Essay Example on Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

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Wesleyan University
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Exemplifying Classical Conditioning

My best friend claims that rats are among the animals that scare him the least. However, after successfully trapping a mouse, I developed a model whereby every time he would open his closet, a pin would prick the mouse prompting it to produce a shrieking noise, and he would jump after hearing the unexpected noise. After several occurrences, he would become frightened as he opened his closet door even in the absence of the mouse. In regards to classical conditioning, the act of opening the closet door constitutes the Signal (NS) while the shrieking sound made by the mouse represents the Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) while the subsequent reaction of being scared infers to Unconditioned Response (UCR) (McLeod, 2014). The continued trend culminated in a Conditioned Stimulus (CS) denoted by the act of opening the door while getting frightened is the Conditioned Response (CR).

Application of Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is used to alter behavior by employing the concept of reinforcing consequences depending on the nature of the action (Henton & Iversen, 2012). For example, if my roommate leaves his bed unattended to after rising, he will get to take out the trash for the rest of the week regardless of the stipulations of the duty roster, which in essence is a positive punishment. A negative punishment will be a denial of dessert after dinner if he does not make his bed. The former, that is, an introduction of a positive retribution culminates in the addition of a new stimulus while the negative punishment may be seen as an eradication of the antecedent stimulus. Operant conditioning also incorporates paradigms of behavior reinforcement in that, if my roommate tidies up his bed, he enjoys the privilege of going on a shopping spree, which serves as a positive reinforcement. On the other hand, the negative reinforcement would comprise of excluding him from the duty of cleaning the washroom. Naturally, when either of the approaches is applied, the individuals behavior will readjust as based on the reward-punishment scheme that is characteristic of operant conditioning.

Changing the Behavior of a Child

The effective punishment for a child with destructive tendencies would be a denial of play time with her peers. This measure may be equated to the denial of freedom for movement which in turn creates frustrations on the part of the child stimulating him to undertake behavioral changes as he will be accustomed to the same routine every time she shows aggressive behavior. An alternative methodology would involve the application of corporal punishment as a response to the persistence in aggressive behavior of a child. This methodology presents a more hands-on approach where the child is instilled with fear and dreads the repercussions every time she engages in violent behavior. The antecedent stimulus is Punishment I of the denial of freedom to go out and play which creates cognitive pressure on the part of the child, as he would feel bad watching her peers interacting joyfully with each other. On the other hand, the physical punishment of reprimanding the child illustrates a seemingly practical approach as it naturally preys on the fear of the child based on the consequences to follow if the belligerent behavior is witnessed. Accordingly, this is deemed as the ideal measure that creates the assurance of complete behavioral change and it validates why corporal punishment is regarded as an alternative in extreme circumstances.

Principles of Social Learning Theory

The first principle of the above theory is paying attention to desirable facets and imitating them (Pratt et al., 2010). For instance, my younger brother has always looked up to me for advice on how to develop a personal grooming framework by requesting that we always shop for clothes together. Additionally, the principle of retention emerges in that my brother prefers adopting a relatively similar sense of fashion judging from the similarities of his attire as compared to mine. Reproduction is also another principle that is depicted in my siblings imitations where at times I am compelled to dress in a strikingly similar outfit as his when attending public events. He claims that his motivation is as a result of the successful career that I have managed to build while still maintaining a touch of elegance when it comes to fashion. Additionally, his sense of admiration has gone to the extent of comparing me with renowned corporate leaders who have impeccable taste when it comes to the finest things life has to offer.



McLeod, S. (2014). Classical Conditioning. Retrieved from:

Henton, W. W., & Iversen, I. H. (2012). Classical conditioning and operant conditioning: A response pattern analysis. Springer Science & Business Media.

Pratt, T. C., Cullen, F. T., Sellers, C. S., Thomas Winfree Jr, L., Madensen, T. D., Daigle, L. E., ... & Gau, J. M. (2010). The empirical status of social learning theory: A metaanalysis. Justice Quarterly, 27(6), 765-802.


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