An Example of Operant Conditioning
As a student at USC, one can assume that I’ve always taken schoolwork seriously and may even infer that I partake a considerable degree of enjoyment from it, which is by all means an accurate assumption. However, in my early childhood I was often characterized as unruly, uncooperative and impulsive in nature. At that age I had been more interested in social endeavors more so than anything relating to studying or doing schoolwork. It was always a negative issue when I brought it up in a conversation, and that assumption was reinforced through subsequent agreement amongst my peers. Coupled with negative criticism from my teachers of the purported “attitude” I had in regards to school and my elders, the environment in which I was situated made me all the more indifferent towards academics in general. Instead of studying after school, I would spend most of my time watching TV at home or playing with friends before walking home. At that point in my life my father and mother had been pursuing their careers in bio-medical engineering and audiology respectively, so I did not receive as much encouragement or parental monitoring as many of my friends did: In fact my dad would often leave home for weeks at a time to make presentations in other countries about the advancements in biomedical engineering concerning his specialized field and my mom would come back from work in the early evening. The only immediate source of encouragement came from my grandparents who were living with us at the time. Yet because they could only speak Spanish and knew so little about schools in general, they were unable to really help me out with any problems that I would have.
One day my parents, after reviewing my report card with another assortment of “unsatisfactory” grades, decided to take two steps to try and encourage me to get better grades. The first was a transfer to a different school, and the second was a little system they set up: For every “A” I received on my next progress report I would receive $15 and for every “B” $5. While I was upset because I would not get to see any of my old friends at the new school, the second part surprised me a little. The fact that the prospective cash out for grabs was an enormous amount for a 7 year made me anticipate all the things I could do with that money. Even ...
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...ivation declines which translates to harder work while the reward is in place and conversely to a lower frequency of work when the reward is withdrawn. I must also point that something interesting happened as soon as the material reward was withdrawn and replaced with praise: The act of studying and finalizing my homework then became an intrinsic motivation as my association of it with forced work changed to one of enjoyment, which was reinforced by my success academically.
Final Word: Conclusion
From then on I began to observe those who were likewise excelling in academics and began to imitate them. What probably drove me was a strong sense of self-efficacy or my perception that I could perform as successfully as they were. This self-efficacy persists to this day, where I now have a strong need for self-actualization, or the need to achieve my full potential. In recent years I have also learned of both self-reinforcement and self-punishment, and how to associate the motivation behind my academic progress not extrinsically as most people do, but intrinsically, something that I am doing just for the sake of doing it. This way I can derive the most from my college experience.
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