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An Insight into Behavior

An Insight into Behavior



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Published by menonharsh
About human behavior.
About human behavior.

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Published by: menonharsh on May 12, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Behavior: An Insight
Behavior is something psychologists have been trying to definefor ages. Several theories have come up and each has been right in away. But we still don’t have an exact definition for human behavior. Weprobably never will have one, because human beings change and eachindividual is different from one another. It might be possible to have afew generalizations but the truth is that each one of us does thingsdifferently. The operant conditioning model is one such model used toexplain human behavior. Conditioning is a “systematic procedurethrough which associations and responses to specific stimuli arelearned” (Lefton 119). Operant conditioning is defined as “a type of learning in which the desirable or undesirable consequences of abehavior determine whether the behavior is repeated”(Uba 184). It isalso known as instrumental conditioning. The probability of an eventoccurring depends on its consequences. Much of the research on theoperant model was done by B. F. Skinner and E.L. Thorndike (Jensen).But the basic principle that governs operant conditioning is known asthe law of effect. The law states that behaviors followed by desirableoutcomes are more likely to recur than behaviors with unpleasantoutcomes and vice versa. Rewards and Punishments do affect ourbehavior.
Before we enter the realms of operant conditioning, it isnecessary to know the basic concepts and terminology used in thistheory. Reinforcement is the “process by which a stimulus or eventstrengthens or increases the probability of the response that itfollows”(Wade 273). Punishment, on the other hand, is “the process bywhich a stimulus or event weakens or reduces the probability of theresponse that it follows”(Wade 273). There are two types of reinforcements and punishments. A positive reinforcement is the“presentation of a stimulus after a particular response in order toincrease the likelihood that the response will recur”, while a negativereinforcement is the “removal of a stimulus after a particular responseto increase the likelihood that the response will recur” (Lefton 128).Positive punishment is the process in which a response is followed by anegative stimulus. Negative punishment or omission training is theprocess in which an “operant response removes a positive event andthus becomes less probable” (Benjamin 228). What is important tonote is that both positive and negative reinforcements increase theprobability of a response, while both positive and negativepunishments decrease the probability of a response.Operant conditioning is affected by many variables. The threemost important are strength, timing and frequency of consequences.
Studies have shown that the greater the reward, the harder, longer andfaster a person will work to complete a task (Lefton 132). Similarly, theharsher the punishment the more quickly the behavior can besuppressed and the longer it will remain suppressed. However, this isdoes not mean that an extremely harsh and unjust punishment willsuppress behavior. Punishment is best delivered in moderation, toomuch can be as ineffective as too little. In fact, too much of punishment may result in a behavior contrary to the punisher’s goals.Many events in history are witness to this fact. Events such as theAmerican and French revolutions started off because the rulers andconditions of living were too unjust.In addition to the strength, the timing is important too. Theshorter the interval, the greater the chances that the behavior will belearned. The frequency of consequences is the third important factor. The process of varying the frequency of reinforcements or punishmentsis called manipulating the schedule of reinforcement. There are fourbasic schedules of reinforcement:
Interval Schedule
: Based on time. A minimum amount of timemust pass between reinforcements.
Fixed Interval
: A reinforcer is given only when a correctresponse is made after a set amount of time has passed

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