I chose to involve the 1-year and a couple of months old son of my good friend and neighbor (named Judith) for my Operant Conditioning Experiment. Shawn, as we fondly call the toddler, happens to be extraordinarily shy. He would rather stay around the presence of his mom or dad than enjoy playing with other kids. He shuns most, if not all occasions of interaction with other fellows. I, for my part, have tried to “sneak” him away from his parents (with their permission, of course), to no avail. Instances in the Experiment
I set for myself a modest goal – i. e. , to be able to make Shawn a little more comfortable with the company of someone other than his parents for at least 5 minutes. What I did was to spend some time, about an hour, in my friend’s home after school. I asked my friend to bring Shawn to the living room area, where we would chat while sitting on the couch. In the process, I would give Shawn some cookies (oat meal cookies are his favorite) on the condition that he would sit by my lap. The first day was a complete mess.
Judith brought with her Shawn to the living room, but ended up catering to his tantrums. He appeared restless that time. The second day was the formal start of the experiment. Shawn sat near her mom by the couch. I handed him over an oatmeal cookie but he won’t accept. He only got it when Judith convinced him to do so. Come third day, we did the same routine again. I offered Shawn an oatmeal cookie and pulled it back again and again just as he was about to get it. The concept was that I needed to ask him to sit nearer my place before I would give in letting him have the cookie.
Still, the experiment proved unsuccessful. I got almost the same results on the fourth day of my experiment. But I was feeling happy that Shawn’s uneasiness with my presence appears to be waning. The fifth day however, I saw a significant development. When I asked him to sit beside me while offering the cookie, Shawn got up to get the cookie from where I was, and sat for a few seconds. He then got up again, holding his cookie, and got back to his mother’s place in the couch. Evaluation of the Experiment
Firstly, I must say that I did not meet the goal of my experiment, i. e. , to make Shawn enjoy my company even for 5 minutes. While I got Shawn to become a little less uneasy with my presence, and in fact got him to get his cookie and sit beside me for a few seconds, the fact that I was not able to make him stay with me at least for 5 minutes renders the experiment only as a relative success. Looking back, I have three realizations to make in relation to the experiment. First, I may have set a goal which is too much for Shawn to handle.
Second, the experiment duration of 5 days may be too short for someone as timid and shy as Shawn. Third, I realized that Operant Conditioning may entail exploring other motivations to elicit behavioral change. If only I have explored offering him other enjoyable stuff like toys, I may have gotten better results from my experiment. Had I used more appealing reinforcers to help my experiment, I believe that my experiment would have generated better and more successful outcomes.
Courtney from Study Moose
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