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Operant and Observational
Operant conditioning
• Association between a behavior and a
E.L. Thorndike
• Puzzle box paradigm
– Learning curve for escape
• Law of effect
– Successful behaviors are likely to be repeated
B.F. Skinner
• Major pioneer of
– All responses can be
• Skinner box
– Used to shape
complex behaviors
Learning and association between
a response and a consequence
• Consequence must follow a behavior
• Reinforcement - increases the likelihood of
the response
• Punishment - decreases the likelihood of
the response
• Positive reinforcement
– Adds something desirable
• Negative reinforcement
– Takes away something unpleasant
– NOT punishment!!
• Primary reinforcers - innately satisfying
• Secondary (conditioned) reinforcers associated with satisfaction
• Positive punishment
– Adds something unpleasant
• Negative punishment
– Takes away something desirable
• Not simply the opposite of reinforcement
• Creates several unwanted side effects
– Suppresses all behaviors
– Creates fear
– Teaches/increases aggression & cruelty
• In the absence of a consequence,
behavior will diminish
• Complex behaviors are created by
reinforcing successive approximations of
the desired behavior
– Each response that comes closer to the
desired behavior is rewarded
– Discreet segments of the behavior eventually
comprise the whole behavior
Reinforcement schedules
• Affect speed and retention of learning
• Continuous reinforcement
• Partial reinforcement
– Fixed ratio
– Variable ratio
– Fixed interval
– Variable interval
Generalization and
• Generalization
– Organism makes the response beyond the
reward-related context
• Discrimination
– Organism learns the context in which the
behavior will result in the consequence
Applications of operant
• Behavior modification
– Applied behavioral therapy
– Animal training
– Teaching children good behaviors and basic
– Increasing employee productivity
Classical and Operant
• Contrast
– Classical conditioning creates an automatic response
– Operant conditioning teaches an association between
behavior and consequence
• Compare
– Associative learning, involving:
– Both influenced by biological and cognitive
Biological predispositions
• Learning is constrained by biology
– Associations are learned when they are
naturally adaptive
– Training that override biological tendencies is
• Example: Performing pig
Biological predispositions
• Animals learn associations between
biologically relevant stimuli very quickly
– John Garcia - taste aversion & one-trial
Cognitive processes Latent learning
• Depends on and demonstrates cognitive
processes in operant conditioning
• Tolman’s hungry rats
• Memory processes store the learning
– Not all learning is an immediate behavioral
response to a stimulus or potential
Cognitive processes Motivation
• Affects behavioral performance
• Intrinsic motivation
– Intrinsic rewards
• Extrinsic motivation
– Extrinsic rewards
• Rewards may undermine intrinsic
– Humans have a tendency to view external
rewards as the motivation to perform a task
– Intrinsic interest is diminished
• Rewards for good work do not diminish
intrinsic motivation
– Reward based on confidence and pride in
hard work can support intrinsic motivation
• Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation by
turning a naturally rewarding situation into
a “job”
– People focus on external rewards
– Obscures the value of intrinsic rewards
Observational learning
• Animals and humans learn through
watching and imitating others
• Part of typical development
Observational learning
• Observational learning utilizes mirror
– Neurons in the frontal cortex
– Respond to observation of activity and
Albert Bandura
• Observational learning relies on watching
another’s behavior and observing the
• Bobo doll study
Positive observational learning
• Modeling/observation of prosocial
behaviors increases the occurrence of
those behaviors
– Children who observe regular prosocial
behaviors engage in those behaviors and
exhibit prosocial attitudes
– Adult behavior can also be influenced by
prosocial behaviors
Negative observational learning
• Modeling/observation of negative
behaviors can have antisocial effects
– Children exposed to violence are more
• Immediate and delayed effects of exposure to
• Likelihood of abused children becoming abusers
Negative observational learning
• Television is a model of many negative
– Correlation
– Causation
• Effects of media violence on attitudes and
– Imitation
• Media provides a script
– Desensitization
• Overexposure diminishes the meaning of violence