The theory of operant conditioning was thought of by B.F. Skinner. Skinner came up with this theory based on the work of Thorndike (1905). The theory of operant conditioning states that organisms learn to act or behave in a way which obtains or gets a reward yet avoids a punishment. It is an instrumental type of conditioning. Type R conditioning is also known as operant conditioning. Type R conditioning is shown by the response rate. Type S conditioning is determined by the amount of the conditioned response. Skinners R conditioning is similar to Thorndike’s instrumental conditioning, and Skinners S conditioning is very similar to Pavlov’s classical conditioning (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The focus in operant conditioning is on a behavior and the consequences surrounding that behavior.
The organism must behave in a way to cause stimulus reinforcement. This is also known as contingent or dependent reinforcement because getting the reinforcement or reward is based on a particular behavior or performance by the organism. An example of this would be, if a dog wants a treat, he must do a new trick hew has been taught. Positive reinforcements are those which cause a behavior to be repeated. An example would be a child crying at night (when they should be sleeping) and knowing that when he or she cries someone will come. This may be a positive reinforcement for the young child or baby because the child is being comforted and getting attention like he or she wants whenever they cry. The positive reinforcement is the person coming. On the other hand it could be negative for the person getting awakened. They do not want to have to get up in the middle of the night. They may eventually just let the child self soothe.
Then eventually the person, if he or she decided not to respond to the child would not come anymore. This would be a negative reinforcement for the child because they are not getting a reward or what he or she thought of as a reward any longer. If the child did learn to stop crying in middle of the night, then the person getting up would have the positive reinforcement of silence instead of noise in the middle of the night. I think the form of reinforcement that is most effective is the dependent or contingent reinforcement. I reward my children with doing things they like if they do well in their school since they are homeschooled.
If they know ahead of time that they will get special stuff, be able to go somewhere, or do something they like, they are more likely to try harder on their school work and act better. I will try operant conditioning with our dogs. Training a dog with the reward system is a good way to start or stop a certain behavior. The dog will perform the behavior habitually for a long time, and if it ever has to have reinforcement, it is only once in a while. I will try this with my dogs when taking them outside every day for the next two weeks at least three times a day.
I will let them go off leash, because we have a non-fenced in yard, and I am trying to get them to stay within their bounds without leaving our property area. I have decided that if I take treats outside with me for the three out of the five times a day they are taken out, and offer it to them when I call them as they start to go out of their area, while at the same time telling them no and calling their name, they will learn where their boundaries or parameter is in our yard. I will do it gradually less and less so the reinforcement, which is the treats, eventually does not have to be used. The behavior will just become natural to the dogs, and eventually they will know where they can and cannot go.
Olson, M.H. & Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009). An introduction to theories of learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall
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