Operant conditioning

Type of associative learning process for behavioral modification / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Operant conditioning, also called instrumental conditioning, is a learning process where behaviors are modified through the association of stimuli with reinforcement or punishment. In it, operants—behaviors that affect one's environment—are conditioned to occur or not occur depending on the environmental consequences of the behavior.

Operant conditioning originated in the work of Edward Thorndike, whose law of effect theorised that behaviors arise as a result of whether their consequences are satisfying or discomforting. In the 20th century, operant conditioning was studied by behaviorist psychologists, who believed that much, if not all, of mind and behaviour can be explained as a result of environmental conditioning. Reinforcements are environmental stimuli that increase behaviors, whereas punishments are stimuli that decrease behaviors. Both kinds of stimuli can be further categorised into positive and negative stimuli, which respectively involve the addition or removal of environmental stimuli.

Operant conditioning differs from classical conditioning, which is a process where stimuli are paired with biologically significant events to produce involuntary and reflexive behaviors. In contrast, operant conditioning is voluntary and depends on the consequences of a behavior.

The study of animal learning in the 20th century was dominated by the analysis of these two sorts of learning,[1] and they are still at the core of behavior analysis. They have also been applied to the study of social psychology, helping to clarify certain phenomena such as the false consensus effect.[2]

Operant conditioningExtinction
Increase behavior
Decrease behavior
Positive reinforcement
Add appetitive stimulus
following correct behavior
Negative reinforcementPositive punishment
Add noxious stimulus
following behavior
Negative punishment
Remove appetitive stimulus
following behavior
Remove noxious stimulus
following correct behavior
Active avoidance
Behavior avoids noxious stimulus