Operant Conditioned Learning Theory

Lakhvir Khosa

ANALYSIS OF THEORY USING APPLICATION

Inquiry Question

To what extent can operant conditioned learning influence parenting behaviours?

The application of parenting in relation to child development and how it coheres with operant conditioned learning.

THEORY INFORMATION

What is it?

Operant Conditioned Learning is a form of learning in which responses come to be controlled by consequences. Instrumental learning is another term for operant conditioned learning. It is a learning process created by Edward L. Thorndike in 1913 but first described by B.F. Skinner in 1938.

EXPERIMENTS

Thorndike's Experiment

Edward L. Thorndike conducted studies of problem solving in cats. A hungry cat was placed in a small cage with food available right outside the cage. The cat would escape to obtain the food by performing a specific response. After each escape the cat was reward a treat and then put back into the cage. The cat was monitored to see how long it would take for the cat to escape.


B.F. Skinner’s “Skinner Box” Experiment

The “Skinner Box” was a simple device for studying the effects of reinforcers on lab rats/pigeons. Skinner also called it an “operant chamber”. It was essentially a box with a lever for the animal to use so it could obtain food. The device could be set to control timing and frequency of the reinforcements.


Thorndike’s “Law of Effect”

This is basically what Operant Conditioned Learning is, which is when a response in the presence of a stimulus leads to satisfying effects and the association between the stimulus and the response is strengthened. This includes Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning.


TYPES OF LEARNING (AVERSIVE CONTROL)

Escape Learning

It is when the organism acquires a response that decreases or ends some aversive stimulation. For example, when a baby starts to cry as an escape method when someone unfamiliar is carrying so they can return to someone more familiar, perhaps their mother or father.

Avoidance Learning

It is when the organism acquires a response that avoids some aversive stimulation from occurring. For example, when a child is scared of the dark so he/she avoids going into dark area and just stay in well lighted areas or unless they are with someone they know or perhaps a parent.

REAL LIFE APPLICATION OF THEORY

Parenting & Child Development

Parents are key victims to operant conditioned learning as there is no one individual who influences the development of a child more than the parent. They are required to use this theory on a day-to-day basis through the growth of their child, especially through their psychosexual stages. They number one priority should be to help make their child not like them, but even better then them. They are the most influential figures in a child's life. The parents should be helping them grow to be the best version of themselves. Every aspect of the child’s progression through life, beginning with their genetic makeup, is greatly influenced, if not completely determined by, the parent figure in the child’s life. Parent figures choose how their child will grow up. One way parents dictate the development of their child is through discipline. The methods and means of disciplining a child can impact their life socially, behaviorally, and even intellectually. In doing so, they use operant conditioned learning.

REINFORCEMENTS & PUNISHMENTS

Positive Reinforcement (+ / +)

Add positive reinforcement to strengthen/continue the behaviour.

Ex. Joey's parents rewarded him a toy for doing well in school.


Specific Reinforcement from the scenario:

  • Joey receives a toy

Specific Behaviour from the scenario:
  • Joey continues to do well in school

Negative Reinforcement (- / -)

Remove negative reinforcement to strengthen/continue the behaviour.


Ex. Joey cleans up after himself so his mother doesn’t start nagging.


Specific Reinforcement from the scenario:

  • Joey avoids his mother nagging

Specific Behaviour from the scenario:

  • Joey cleans up after himself

Positive Punishment (+ / -)

Add negative reinforcement to weaken/stop the behaviour.


Ex. Joey gets yelled at for spilling his water.


Specific Reinforcement from the scenario:

  • Joey gets yelled at

Specific Behaviour from the scenario:
  • Joey becomes more careful with his glass

Negative Punishment (- / +)

Remove positive reinforcement to weaken/stop the behaviour.


Ex. Joey’s games are taken away for coming home late.


Specific Reinforcement from the scenario:

  • Joey’s games are taken away

Specific Behaviour from the scenario:
  • Joey stops coming home late

CONCLUSION OF THEORY AND APPLICATION

So?

Does operant conditioned learning influence parenting behaviours? What do you think?