January 24, 2022

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What are the Examples of Instrumental Conditioning?

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instrumental conditioning

B.F. Skinner was the American psychologist and the father of operant conditioning, also called instrumental conditioning. According to Skinner, all human behavior depended on the outcome of the stimuli human entities are exposed to. 

In other words, if certain behaviors lead to positive outcomes, the probability of such behaviors being repeated in the future increases. 

Likewise, if certain behaviors lead to negative outcomes, the probability of such behaviors being repeated in the future decreases.

Instrumental conditioning states that the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated in the future depends on the outcome of exhibiting such behavior in response to a stimulus. 

Thus, if such behavior in response to the preceding stimulus is rewarding or leads to a positive outcome, the likelihood that such behavior would be repeated in the future increases. 

However, if such behavior in response to the preceding stimulus is punishing or leads to a negative outcome, the likelihood that such behavior would be repeated in the future decreases. 

Now, in order to understand its application through various examples of instrumental conditioning, let’s have a look at the four basic principles of Instrumental Conditioning. 

1. Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement is nothing but the consequences of displaying a behavior in response to a stimulus which increases the likelihood of such behavior being repeated in the future. 

The Example of Instrumental Conditioning – A Case of Positive Reinforcement

Say, you want your child to inculcate the habit of brushing his teeth before sleeping at night. Now, let’s say your child loves you to read him stories.  You promise your child that if he brushes his teeth every night, you will read a new bedtime story each night to him.  Now, the probability of your child brushing his teeth at night increases as such behavior leads to a positive outcome, that is listening to a new bedtime story each night. 

2. Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement is nothing but the consequences of displaying a behavior in response to a stimulus which increases the likelihood of avoiding or escaping from displaying such behavior. 

Instrumental Conditioning Example – A Case of Negative Reinforcement

Let’s say you take your child along to a shopping mall. After some time, you see the child starts shouting, which makes you feel insulted as you see people in the mall noticing you and your child. To prevent your child from shouting, you buy him a toy and some candies. 

Thus, your behavior of buying candies and other things that interest your child at public places increases to prevent your child from crying and shouting. 

3. Positive Punishment

Positive Punishment refers to a decrease in the likelihood of repeating a specific behavior. This is because displaying such behavior results in negative outcomes. 

Instrumental Learning Example – A Case of Positive Punishment

Say, a teacher punishes a child for being late to class. The likelihood that such behavior would be repeated in the future by the child decreases as displaying such behavior leads to punishment. 

4. Negative Punishment

Negative Punishment refers to a decrease in the likelihood of repeating a specific behavior. This is because displaying such behavior results in the withdrawal or removal of something pleasant. 

The Example of Instrumental Conditioning – A Case of Negative Punishment

Say your child messes up the room way too much and doesn’t clean after he’s done playing. So, to teach your child to keep his room clean and tidy you warn him that if doesn’t clean up the mess, he will not be allowed to play with his friends or take up his favorite painting class. Thus, taking away something he loves will (like playing with friends or painting) will make him not mess up the room in the future. 

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