Operant Conditioning

At last, a form of learning in which people and animals make choices instead of learning involuntarily, like Pavlov’s dogs.

My children, for instance, have figured out that in the presence of certain stimuli, their chances of gaining a sought-after reward are greater. If they want lollies, they ask their father. If they want something else, such as books or clothes, they ask me.

Skinner would have explained this phenomenon using his S-R-C three-phase model, as follows:
A STIMULUS is present (father).
A RESPONSE is emitted (asking for lollies).
The CONSEQUENCE (agreement, getting the lollies), will lead to a strengthening of the response that produced it. In the presence of that stimulus, that response is more likely to recur. Any consequence that leads to the strengthening of a response is a reinforcer.

This three-step process is central to Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning and is illustrated once more in the slide below:

Skinner's S-R-C Three-Phase Model of Operant Conditioning

Here’s a video showing Skinner’s pigeon experiments:

Here’s a video showing Skinner’s pigeon experiments:

This video shows operantly conditioned pigeons playing ping pong:

To watch the shaping of a rat so that he can become a basketball star, look at this video:

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