Tag Archives: operant conditioning

Operant Conditioning

Many people see dogs and other animals perform tricks and tasks the owners  ask of them. When these are executed correctly, people are amazed and the dogs are happy because due to the reaction, they know that something good will follow. Owners use a technique called operant conditioning; they use reinforcement and punishment to curve or “shape” behaviors into the behaviors desired. If a dog is behaving well, performing the right tricks, etc, the owner will reward it with a treat or something good that the dog likes. Then the dog knows that whatever they did right before that was a good behavior, thereby reinforcing it. However, if it does something bad, the owner will do something bad to the dog to let it know that whatever it did is not acceptable and thereby punishing the dog. This will ultimate eliminate the behavior in most cases.

When I used to live in Missouri in middle school, my neighbor had a big dog that they kept outside in a big fenced in yard. I still to this day do not know what kind of dog other than it looked like a lion with all of its hair and the color. Since they began to lose interest/time to take care of the dog they told me that if I would like to go in and walk him or feed him, feel free. Little did they know I love dogs. The next day I went over, opened the gate and this big beast came and tackled me. It weighed the same, if not more than I did. This is where I, and my mom, began the operant conditioning.

I would go over everyday after school so he knew who I was and would play fetch with him and take him for walks. I noticed something weird though, the dog would walk perfectly. He would not take off running or pull you. He would simply walk at your pace and if he got too far and felt the leash get taught, he would stop and just wait. This confused me because I never heard of him being trained. After a couple months, he understood that tackling me is not good by me punishing him every time he did it. He was a very lovable pet.

Before I moved, I still was curious as to why he was so well trained in being walked so I asked my neighbors. They told me that he went to some teacher that trained him how to walk. This would explain why he acted so wildly in his yard but was very tamed when I walked him. Retrospectively I see how my operant conditioning took affect on him; towards the end of my time with him, he  respected me and would not jump or tackle me anymore (along with some other behaviors). I saw how the training he already had curved some behaviors most dogs have when being walked while the other behaviors involved with just playing in the yard had not been checked yet.

Matthew Zackschewski – mgz5020

Operant Conditioning

B.F. Skinner came up with the approach of operant conditioning. He believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and it consequences. Skinner created the term operant conditioning into meaning roughly changing of a behavior by the use of reinforcement which is given after a desired response. There are 3 types of responses to his theory. Neutral operants, reinforcers, and punishers. Neutral operants is a response from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers increase a behavior by being repeated. Punishers decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcement and Punishment can both be used as negative and positive. Positives are usually seen as the addition of something, and negatives are seen as removing something.

Negative reinforcement and punishment are not the same however. Negative reinforcement is increasing a behavior by removing a negative stimuli. Punishment is when a behavior is going down and something is getting taken away.

Operant Conditioning is very common when it comes to pets. To train a dog, reinforcement and punishment must be used. I have a black lab/boxer mix. We had to train her to go outside to go to the bathroom and to not destroy the house when we went out. She hates when we leave the house so when she was a puppy, she would bite chair legs and rip up her bed and pillows. We would proceed with negative punishment, when she did the bad behavior, we would crate her for a couple days when we would leave the house. She lost the privilege of roaming free throughout the house. Even now when we go away sometimes she will tear up something, but when we return she will hide cause she knows what she did will result in a punishment. Every new dog has accidents in the house, so instead of punishing my dog, we would give her positive reinforcement when she went to the bathroom outside. We would praise her and always made sure she got a treat. In this situation punishment and reinforcement go hand in hand and help with training of a dog.

Shaping and Positive Reinforcement

When my brother, sister, and I finally convinced my parents to let us get a dog, we were ecstatic.  We made promise after promise about how we would do everything for the dog.  We said we would walk her, feed her, and put her out to go to the bathroom every day.  We completely underestimated how difficult it would be to train our dog to go to the bathroom outside and not in the house.  I tried and quickly gave up.  My brother and sister did the same.   My parents knew how they wanted to train our dog to go out and that was through operant conditioning and more specifically shaping.  We learned in class that shaping is when reinforcements guide behavior closer to a desired behavior.   The desired behavior was getting our dog to go to the door whenever she needed to go to the bathroom so that someone could put her out and she would not go in the house.   There are both positive and negative reinforcements. Positive reinforcement is when presenting positive stimuli increases behavior.  Negative reinforcement is when removing negative stimuli increases behavior.  My parents used dog treats as reinforcement.   Because my parents gave my dog treats, they were demonstrating positive reinforcement. My parents had to go through steps to train my dog to get to the door.  When my dog would have an accident in the house, my parents would sternly say “no,” bring her to the door and then bring her outside.  She started to learn that she needed to go to the door in order to go outside.  Each time my dog would go to the door, my parents would put her out, let her go to the bathroom, and then say “good girl” while giving her a treat.  After doing this numerous times, my dog was trained to go to the door when she needed to go out.   It is now a habit and a routine.    Through operant conditioning, shaping, and positive reinforcements, my parents were able to train my dog to no longer go to the bathroom inside.

Operant Conditioning

The Law of Effect explains that any action followed by a pleasurable consequence is likely to be repeated, while any action followed by an undesirable consequence will not be. In the psychological study of behaviorism, reinforcers play a crucial role in the process of operant conditioning – or the learning of voluntary behavior through positive and negative feedback. Any response that will increase the likelihood of an action being performed again in the future acts as a reinforcer. Primary reinforcers provide positive feedback through the fulfillment of basic biological needs such as hunger, thirst, or touch, while secondary reinforcers work similarly by their association with primary reinforcement (such money, which can buy beverages, food, etc.) Through the process of operant conditioning animals and people alike learn to associate actions with consequences, eventually leading to a relatively predictable pattern of learned behavior. Reinforcements solidify these connections by either the addition of a positive response (positive reinforcement) or the removal of a negative consequence (negative reinforcement). Behavioral reinforcement contributes greatly to the learned association of a positive response with voluntary behavior in an organism.

After learning about operant conditioning in class, it dawned on me that my dog Lilly provides a wonderful example of voluntary learned behavior. Lilly is a small lap dog who adores being showered with attention and loves being touched – being so cute, she is frequently indulged. However, this indulgence has led Lilly to develop some interesting habits to get what she pleases. Recently I began to notice that occasionally when I would stop petting her, Lilly would reach out with her paws, grab my hand, and gently pull it back to where I was touching her. At first, I would oblige and continue petting her (much to her pleasure). After some time, however, I began to experiment with her behavior. I noticed that immediately following the prompt removal of the desired stimulus (my petting) she would forcefully grab my or scratch at my hands in an effort to receive the primary reinforcer of touch. The consistent positive reinforcement of my petting as a response to her grabbing caused Lilly to create an association between the two. To this day, Lilly still insists on pulling at my hands whenever I am sitting on the couch – clearly someone has learned (through the process of operant conditioning) how to get what they want!

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning

  B.F.Skinner is the most influential person in behaviorism, he found out a concept called operant conditioning. It is types of study that the behavior will strengthen when there is reinforcement or the behavior is weaken when followed by s punishment. In operant conditioning, we learn the association between our behavior and the following consequences.

There are many examples are operant conditioning, like students write their homework to win the compliment or reward from their parents, the same way that stuff finish a good project and want to receive the praise or promotion from their boss.

In our family, we have 2 golden retriever and we had them since they are really young and small. We tend to train them how to sit, lie, row, stand up and shake hands. At first these two doggy don’t know what to do, but with time, they seemed to found out, once they do specific behavior after the specific “order”, they will get pat or snack or going out some kind of reward. This is called positive reinforcement in psychology.

In the other way, when the two doggy pee and poo in the wrong place like bedroom or living room, people will shout out loud and will punishment them. With the time and observing the other dog, they all find out that when they pee and poo in the bathroom, they not only will not get punishment but also will get the compliment. so they know how it work and since then, they do their business in the bathroom.

So, this an example in my home, typically a operant conditioning, two dogs associate their behaviors with the results they get, whether is punishment or compliment, with the time past, two doggies what to do after the specific order. The dolphin, tiger or any animals in the zoo go through the operant conditioning. Especially when we saw the dolphin show, when the trainer send out a signal or a hand gesture the dolphin do specific movement and get back to the trainer to have a fish. There are many examples like that all called operant conditioning.

Muzi Li

Breaking a Bad Habit

When I was a senior in high school I took an introductory course in psychology. Our teacher assigned us a semester long project that forced us to notice a bad habit and change it by any means we felt necessary. I had a bad habit of biting my nails when I would get stressed (which seems to have reemerged in college). To change this habit, I took a week to observe myself by taking note of every time I bit my nails. I then decided that I would try a month of reinforcing myself for no nail biting and a month of negatively reinforcing myself each time I bit my nails. After the experiment was over, I did actually break my bad habit and I discovered that for this particular issue, punishment was the most effective response.

The approach I took to this assignment was very much so a behavioristic one. Behaviorism focuses on external behaviors rather than internal ones and emphasizes the objective, scientific analysis of the external behaviors. A behaviorist would say that mental events are triggered by external stimuli, which lead to behaviors. Revisiting my nail biting habit, we can now break it apart as a behaviorist might. The mental event I was experiencing was stress and nervousness which was caused by an external stimulus be it an exam or an emotional hardship. The stimulus and the mental activity would trigger my behavior of nail biting.

Now that each step of my habit was identified, it had to be changed. I went about this using the idea of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a type of learning when an individual’s behavior is modified by consequences that can reinforce or inhibit recurrence of a particular behavior. There is a general procedure to follow when using operant conditioning to change a behavior or in my case, break a bad habit. The first step is to state a goal. My goal was to stop biting my nails. The next step is to monitor the behavior. I mentioned earlier that I observed myself for a little over two months. During those months, I kept a tally on each day of my planner when I would bite my nails. The third step in the operant conditioning process is to reinforce the behavior. The first week of my experiment acted as a control week so there was no reinforcement. During the first month, I decided to reinforce myself with a reward. If I got through the whole day without biting my nails, I would give myself a point. If by the end of the month I was successful for twenty-five days, I would allow myself to go to the salon to get my nails done. I did not succeed. Therefore, I needed to try a new method. The second month of the experiment was to see the effects of negative reinforcement. For a month I wore a thick rubber band around my wrist. Every time I caught myself biting my nails, I would have the person next to me pull it so it would snap on my wrist. By the end of the month, my friends caught on and when they saw me bite my nails they would snap it without me needing to tell them. This time the operant conditioning worked and I was actually very successful in breaking my habit.

Though my levels of stress and nervousness did not change because my environment was consistent, through a behavioristic approach and operant conditioning, I was able to break my bad habit.