What Is Operant Conditioning and How Does It Work?

Operant conditioning is a type of learning that occurs when the consequences of that behavior modify an individual’s behavior. This type of learning is also known as instrumental conditioning and was first described by B.F. Skinner in the 1930s.

This is done through the use of positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when a desired behavior is rewarded with something the individual finds rewarding, such as a treat or praise. Negative reinforcement is when an undesired behavior is removed, such as taking away a toy when a child misbehaves.

For example, a dog owner might use positive reinforcement to teach the dog to sit. Every time the dog sits, the owner praises it and gives it a treat. The dog will eventually learn to associate sitting with getting a treat, and so it will sit on its own. Negative reinforcement can also be used to stop unwanted behavior. If the dog starts jumping up on people, the owner can take away the dog’s toy every time it does it. Eventually, the dog will learn that it won’t get its toy if it jumps, and so it will stop the behavior.

Operant conditioning is widely used in animal training, behavior modification, and education, as well as in parenting. Its effectiveness has been proven in many studies, and it is a great way to modify behavior in both animals and humans. With proper use, operant conditioning can be an effective and humane tool for teaching desired behaviors.

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