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1 Skinner and Operant Conditioning Slide One: Two characteristics help us distinguish between the two forms of associative learning. As you learned in classical conditioning, the organism learns associations between events that the organism does not control, and responses are automatic. This is also known as respondent behavior. Operant conditioning differs from classical conditioning in that the organism learns associations between its behavior and resulting events. In other words, the organism - you - operates on the environment. This is known as operant behavior. Slide Two: Edward Thorndike s law of effect states that rewarded behavior is likely to recur. In 1898 Thorndike used a fish reward to entice cats to find their way out of a puzzle box. Over time and with experience, the cats performances tended to improve with each successive trial; hence, Thorndike s law of effect. Skinner explored Thorndike s law of effect. Skinner used an operant chamber, also known as a Skinner box, in his pioneering studies with rats and pigeons. In these studies, Skinner explored the precise conditions that foster efficient and enduring learning, as the rat presses a bar for a food or water reward. Not shown is a measuring device outside the box to record the animal s accumulated responses. Slide Three: Skinner s experiments used shaping. Shaping is a procedure using reinforcers, such as food, to gradually guide an animal s actions toward a desired behavior. The picture above illustrates how rats have been shaped to save lives. This Gambian giant pouched rat was shaped to sniff out land mines by receiving a banana after successfully locating a mine during training in Mozambique. Shaping occurs by rewarding responses that are ever closer to the final desired behavior, known as successive approximations, and ignoring all other responses. In this way, researchers can gradually shape complex behaviors. Even nonverbal animals and you as a baby could respond only to what you perceived. Your reactions demonstrate which events you can discriminate. Slide Four: All human behavior is shaped with reinforcers. A reinforcer is any event that increases the frequency of a preceding response. Reinforcers can be positive by presenting a pleasant stimulus after a response, such as your approving smile after a cute boy says

2 hello. Reinforcers can also be negative by reducing or removing an unpleasant stimulus, such as smoking a cigarette to reduce a nicotine addict s pangs. Primary reinforcers, such as food when we are hungry, are innately satisfying. Conditioned reinforcers, such as cash, are satisfying because we have learned to associate them with more basic rewards. Immediate reinforcers, such as the caffeine addict s espresso coffee, offer immediate payback. Delayed reinforcers, such as a weekly paycheck, require the ability to delay gratification. We may be more inclined to engage in small immediate reinforcers (watching TV) than large delayed reinforcers (Getting an A in a course) which requires consistent study. Slide Five: When the desired response is reinforced every time it occurs, continuous is involved. Learning is rapid, but so is extinction if rewards cease. Partial (intermittent) produces slower acquisition of the target behavior than continuous, but the learning is more resistant to extinction. Reinforcement s may vary according to the number of responses rewarded or the time gap between responses. Fixed-ratio s reinforce behavior after a set number of responses; variable-ratio s provide reinforcers after an unpredictable number of responses. Fixedinterval s reinforce the first response after a fixed time interval, and variableinterval s reinforce the first response after varying time intervals. Slide Six: Punishment, positive or negative, attempts to decrease the frequency of a behavior. Positive punishment, as in light spanking, administers an undesirable consequence. A negative punishment, like taking away a favorite toy, withdraws something desirable. Negative (like taking an aspirin) removes something undesirable, such as a headache, to increase the frequency of a behavior (taking aspirin when you experience another headache.) Notice that negative increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur while a punishment eliminates a behavior. Punishment is not the opposite of, because it can have several undesirable side effects, including suppressing rather than changing unwanted behaviors, teaching aggression, creating fear, and fostering feelings of helplessness. Slide Seven:

3 Rats exploring a maze seem to develop a mental representation, known as a cognitive map, of the maze even in the absence of rewards. A rat s latent learning becomes evident only when there is some incentive to demonstrate it. Research indicates that people may come to see rewards, rather than intrinsic interest, as the motivation for performing a task. Again, this finding demonstrates the importance of cognitive processing in learning. By undermining intrinsic motivation -- the desire to perform a behavior for its own sake -- rewards can carry hidden costs. Extrinsic motivation is the desire to perform a behavior because of promised rewards or threats of punishment. A person s interest often survives when a reward is used neither to bribe nor coerce but to signal a job well done. Famous golfer Tiger Woods plays golf for intrinsic motivation to win the most golf tournaments in history. Tiger Woods earns enormous external monetary rewards re-writing history. Slide Eight: Skinner has been criticized for repeatedly insisting that external influences, not internal thoughts and feelings, shape behavior, and for urging the use of operant principles to control people s behavior. Critics argue that he dehumanized people by neglecting their personal freedom and by seeking to control their actions. Skinner countered that people s behavior is already controlled by external reinforcers, so why not administer those consequences for human betterment? Operant principles have been applied in a variety of settings. For example, in schools, on-line testing systems and interactive student software embody the operant ideal of individualized shaping and immediate. In sports, coaches can build players skills and self-confidence by rewarding small improvements. In the workplace, positive for jobs well done has boosted employee productivity. At home, people s use of energy has been decreased by altering the consequences and providing feedback. Parents can reward behaviors that are desirable and not those that are undesirable. To reach our personal goals, we can monitor and reinforce our own desired behaviors and cut back on incentives as the behaviors become habitual. Both classical and operant conditioning are forms of associative learning. They both involve acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery, generalization, and discrimination. Both classical and operant conditioning are influenced by biological and cognitive predispositions. The two forms of learning differ in an important way. In classical conditioning, organisms associate different stimuli that they do not control, and respond automatically. In operant conditioning, organisms associate their own behaviors with their consequences.

4 Slide Nine: Associative learning Operant conditioning Respondent behavior Operant behavior Law of effect Operant chamber Learning Shaping Reinforcer Positive Negative Primary reinforcer Conditioned reinforcer Continuous Partial (intermittent) Fixed-ratio learning that certain events occur together a type of learning in which behavior is strengthened if followed by a reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher behavior that occurs as an automatic response to some stimulus; Skinner s term for behavior learned through classical conditioning behavior that operates on the environment, producing consequences Thondike s principle that behaviors followed by favorable consequences become more likely, and that behaviors followed by unfavorable consequences become less likely a chamber also known as a Skinner Box, containing a bar or key that an animal can manipulate to obtain a food or water reinforcer, with attached devices to record the animal s rate of bar pressing or key pecking; used in operant conditioning research a relatively permanent change in an organism s behavior due to experience an operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behavior toward closer and closer approximations of the desired behavior in operant conditioning, any event that strengthens the behavior it follows increasing behaviors by presenting positive stimuli, such as food increasing behaviors by stopping or reducing negative stimuli, such as a shock an innately reinforcing stimulus, such as one that satisfies a biological need a stimulus that gains its reinforcing power through its associations with a primary reinforcer; also known as a secondary reinforcer reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs reinforcing a response only part of the time; results in slower acquisition of a response but much greater resistance to extinction than does continuous reinforces a response only after a specified number of

5 Variable-ratio Fixed-interval Variable-interval Punishment Cognitive map Latent learning Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivation responses reinforces a response after an unpredictable number of responses reinforces a response only after a specified time has elapsed reinforces a response at unpredictable time intervals an event that decreases the behavior that it follows a mental representation of the layout of one s environment learning that occurs but is not apparent until there is an incentive to demonstrate it a desire to perform a behavior for its own sake a desire to perform a behavior due to promised rewards or threats of punishment

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