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AP Psychology Unit VI. Part Two: Operant Conditioning: Reward and Punishment. We learn to associate a response and its consequence (what comes after). Operant Conditioning. Classical vs. Operant Conditioning. Operant vs Classical Conditioning.

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ap psychology unit vi

AP Psychology Unit VI

Part Two: Operant Conditioning:

Reward and Punishment

operant conditioning

We learn to associate a response

  • and its consequence (what comes after)
Operant Conditioning
SOUTH TEACH: Explain (3) differences between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning30 seconds…
operant conditioning1

Operant Conditioning

    • type of learning in which behavior is strengthened if followed by reinforcement or diminished if followed by punishment
  • Law of Effect
    • Thorndike’s principle that behaviors followed by favorable consequences become more likely, and behaviors followed by unfavorable consequences become less likely
Operant Conditioning
operant conditioning2

B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)

    • elaborated Thorndike’s Law of Effect
    • developed behavioral technology
    • Skinner box
Operant Conditioning
operant chamber

Skinner Box

    • chamber with a bar or key that an animal manipulates to obtain a food or water reinforcer
    • contains devices to record responses
Operant Chamber
skinner box
  • http://youtu.be/I_ctJqjlrHA
  • BF Skinner – “radical behavioralist”
  • Wanted to demonstrate that uniquely human behaviors were the product of conditioning.
  • Starved 8 pigeons. Then rewarded them with food every 15 s, no matter what they did.
    • 6 of 8 bird developed superstitions
      • Turning counter-clockwise in a circle
      • Thrusting head toward a specific corner of cage
      • “tossing” an imaginary ball with its head
      • Head bobbing with accompanying steps (2 birds)
      • “fake” pecking
operant conditioning3


    • any event that strengthens the behavior it follows
  • Shaping
    • operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behavior toward closer approximations of a desired goal
    • http://youtu.be/BVbGSVhKGwA
Operant Conditioning
principles of reinforcement

We are rewarded (reinforced) by something we need or something we want related to what we need

  • 1. Primary Reinforcer
    • innately reinforcing stimulus
    • i.e., satisfies a biological need
  • 2. Conditioned/ Secondary Reinforcer
    • stimulus that gains its reinforcing power through its association with primary reinforcer
Principles of Reinforcement
  • With your partners or trio, create examples of:
  • Primary reinforcer
  • 2) Secondary reinforcer
  • And relate each to a behavior
schedules of reinforcement

Continuous Reinforcement

  • reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs

Partial (Intermittent) Reinforcement

  • reinforcing a response only part of the time
  • results in slower acquisition
  • greater resistance to extinction **gambling**
Schedules of Reinforcement

How often should we reward behaviors? The frequency of reinforcement are called the schedules.

reinforcement schedules
Reinforcement Schedules
  • Fixed ratio – set number ($1 every 3 hands)
  • Variable Ratio – unpredictable number of responses ($1/? of times)
  • Fixed interval – set amount of time ($1/per hour of play)
  • Variable interval – unpredictable amount of time ($1/ ? amount of time)
schedules of reinforcement1

Fixed Ratio (FR)

    • reinforces a response only after a specified number of responses
    • faster you respond the more rewards you get
    • different ratios
    • very high rate of responding
    • like piecework pay
    • With your table, come up with one school-based example.
Schedules of Reinforcement
schedules of reinforcement2

Variable Ratio (VR)

    • reinforces a response after an unpredictable number of responses
    • average ratios
    • like gambling, fishing
    • very hard to extinguish because of unpredictability
    • With your table, come up with one school-based example.
Schedules of Reinforcement
schedules of reinforcement3

Fixed Interval (FI)

    • reinforces a response only after a specified time has elapsed
    • response occurs more frequently as the anticipated time for reward draws near
    • With your table, come up with one school-based example.
Schedules of Reinforcement
schedules of reinforcement4

Variable Interval (VI)

    • reinforces a response at unpredictable time intervals
    • produces slow steady responding
    • Like random employee bonuses
    • With your table, come up with one school-based example.
Schedules of Reinforcement
reinforcement increases behavior punishment decreases behavior


  • With your partners or trio, create an examples of
  • a school-related reinforcer and school-related punishment
  • and connect them to behaviors


    • aversive event that decreases the behavior that it follows
    • powerful controller of unwanted behavior

With your table, share three examples of punishment that a boyfriend or girlfriend might use to decrease unwanted behavior in his/her partner


Choose one example shared by another table and identify whether it was positive or negative punishment

problems with punishment
Problems with Punishment
  • it models aggression as a way to solve problems
  • breeds anger in the recipient
  • doesn’t provide an alternative behavior. Therefore, the behavior only goes away when the punisher is around.
ap psychology unit vi1

AP Psychology Unit VI

Learning: Part III-

Observational Learning

(and other learning that can exist

without reward or punishment…)

observational learning
Observational Learning
  • Observational Learning
    • learning by observing others
  • Modeling
    • process of observing and imitating a specific behavior
  • Albert Bandura – Bobo doll experiment
  • http://youtu.be/8ZXOp5PopIA
  • ProsocialBehavior– positive and constructive behavior
  • Antisocial Behavior– negative, unproductive or destructive behavior

With your table, come up with an example of each that has been modeled for you this week

observational learning1

Mirror Neurons

    • frontal lobe neurons that fire when performing certain actions or when observing another doing so
    • may enable imitation, language learning, and empathy
Observational Learning
cognition and operant conditioning

Cognitive Map

    • mental representation of the layout of one’s environment

*after exploring a maze, rats act as if they have learned a cognitive map of it

    • When/how might this be useful?
  • Latent Learning
    • learning that occurs, but is not apparent until there is an incentive to demonstrate it
    • * Example?
Cognition and Operant Conditioning
cognition and operant conditioning1

Overjustification Effect

    • the effect of promising a reward for doing what one already likes to do
      • the person may now see the reward, rather than intrinsic interest, as the motivation for performing the task
    • Where might we see this happen in the workplace?
Cognition and Operant Conditioning
cognition and operant conditioning2

Intrinsic Motivation

    • Desire to perform a behavior for its own sake and to be effective
  • Extrinsic Motivation
    • Desire to perform a behavior due to promised rewards or threats of punishments
Cognition and Operant Conditioning
critique of behavioralism
Critique of Behavioralism
  • Deemphasizes the role of internal thoughts and feelings in behavior; Presents humans as lacking free will
  • Ignores biological predispositions:

Experiments with humans and animals both indicate that biological predispositions influence conditioning.

a. Animal training

b. Human societies built on behavioralist principles.