Operant conditioning, sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning, is a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence (whether negative or positive) for that behavior.
The theory of operant conditioning was developed by famed behaviorist B. F. Skinner (1971). Behaviorism was the guiding perspective on psychology for several decades, from around the 1930s to the 1960s. It was championed by John Watson, but Skinner is the psychologist most often associated with behaviorism thanks to his many theories and experiments
Operant conditioning is built on the foundation of rewards and punishment:
When our behavior is rewarded, we are encouraged to repeat or continue that behavior, and when our behavior is punished, we are discouraged from repeating or continuing that behavior.
We form an association between the behavior we exhibited and the consequence, whether good or bad. When we are encouraged and rewarded for a behavior, that behavior is reinforced; when we are punished for a behavior, that behavior tends to die out (McLeod, 2018).
- McLeod, S. (2018). Skinner – Operant conditioning. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html