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OPERANT CONDITIONING Operant conditioning is a second theory of learning, which is different from classical conditioning. There are 2 major differences between these two types of theories. 1. According to Operant conditioning theory an individual learns a behavior (operant ), because it brings consequences . A behavior is strengthened because it is reinforced by repeated consequences. A behavior is weakened by punishment and is not repeated. Whereas according to Classical conditioning it is the connection which strengthens the behavior and not the consequences. 2. The behavior learned in Operant conditioning is Voluntary . Why it is so? Because the learned behavior stops appearing if the consequences stop coming. So, the behavior is repeated voluntarily to receive consequences . Just in contrast the behavior in Classical conditioning, involuntary , or passive reflex response. The historical contribution to this theory Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) Thorndike’s experiment: He examined the influence of consequences which influenced voluntary behavior. To examine the effect of consequences, Thorndike created a puzzle box and placed a
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cat inside it. There was a rope connected to the cage. The door of the puzzle box could open, if the rope could be pulled. The cat while roaming around, inside the cage, accidentally pulled the rope, the door opened and the cat could come out of the cage and got food to eat. The cat initially learned to pull the rope through trial and error. Each successful trial to be able to open the door and to get food (consequences), modified cat’s behavior. Cat’s behavior became more purposeful (to open the door and receive food), and less random. The cat soon learned to open the door immediately, when placed in the puzzle box. So, the cat’s behavior became voluntary. Based upon the above mentioned experiment, Thorndike formulated the LAW OF EFFECT . The law of effect states that the probability of an action being repeated is strengthened if it is followed by a pleasant or satisfying consequence. In short, rewarded behavior is more likely to reoccur . B. F. Skinner’s Experiment.
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