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Operant conditioning presents the idea that “behavior is a function of its consequences.” (Robbins & Judge, 2008, p. 55) In other words, people act and behave a certain way to get something they want or to avoid it. This kind of behavior is learned and voluntary unlike the classical conditioning theory that presents the idea that behavior is reflexive and unlearned. To carry out this behavior it has to be learned and that can be done through the introduction of reinforcements. If a good or behavior is reinforced it is highly likely that it will be repeated. (Robbins & Judge, 2008, pp. 55–56)

B.F. Skinner, the mastermind behind the operant conditioning theory “argued that creating pleasing consequences to follow specific forms of behavior would increase the frequency of that behavior. He demonstrated that people will most likely engage in desired behaviors if they are positively reinforced for doing so; that rewards are most effective if they immediately follow the desired response; and that behavior that is not rewarded, or is punished, is less likely to be repeated.” (Robbins & Judge, 2008, p. 56) For example, if your are praised every time you come up with a creative idea at work you will be more likely to be motivated to come up with more ideas and present them without hesitation. Appraisal might give you intrinsic motivation to repeat that behavior whereas if your ideas are ignored and tossed out the window without even being considered, next time you might think twice before presenting an idea even though it might be genius.

There are two types of reinforcers: primary and secondary. Primary reinforcers include food, water, sex, etc. They are physiologically or biologically determined. Secondary reinforcers are praise, recognition, money and etc. They derive their effect from a consistent pairing with other reinforcements in the past.

There are five reinforcement strategies: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment and extinction. Positive reinforcement occurs “when a behavior is strengthened as a result of receiving a positive condition.” (Types of Operant Conditioning) In other words, if you perform action x, and the result is action y, and if action y is a good result that makes you feel good or is a positive one, you will do action x more often.  For example, when I play tennis, I feel good and energized, so I play more tennis.

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