Posted: December 31st, 2022

Operant Conditioning Essay

Operant Conditioning Essay

Operant conditioning is defined as a “learning method normally attributed to B.F. Skinner, where the consequences of a response determine the probability of it being repeated. Through operant conditioning behavior which is reinforced (rewarded) will likely be repeated, and behavior which is punished will occur less frequently (McLeod, 2018)”.  An operant behavior is when past consequences determine a behavior, i.e. when I was a child, I knew there were consequences when I stayed up past my bedtime, such as a restriction on any privileges I had.

“Operant conditioning refers to the process and selective effects of consequences on behavior (Cooper, et. al., 2020)”.  There are four types of operant conditioning, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.  Positive punishment is where an adverse consequence is used to elicit a weaker reaction or response. An example of this from my childhood would be when we were made to stand in the corner as a punishment for bad behavior. Negative punishment is where you remove something after a behavior occurs. An example of this from my childhood would be being grounded from watching TV after a behavior occurs.  In a positive punishment situation, the punishment is derived from an application of something, i.e. standing in the corner.  In a negative punishment situation, the punishment is derived from removing something, i.e. the ability to watch TV.

Positive reinforcers are where you are rewarded for good behavior or a good job.  When I was a child, I received money for making the “A” honor roll.  I equated studying and doing well in school with this reward of money and I knew that the better my grades were, the more money I would receive.  Negative reinforcers “involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior (Cherry, 2020)”.  I’m very faired skinned and burn easily in the sun.  An example of a negative reinforcement would be applying sunscreen before spending time in the sun. By applying sunscreen, I’m hoping to circumvent getting sunburned while outside.

In my current life, I have 9 rescue cats, varying in age from 16 years of age to 1 year of age.  I have multiple cat boxes in my home.  These cat boxes get cleaned at least twice a day as I detest the smell of a cat box.  Also, I religiously use cat box deodorizer and each room in my house has one of those automatic air fresheners that spray every 9 minutes.  I know, and have learned the hard way, that if I don’t follow my daily schedule of cleaning the boxes at least twice a day and using the deodorizer at each cleaning, you will be able to detect the smell of the cat boxes.  99.9% of the time, you would never know I had cats in my home, unless you visually saw them.  If I don’t stick to my daily regime, you would quickly know that cats are in my home.  A negative reinforcer here would be that by cleaning the boxes multiple times a day, I’m preventing the cat odor from being detectable in my home.



Cherry, K. (2020). What is operant conditioning and how does it work? Verywell Mind.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis (3rd ed.). Pearson.

McLeod, S. A. (2018, January, 21). Skinner – operant conditioning. Simply Psychology.

Throughout your life, you have been conditioned to respond to certain stimuli in certain ways. This is known as operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the type of learning in which the consequences of a behavior influence whether an individual will act in the same way in the future.

Even if there was not a clear behavior plan, the principles of operant conditioning have helped shape your life. In operant conditioning, you learn the relationship between your own behavior and reinforcing or punishing consequences from your environment. You may also learn conditions (antecedents) where consequences are more or less likely to occur.

For this Discussion, you will analyze the fundamental principles of operant conditioning and how it has impacted your life. Additionally, you analyze how behavioral psychological theory (e.g., antecedents, reinforcements, punishment) is applied to condition behavior. As you read this week’s Learning Resources, try to identify times in your life when operant conditioning clearly played a part in your learning.

To Prepare

  • Consider how the terminology of operant conditioning relates to specific behaviors.
  • Think about how your parents reinforced or punished you growing up and how those acts influenced your behavior.
  • Consider how situations in your life today contribute to your behavior. Are you more or less likely to do something when a certain person is around?
  • Review the interactive media in the Learning Resources, “Operant Conditioning Terms.”

By Day 4 of Week 1

Post a scenario description that illustrates the application of operant conditioning in your life and explain how behavioral theory (e.g., antecedents, reinforcements, punishment) was applied to condition behavior in the scenario you posted. Explain how the antecedent condition facilitated or inhibited the target behavior discussed.

Read your colleagues’ postings.

Note: For this discussion, you are required to complete your initial post before you will be able to view and respond to your colleagues’ postings. Begin by clicking on the To Participate in this Discussion link, then select Create Thread to complete your initial post. Remember, once you click on Submit, you cannot delete or edit your own posts, and cannot post anonymously. Please check your post carefully before clicking on Submit!Operant Conditioning Essay

By Day 6 of Week 1

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts in one of the following ways:

  • Expand on each colleague’s explanation of how they applied behavioral theory to their scenario.
  • Offer your perspective(s) on whether you agree or disagree with each colleague’s explanation of how the antecedent condition facilitated or inhibited the target behavior discussed.

Be sure to support your posts and responses with specific references to behavior-analytic theory and research. In addition to the Learning Resources, search the Walden Library and/or internet for peer-reviewed articles to support your posts and responses. Use proper APA format and citations, including those in the Learning Resources.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you gained from your colleagues’ comments.

The example of operant conditioning that resonates with me the most is the positive reinforcement of receiving a paycheck. Operant conditioning describes that behavior is influenced by the consequence that directly follows the behavior (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). The paycheck positively reinforces the behavior of going to work every day because it presents a positive reinforcing stimulus directly following the behavior that occurred (Sidman, 2006, p. 135). The consequence of collecting a check strengthens or reinforces the behavior of working. The behavior of going to work to collect money is maintained by positive reinforcement. The motivation for working is that adults need money to sustain life. Earning money completes the motivation. The antecedent would be the need for money or another paycheck. Therefore, people engage in the target behavior of going to work.


Sidman M. (2006). The distinction between positive and negative reinforcement: some additional considerations. The Behavior analyst29(1), 135–139.

Staddon, J. E., & Cerutti, D. T. (2003). Operant conditioning. Annual review of psychology54, 115–144. Operant Conditioning Essay

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