Have you ever had to deal with a scenario in your life where something occurs that you really do not like, but you don’t know quite how to go about changing that. Perhaps for example, you have a neighbor that continues to allow their child (Molly) to pick your prized roses out of your yard. You may have asked them nicely, but that clearly hasn’t worked. What do you do now? A simple solution.. Operant Conditioning. Operant conditioning was created by B. F. Skinner. If a a system of rewards and punishments to either increase or decrease a behavior (McLeod, 2007). Now back to our little Miss. Molly. Molly was observed picking roses again (tut-tut), in order to decrease this behavior you could scold her (a punishment) in order to decrease the behavior from occurring. When you observe that Molly picks flowers from her own yard you could reward her with a “Good Job” and perhaps a treat such as a lolly pop. This reward would increase the likely hood of continuing the behavior. In this case, by increasing the chances of her doing another behavior (picking flowers out of her own yard) and decreasing the chance of her picking the roses, the behavior of picking your roses can become extinct.
This system is often used for training animals, but many may not associate it with people. Give it a try you may find it works well! If you make a point to tell a child every time they do something correctly that they did a good job, you may notice a continual of good behavior.
Below is a great example of Operant Conditioning taken from “The Big Bang Theory”.
This clip is a wonderful example of how punishment (his scolds or negative looks) and rewards (chocolates) can be used to modify behavior.
McLeod, S. (2007). B.F. Skinner- Operant Conditioning. Retrieved March 29, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html