PSC 1 Lecture 8: Lecture 8: Operant Conditioning

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8 Jun 2018
Lecture 8: Operant Conditioning
Behaviourism: Operant Conditioning
J.B Watson and B.F Skinner revolutionized 20th C psychology.
Skinner pigeon bomb sight- bomb operated by pigeons, pigeons used to guide missiles to
the target.
His goal was to understand how animals behave and why they behave in the way they do
Edward Thorndike: Thorndike's puzzle box and Law of Effect
How do we learn a new skill?
Trial and error used by cat, then practiced recalls it fast
Behaviour changes because of consequences. They consequence was food received by
solving the puzzle. Later found that just being released is an award for the cat.
This is called "law of Effect"
Behaviours that are rewarded get stronger and non-rewarded get weaker.
Therefore, incorrect behaviours decrease over time
"Learning as error correction"
Given by Rescorla- Wagner
Antecedents--> Behaviours --> Consequences
Not only the consequence is important but also the situation
o Singing in class may not be appreciated vs. while singing in a church choir is
o This "situation" is called antecedents, given by Thorndike
o Situation comes before the behaviour. And depending on that a behaviour is
expressed or suppressed.
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o Punishment is not necessary, not being rewarded is enough to weaken a behaviour.
Error message is generated when a behaviour does not produce correct results.
o E.g. Scratching, hissing, biting won’t open the puzzle box.
o Errors weaken the connection between antecedents and behaviour. Less like to
make the same behaviour over and over if it does not bring results.
B.F. Skinner
Classical vs. operant conditioning
o In CC, behaviour caused by external stimulus. E.g. Salivating
o In OC, animal selects a behaviour. Behaviour rewarded or not.
o In OC Strength of behaviour= response rate= # of behaviour/unit time.
Operant learning
Behaviours --> Consequence
Appetitive stimulus = you like it. E.g.: Pizza
Aversive stimulus= you have it. E.g.: Electric shock
What is a reinforcer (reward)?
o Anything that increases behaviour i.e. stimuli that make a behaviour stronger.
o Primary vs. secondary (vs. tertiary)
Primary: Unconditioned stimuli- reflexive. E.g.: salivating, access to O2
Stimuli that have natural effect on body and mood
Secondary: Conditioned Stimuli. E.g.. Money
Not natural. We cant eat money but we need it to survive (primary
Tertiary: e.g.: Like working a job to get money.
Ways to strengthen behaviour:
o Add appetitive = positive reinforcement
Like giving a cookie as a award
o Take away aversive = negative reinforcement.
Not punishing. Like scratching your nose, itch goes way. We are taking way the
itch that is aversive. Taking Aspirin for headache.
Ways to weaken behaviour
o Take away appetitive = response cost
Getting grounded, getting a speeding ticket, fines
o Add aversive= punishment
Inflicting physical pain, yelling
Punishing like spanking has no effect on internal control
Behaviour is supressed, not forgotten
Child does not learn alternative behaviours
Negative effects:
Increased aggression
Increased likelihood of depression
Training complex behaviours
o Shaping and successive approximations
o Chaining: chains of simple behaviours that form complex ones.
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