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Video:Overview of Operant Conditioning

with Dr. Robert Reiner

Operant conditioning involves observing how behavior is affected by consequences such as positive and negative reinforcement, punishment and extinction. Learn more about operant conditioning in this educational video.See Transcript

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Transcript:Overview of Operant Conditioning

My name is Dr. Robert Reiner, I'm from Behavioral Associates here in New York and I'm here to talk about operant conditioning: current theories and how it was originated.

Foundation of Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning was designed be Dr. Skinner back in the 50's. Basically operant conditioning is looking at behavior and studying the consequences of how it's affected. You've heard the term 'reinforcement'? Well reinforcement is broken down into four areas, or four types:

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement is something repetitive, it's a reward, things like a sweet, things that stimulate the pleasure center.

Negative Reinforcement, not to be confused by the way with punishment. Negative reinforcement increases the behavior because by definition it is the termination of an aversive situation. Imagine you are freezing cold, or that you've got your hand in ice cold water, well taking it out - that relief, is negative reinforcement. So both positive and negative reinforcement both increase behaviors: one is pleasure, one is relief, or cessation of pain.

Punishment in Operant Conditioning

Punishment on the other hand, is actively doing something to stop the behavior. Like hitting somebody to prevent them or to discourage them from doing something. It is actively doing something, which is by the way, a very poor source of changing behavior.

Extinction in Operant Conditioning

The other way people use in operant conditioning to limit or reduce behavior is called extinction. Extinction is actually the absence of reinforcement, in other words if you think about the experiments that Dr. Skinner performed, if a light came on and an animal pressed a lever to get food, the food is a reinforcer. That's positive reinforcement. Now if all of a sudden you stop giving food to the animal, that's extinction, you are extinguishing the response by the absence of an event.

So the two ways to decrease behaviors in the operant conditioning world are: punishment and extinction. The ways to increase behaviors in operant conditioning is positive reinforcement, which is pleasure and negative reinforcement which is the termination of an unpleasant situation.So this has been Dr. Robert Reiner from Behavioral Associates in New York talking about operant conditioning. If you want any more information about it, just visit About.com.

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