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What is Operant Conditioning?

Discuss about the Psychology for Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy.
 

Operant conditioning which is also sometimes known as instrumental conditioning is actually the learning method which happens via rewards and the punishments that are given for the behaviors (Cyr, 2015). With the help of the operant conditioning the link is made in between the behavior and an outcome for the behavior(Guerra & Silva, 2010). Example: When the rat presses the button which was blue in color, he gets food as the reward and when he presses the red button, he will get an electric shock. The result of this procedure is that the rat has to understand that he has to press only blue button instead of red one (Lai & Huang, 2011). This type of conditioning is something which can take place in the settings which are experimental at the time of training for lab animals, and it also plays a significant role in learning every day(Schlinger, 2008). Naturally, the reward and punishment reinforcement goes on for every day in normal settings and also it is structured in the setting like classrooms filled with children (Susana, 2017). Punitive parent practices have been shown to be less effective in developing self-disciplined children (Cohen, 2004). There are several types of reward systems that exist in primary school for children so that they behave as expected like digital rewards etc. (Howlin, 2015). This essay will identify the scenario of the given teacher “Jane” and it will make people understand about the issues faced by Jane from the behaviors of the students. By considering the form of operant conditioning, this essay will evaluate the complete situation. Operant conditioning is taken under analysis as it is considered as the best form of learning methods for changing the behaviors and strengths of the person (Guerra & Silva, 2010). The thesis statement is to analyze the situation according to operant conditioning as the particular approach for change in behavior will prove to be the most suitable for the given situation.

For the evaluation of the change in behaviors of the students, it is important to analyze what Jane was facing. For her, she was facing lots of challenges in the classroom with the children. The students were not paying attention to her lectures or any of the sayings. In case if there were any discussions going on in the class, all those children never participate in that work. Rather they would always prefer to sit alone and calm and in silence and they would just keep on staring at her. Even a few of the students never comes to the class with the complete homework that they were given by Jane. The students were of the age 10 to 12 years and Jane expected a lot from them but she on the contrary received unexpected behaviors. 

Teacher 'Jane' and the Disruptive Behavior of Students

Besides all such behaviors mentioned above, the major problem of the students is that they are not attentive in the class and also it was found that they just blankly kept on staring at their teacher which is very unusual. It can be said that the students have a very disruptive kind of behavior that they display to Jane. This disruptive behavior stops the children from following their teacher’s instructions. All such behaviors can easily depict that the students possibly are unable to maintain the kind of satisfactory or a causal relationship with their teachers. It can also be said that they are not capable of learning properly in the class and also, they cannot respond back normally to their teacher(Sorce, Perotti, & Widrick, 2003).

It can be easily understood that Jane wants to change the behavior of all the students desperately and as soon as possible. For that, she will need the effective techniques and learning. For this particular given scenario, operant conditioning can be proven to be efficient. As it is said that operant conditioning is based on the experiment of rewards and the punishment. Edward Thornikdike studied and created the law of effect and behavior which is voluntary, the punishment and the reward are two major key factors that identify the change in behavior in individuals. The perception of the voluntary behavior is then further expanded by Skinner, who gave the name to the classics conditioning and depicted that the learning is a type of transformation in overt behavior(Touretzky & Saksida, 1997).  Hence, it is observed that the reinforcement should be done immediately. By the support of the reinforcement, Jane can optimistically strengthen the behavior of the children for learning as it is already discussed that students possibly are not capable of maintaining the interpersonal relationship with her. For such behaviors, optimistic and the pessimistic reinforcement both are needed. Positive reinforcement will help Jane in the participation increase by the students at the time of discussions and in classroom activities. When the students will show an expected behavior, they will be given something good to cherish. It will also allow the students the chance of continuing the behaviors that are expected(Cyr & Theriault, 2015).

With the positive reinforcement, there is a need for the negative reinforcement too. This type of reinforcement depicts that if any unpleasant behavior is to be removed in children, the strong action is needed to be taken. This procedure of taking away the unlikable substance out from behavior is actually the cause for acquiring the behavior that is expected. Certain technique in operant conditioning is easy in rising up the encouraging behaviors and happiness levels. For completing the mentioned techniques, there are three methods that are used. They are shaping, extinction and generalization. Shaping is helpful to both teacher and students in the teaching of the new styles and the expected behavior even via the method of the application of reinforcement behavior.  After every application, the difficulty level of the task for acquiring particular behavior gets changed, whereas, via the process of extinction, Jane can easily forbid the type of behaviors which are not expected.  In the operant conditioning is considered by Jane, Generalization is also required. This is the process in which the students learn in a proper way within the context of the learned behaviors that must be applied. This is helpful in the continuation of the expected behavior in order to accurately meet the outcomes of learning of the individual class. 

Application of Operant Conditioning for Changing Behaviors


However, in such a context, it is important for identifying and monitors the strengths and the weaknesses of the procedures which are suggested and considered of the operant conditioning. The principle of the operant conditioning is to manage the behaviors with respect to the support of the consequences list. The principle which is dominant is always reliant on the main concepts that are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and positive and negative reinforcement both. The help or the advantage of applying the different techniques or operant conditioning is modifying the behaviors or the expected improvement of the behaviors is taken further in the certain proper way(Iwata, 1987). With both of the positive and negative reinforcement, Jane could always set up agreeable behavior within the children and additionally, she could also uphold everything by taking away negative behaviors from students. At the same time, via positive or negative punishment, Jane can easily maintain the changed behaviors can also prevent the unpleasant behavior because the students will always have the fear of the punishment(DeLeon, Neidert, Anders, & Rodriguez).

There is only one thing to remember that the best method to teach any person or even an animal any behavior, then only positive reinforcement is to be used majorly. For example: Skinner used the positive reinforcement for teaching rats in pressing the blue button on the Skinner box. Firstly, rat may anonymously strike the lever by discovering the box completely & then the food comes out of that box. Then after having the food, the rat would hit the lever again for the food as every time the rat would hit the button, the food was definitely going to come out. When any person is given the reinforcement, then it depicts the certain behavior. This is called as continuous reinforcement(Omomia & Omomia, 2014). 


There are also some of the disadvantages that display the achievement of goals of operant conditioning. These disadvantages are majorly linked with the function of the positive and the negative punishment. With help of this application of both such punishments, students can avoid Jane instead of changing their behaviors (Remington & Osmanski, 2012). For ignoring the punishment, sometimes the students also start lying. Moreover, the application of the punishment can also develop anxiety or any unexpected behavior within the students. With this context, if Kohlberg theory is to be measured, then it is easily said that ethics is the feature that must be trained to the children on the first place (Carter, 2010). Kohlberg says that for growing the proper behavior in a kid, there is a requirement for considering three levels that are pre- conventional morality, Conventional morality and post conventional morality. On the level 1 i.e. pre-conventional morality, with the support of the obedience, individual interest and punishment are grown and second level builds the interpersonal relationships. At last, on level three, the behaviors are pulled out by the usage of the social contract and the ethics which are universal. Hence, it looks that in operant conditioning, there is not a particular way of driving the behaviors of the students in the method which would rise up the internal moral principles. Though, it is to be considered that via application of the reinforcement method with punishment techniques, the first stage and also second of Kohlberg structure can easily be established and achieved(Wong, 2012). 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Operant Conditioning


At the same time, if one considers the theory of learning given by Bandura in this context, then it can be said that the frameworks that are conceptual in operant conditioning are not provided much of the priority about the importance of observational learning(Harinie, Sudiro, & Rahayu, 2017). The learning theory of Bandura suggests that for establishment of the proper behavior of the children in the class, one needs the observational learning that children can be taught about the desired behavior via replication and also by modeling. This theory depicts that the desired behavior is identified by the combining of the cognitive and physical and the atmospherically factors. Hence, it can be said that one of the main disadvantages of operant conditioning is that it does not considers the important factors of the behaviors showed by the humans and that is the cognitive development. But anyway, by considering the case study given in this essay, it can be said that the situation has not provided any hint of the fact that the children were suffering from the development in terms of the moral context. At the same time, in the positive and the negative reinforcement techniques, there will always remain the opportunity of the application of the observational learning. In positive reinforcement, Jane can support the children in imitating her characteristics for achieving behavioral objectives(B.Blanchard, 1973). Therefore, it is to contemplate that the methods that are evaluated in terms of the operant conditioning will not be completely useless for the situation given.

It should be considered that with the support of the application of the theoretical techniques of operant conditioning will bring a major change in the behavior on the class where Jane teaches. That can be negative and positive too. At last, it can be said that, Jane can start the application of the reinforcement and must give the importance to the positive as well as negative reinforcement. In case if Jane finds out the theoretical practice of the technique which is generalization does not work as per the expected outcome, then Jane should consider both the positive and the negative punishment strategies.  For avoiding the possible adverse effect of the punishment, Jane must consider discussing about the application of the strategies of punishment with the children and as well as their parents. This way Jane would be able to display the techniques perfectly by taking the consent from the children’s parents. 

Relation of Operant Conditioning to Kohlberg Theory


By concluding the essay, it can be said in context of the above discussion that the children of the class mainly had behavioral disorders such as no attention in class, withdrawal trends and indifference in making the interpersonal relations. Jane needed to change the behaviors of the students in order to make them attentive in the class and make them positively attend the class.  For that the positive and the negative reinforcement are discussed above which will help Jane to change the behaviors of the children and bring them to expected behaviors in class. Operant conditioning is one of the theories which can help Jane with such a situation. This essay also focuses on the fact that technique of punishment of operant conditioning never prove to be fruitful at all times. It also argues that operant conditioning does not necessarily in a proper way prioritize the observational learning.  

References 

Guerra, L. G., & Silva, M. T. (2010). Learning processes and the neural analysis of conditioning. Psychology & Neuroscience, 3(2), 195-208.

Schlinger, H. D. (2008). Conditioning the Behavior of the Listener. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 8(3), 309-322.

Touretzky, D. S., & Saksida, L. M. (1997). Operant Conditioning in Skinnerbots. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from https://www.ri.cmu.edu/pub_files/pub2/touretzky_dave_1997_1/touretzky_dave_1997_1.pdf

Cyr, A., & Theriault, F. (2015). Action Selection and Operant Conditioning: A Neurorobotic Implementation. Journal of Robotics, 10.

Sorce, P., Perotti, V., & Widrick, S. (2003). An Exploratory Study of Operant Conditioning Theory as a Predictor of Online Product Selection. Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations, 1(1), 42-54.

Remington, E. D., & Osmanski, M. S. (2012). An Operant Conditioning Method for Studying Auditory Behaviors in Marmoset Monkeys. PLOS One, 7(10).

Omomia, A., & Omomia, T. A. (2014). Relevance of Skinner’s Theory of Reinforcement on Effective School Evaluaution and Management. European Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(4).

DeLeon, I. G., Neidert, P. L., Anders, B. M., & Rodriguez, V. (n.d.). Choices between positive and negative reinforcement during treatment for escape-maintained behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34(4), 521-525.

Iwata, B. A. (1987). NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT IN APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS: AN EMERGING TECHNOLOGY. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20(4), 361-378.

Carter, S. L. (2010). A COMPARISON OF VARIOUS FORMS OF REINFORCEMENT WITH AND WITHOUT EXTINCTION AS TREATMENT FOR ESCAPE-MAINTAINED PROBLEM BEHAVIOR. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis , 43(3), 543-546.

Wong, S. E. (2012). Operant Learning Theory. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c872/4a12fbc671366ec3b09ac3bfd94da1f60183.pdf

B.Blanchard, E. (1973). Generalization of operant classroom control procedures. Behavior Therapy, 4(2), 219-229. Retrieved from Behavior Therapy.

Harinie, L. T., Sudiro, A., & Rahayu, M. (2017). Study of the Bandura’s Social Cognitive Learning Theory for the Entrepreneurship Learning Process. Social Sciences, 6(1), 1-6.

Lai, M., & Huang, Y. S. (2011). CAN LEARNING THEORETICAL APPROACHES ILLUMINATE THE WAYS IN WHICH ADVERTISING GAMES EFFECT ATTITUDE, RECALL, AND PURCHASE INTENTION. International Journal of Electronic Business Management,, 9(4), 368-380.

Cohen, J. H. (2004). Reward and Punishment Histories: A Way of Predicting Teaching Style? The Journal of Educational Research, 97(5), 269-277.

Susana, J. m. (2017). Exploring the Relationship between Reward and Punishment Sensitivity and Gambling Disorder in a Clinical Sample: A Path Modeling Analysis. Journal of Gambling Studies , 33(2), 579-597.

Howlin, C. A. (2015). The Merits of Using Reward Strategies in the Classroom and How to Maximise Their Effectiveness. South East Education Centre Research Journal, 1, 69-77.

Cyr, A. (2015). Action Selection and Operant Conditioning: A Neurorobotic Implementation. Journal of Robotics.

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