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In the last blog we briefly read about the classical conditioning experiment carries out by Pavlov on dogs...

Lets now read about another very famous experiment on conditioning, namely- operant conditioning , in detail.

Operant conditioning given by B.F Skinner (also known as instrumental conditioning) is a process by which humans and animals learn to behave in such a way as to obtain rewards and avoid punishments given. Through operant conditioning behavior which is reinforced (rewarded) will likely be repeated due to its pleasure effect, and behavior which is punished will occur less frequently due to its displeasure. 


Skinner's experiment on rats-

Skinner conducted his studies on rats and pigeons in specially made boxes, called the Skinner Box. A rat  is placed in the chamber, so that the rat could move inside but could not come out. In the chamber there was a lever connected to a food container kept on the top of the chamber . When the lever is pressed, a food pellet drops on the plate placed close to the lever. While moving around and pawing the walls , the rat accidentally presses the lever and a food pellet drops on the plate. The hungry rat eats it. In the next trial, after a while the exploratory behaviour again starts. As the number of trials increases, the rat takes lesser and lesser time per trial to enter the box and quickly press on the lever. Full conditioning is complete when the first thing the rat does when placed in the box is to press the lever for food.



Thus, the food is the consequence of the operant response which is pressing the lever.


Some real life examples can be- 


Behaviour can be shaped by providing compliments, stickers , applauds in a class by a teacher. If a teacher wants to increase involvement in class she will praise those who speak up. Gradually she will praise those who speak up and answer fluently and correctly. After time, only correctly worded answer with proper research and presentation may be praised. Through this positive reinforcement behaviour is conditioned of the class.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                               - Soumya Gulati