Operant Conditioning Essay

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Operant Conditioning is a theory based by B.F. Skinner. Operant Conditioning is the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form behavior. Edward L. Thorndike in 1898 developed “the law of effect” through his study of learning behavior in cats. According to him learning was an association between the stimuli in a situation and a response made by the animal to it. This relationship between behavior and its consequences is the law of effect. B.F. Skinner agreed with this view and extended this to the experimental analysis of behavior. According to Thorndike, the possible consequences of behavior can either increase or decrease the likelihood of response. So Skinner created an experimental situation where he brought about systematic variations in the stimulus condition, causing different environmental conditions which would affect the likelihood that a given behavior would occur. To analyze behavior experimentally, Skinner developed operant conditioning procedures. In this he manipulated the consequences of an organism’s behavior to see how it would affect future behavior. So the consequences “operate” on the environment, thereby affecting it and affecting future consequences. Unlike classical conditioning, operants are not elicited by any specific stimuli. Rather the response to a stimulus “operates” on the environment and thus creates a different response when it affects the environment differently. (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2005). The relationship between a response and the consequent changes it produces is known as a reinforcement contingency. Skinner’s work has provided the basis for behavior analysts to understand behavior in terms of reinforcement contingencies. Reinforcers are stimuli which if made contingent on a behavior increase the probability of that behavior over time. When such a reinforcer is delivered following a response, is called

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