The Operant Approach:
B.F. Skinner developed the modified behaviour theory, differentiating between classical and instrumental conditioning. The behaviour prompted by classical stimulus is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning happens from outside, it seems to be reflex action, but in instrumental conditioning, external stimulation is not necessary. In instrumental conditioning, actions of the organism are voluntary, as if from within. These responses are called operant by Skinner, which means operating the environment to get some reward. The box in which he conducted controlled experiments is known as the “Skinner box”. If the animals pecked or pressed they received a reinforcement. Some consequences got positive and some negative reinforcement. This strengthened or suppressed the behaviour.
The rewards are called reinforcement and the suppressants are called punishment. Through this process, the animals learnt to repeat behaviors. Positive reinforcement confirmed future repetition of the action. Positive reinforcement related to biological needs like hunger and thirst are known as primary reinforces. Some other events get associated with positive reinforces, they are called conditioned reinforces, for example, money, status, grades, trophies, etc. Negative reinforces discourage the performance of an action, i.e., reinforce escaping the response, for example, heat, shock, etc. Operant conditioning is based on these principles of positive ad negative reinforcers, the strengthening stimuli or the unpleasant stimuli.
We notice the differences between the two methods of conditioning. In classical conditioning, learning is between the Conditioned Stimuli and the UCS, whereas in operant conditioning, the learning is between a response and a reward. Reinforcement takes place on the basis of this. All learning that takes place in our life can be explained by these theories. Many therapies have been developed base on these theories where people have been helped to leave undesirable behaviour and acquire desirable behaviour.