Operant conditioning: learning to repeat actions which have a reinforcing or strengthening outcome.
- relies on voluntary behavour rather than reflexes
- learning through the consequences of action
Positive reinforcement:- occurs when a repsonse/behaviour is strengthened because it is followed by reinforcement
Negative reinforcement:- occures when a response/behaviour is strengthened due to removal of an adverse stimulus (taking the bad thing away)
Shaping: the use of operant conditioning to produce behaviour of which individual is not at first capble by reinforcing behaviour which approximates to the desired behaviour.
Types of reinforcement
Positive reinforcer - item or event that an organism likes, needs or desires, that is closely associated with particular response, increasing likelihood of the response occuring again
Primary reinforcer - occurs naturally, like food or sleep. Satisfies some physical need.
Secindary reinforcer - can be exchanged ofr primary reinforcer. e.g. money used to obtain something that satisfies our needs
Negative reinforcer - an event which by its removal increase likelihood of a response occurring.
Punishment - unpleasant experience which is associated with a response making response less likely to occur.
Development of Sex differences
Girls & boys rewarded for different behaviour e.g. girls = caring, sharing behaviour boys = fighting, aggressivine behaviour
- Parents, peers & others treat children differently according to traditional gender roles
Pro & anti-social behaviour & attachment
Pro & anti social behaviour
Pro-social behaviour:- good bahviour rewarded
Anti-social behaviour:- bad behaviour offen repeated as attention given
- Giving child attention, holiding it close = reward = increases attachment
- feeding = reward, leads to close-proximity kept by parent & child
Development of language
Parents reward vocalisations e.g. babbling - give baby attention & by shaping
- reward vocalisation for a while e.g. cuddle given, parents become used to child's babbling = movtivates infant to vary babbling
- accidentally child produces more recognisable speech sounds - give praise to child & encourage repitition - reinforced child's production of this sound
- parents will not continue to reward sounds - encourage child to modify these sounds until shaping process results in recognisable words - results in sentences increasing in complexity
Skinner's theory seen as unconvincing..
- some parents ignore vocalisatios yet language still develops - shaping is a lengthy process, child's language development is very rapid - theory assumes imitation without reinforcement will not lead to learning & this seems unlikely
Development of language - other explanations
Chomsky:- criticised Skinner's theory, argued that language could not result purely from reinforcement because...
- majority of sentences that person will speak/understand involve new combination of words that may have never occured before
- must be some internal system for generating language & meaning, system is too complex to come into existence simply through operant conditioning
Evaluation of Skinner's LT
- well supported by empirical studies - plenty of evidence that rewarding behaviour shapes behaviour
- operant conditioning been successfully used to treat people with fears & phobias.
- operant conditioning provides method for teaching skills & this method does not require language
- on its own, operant conditioning cannot explain all aspects of human behaviour & learning
- skinner ragarded emotions as responses to behaviour & not causes of behaviour
- theory is seen as being too simplistic