Essay on Operant Conditioning And Operant Behavior

Essay on Operant Conditioning And Operant Behavior

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Learning can be quantified through observable behaviour and is adaptive to a creature’s specific environment at an individual level rather than species level. Behaviour can be broken down into two main categories, respondent behaviour, which is impacted by events that preceded it and operant behaviour, which is behaviour that is influenced by events that follow it. Behaviour can be analysed using a three term contingency of ABC. A is the antecedent, which can increase or decrease a behaviour depending on what is desired, B is the observed behaviour and C is the consequence of that behaviour, certain consequences increase behaviour whilst some decrease it. There are many different ways we learn behaviour and many different types of conditioning. Operant conditioning influences operant behaviour and uses the principles of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment to strengthen desired behaviours whereas instrumental conditioning involves making a response that is instrumental, it is an activity that is voluntary which elicits a consequence. A third type of conditioning is classical conditioning, which can be defined as an association being made between one stimulus and another, resulting in a relationship. For the purpose of this essay, classical conditioning will be the focus.
In 1928, Pavlov noticed that dogs salivated when they heard a bell ring in anticipation of food. This sparked his interest in conditioning, he then produced a theory by pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus to produce a conditioned response, and this was a huge breakthrough for psychology as it helped explain why some behaviours are learned. It could be argued that this is significant as it explains why we learn stimuli that is bi...


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... complex and as a result, learning behaviour is also complicated. Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning is widely accepted and was an important breakthrough in understanding behaviour and the Rescorla and Wagner model has stood test of time, now widely used in neuroscience. However, we cannot rule out other ways of learning, not just classical conditioning and cannot definitely decide if learning is due to surprise as learning can happen without being immediately visible, and behaviour is not always due to learning, as people often behave in a way that is against what they have been taught and only overt behaviour, such as actions, can be seen, psychologists lack the ability to observe covert behaviour, such as feelings and whilst there are ways of measuring emotions, there is no way to fully understand what someone is feeling and why they behave the way they do.

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