Operant Conditioning

Similar experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner, in which animals were kept in puzzle boxes with levers, led to a modified theory called Operant Conditioning.

The concept of reinforcement was introduced in the original law of effect theory, with reinforcements inserted in the positive and negative actions of animals, instead of waiting for them to try them out for themselves.

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The Law Of Effect

Developed by psychologist Edward Thorndike, the law of effect states that any behaviour that is positive or leads to satisfaction in a specific situation is likely to be repeated when that same situation arises again. Behaviours that lead to unease or discomfort tends to not be repeated.

Example: If we practice for a public talk and give an outstanding performance, leading to huge applause and subsequent praise, we are more likely to practice for our next performance.

In the Law Of Effect experiments, Edward Thorndike used a cat that was kept in a puzzle box with a lever, and could only go out by pressing the lever.

This and other behavioural studies on animals led the psychologist to publish the law of effect in his 1911 book Animal Intelligence.

  • The Law of Effect has two parts, and records contrasting behaviours. If the effect is positive and leads to satisfaction, it forms a connection in the mind and will be repeated.
  • The actions that lead to negative effects or consequences, or which lead to discomfort for the doer, are less likely to be repeated as they will not form a connection in the mind. Example: Getting a speeding ticket makes it less likely to drive at full speed.

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Wilhelm Wundt
  • He was the first founder of the psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig which marked the official beginning of psychology as an independent science;
  • Has many beliefs and theories but was heavily misunderstood by some due to the language barrier. His student, Edward Bradford Titchener propagated many misconceptions about his works.

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The Psychology Of Behavior

In trying to change a behavior, reason will take you only so far, incentives must be taken into account as well. 

In psychology, operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the strength of a behavior is modified by its consequences, such as reward or punishment. This is the predominant theory on how humans behave.

Personality Psychology: Important Terminology
  • Classical conditioning: A behavioural technique where a natural stimulus is paired with a previously neutral stimulus. The previously neutral stimulus eventually cause the response without pairing it to the natural stimulus.
  • Operant conditioning: A behaviour training technique where punishments or reinforcements influence behaviour.
  • Unconscious: The container for feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories.
  • Id: The personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy used to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires.
  • Ego: The unconscious part of the personality that moderates the id's demands, the superego, and reality.
  • Superego: The part of personality composed of our internalised ideals that comes from our parents and society.

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