Psy_-_Operant_Cond_-_Skinner,_Thorndike,_Shaping_Chapt_5

Psy_-_Operant_Cond_-_Skinner,_Thorndike,_Shaping_Chapt_5 -...

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Learning Operant Conditioning One of the most widespread and important types of learning is operant conditioning, which involves increasing a behavior by following it with a reward, or decreasing a behavior by following it with punishment. For example, if a mother starts giving a boy his favorite snack every day that he cleans up his room, before long the boy may spend some time each day cleaning his room in anticipation of the snack. In this example, the boy’s room-cleaning behavior increases because it is followed by a reward or reinforcer. Unlike classical conditioning, in which the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli are presented regardless of what the learner does, operant conditioning requires action on the part of the learner. The boy in the above example will not get his snack unless he first cleans up his room. The term operant conditioning refers to the fact that the learner must operate, or perform a certain behavior, before receiving a reward or punishment. A. Thorndike’s Law of Effect Some of the earliest scientific research on operant conditioning was conducted by American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike at the end of the 19th century. Thorndike’s research subjects included cats, dogs, and chickens. To see how animals learn new behaviors, Thorndike used a small chamber that he called a puzzle box. He would place an animal in the puzzle box, and if it performed the correct response (such as pulling a rope, pressing a lever, or stepping on a platform), the door would swing open and the animal would be rewarded with some food located just outside the cage. The first time an animal entered the puzzle box, it usually took a long time to make the response required to open the door. Eventually, however, it would make the appropriate response by accident and receive its reward: escape and food. As Thorndike placed the same animal in the puzzle box again and again, it would make the correct response more and more quickly. Soon it would take the animal just a few seconds to earn its reward. Based on these experiments, Thorndike developed a principle he called the law of effect. This law states that behaviors that are followed by pleasant consequences will be strengthened, and will be more likely to occur in the future. Conversely, behaviors that are followed by unpleasant consequences will be weakened, and will be less likely to be repeated in the future. Thorndike’s law of effect is another way of describing what modern psychologists now call operant conditioning. Thorndike was studying mind reading in children for his PhD. He asked children to guess what he was thinking and if they guessed right, he rewarded them with a piece of candy. What he observed was that children made the same guesses again when it led to a piece
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Psy_-_Operant_Cond_-_Skinner,_Thorndike,_Shaping_Chapt_5 -...

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