bringing about a change.

Operant conditioning is something that we often encounter in our daily lives. Sometimes we do it on purpose, and other times we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Understanding both the benefits and the drawbacks of this approach to behavior change will assist us. It is in avoiding potential traps and achieving the best possible outcomes.

Keep in mind that the process of learning anything takes time. Think about the kind of positive reinforcement or negative punishment that could be most effective. It is for your particular circumstance, and evaluate the kind of reinforcement schedule that might lead to the greatest outcomes.

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