B.F. Skinner

(1904-1990)

Operant Conditioning

The definition of Operant Conditioning is "roughly changing of behavior by the use of reinforcement which is given after the desired response." This pretty much means that if you do something good, you will be rewarded, and if you do something bad, you will be punished.

Skinner concluded that there were three types of operant conditioning.

  1. Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated.
  2. Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.
  3. Punishers: Response from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.

Operative conditioning applies to parenting because children often respond better when they know there will be a reward. Conversely they are less likely to behave badly if they know there will be a punishment.

Operative conditioning is helpful in many parenting situations but it's hard to do sometimes because it's basically bribery. Also it may not be applicable to all situations.