Tag Archives: punishment

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.

Training my Dog

Reinforcement is anything that strengthens a behavior. There is both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement adds something desirable to the situation that encourages that subject to repeat the behavior. A negative reinforcement removes something that is unpleasant to the subject from the situation. Both positive and negative reinforcement reward the subject. They strengthen behavior.

This is different from punishment which decreases behavior. Positive punishment gives something to the subject that the subject does not like if they do not do the correct behavior. Negative punishment is taking something away from the subject that they enjoyed.

Reinforcement has been found to a more successful way for getting subjects to repeat a certain behavior because it rewards them for doing the correct thing. Punishment is also successful, but not as much because it can only teach a subject what not to do.

I have used both reinforcement and punishment on my dog, Chloe. Electric fences are positive punishment. I used these on her to make her stop running out of our yard. If she crossed the property line she was given a small shock. After crossing once, she never did it again. A beeping noise also goes off when she gets close to the electric fence. Chloe has associated this noise with the shock (classical conditioning) and will turn around whenever she hears it. I also taught Chloe some tricks with positive reinforcement. Through shaping I was eventually able to teach Chloe how to roll over. Every time she completed the task successfully I would give her a treat (normally a piece of cheese). This turned into a problem though because I might’ve made her do the trick too many times. For a while after teaching her how to roll over, Chloe would start rolling over and over and over every time someone in my family got some cheese from the refrigerator. She wouldn’t stop until they gave her the cheese or picked her up. Once I think she did 6 or 7 spins before I stopped her. Thankfully this only lasted a few days. She stopped this dizzying habit when we stopped responding to her.