Operant Conditioning: A Behaviour modification program

Essay by missdvsCollege, UndergraduateA, July 2006

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A child's conduct and misbehaviour in public spaces can be worrying for a parent and also cause considerable distress. Failure to modify this behaviour can produce young adults who resort to violence when they do not get their own way (Markie-Dadds, Sanders & Turner, 1999). Claire demonstrates unacceptable behaviour in the way of temper tantrums while shopping and also exhibits this behaviour at school. The solution to this kind of behaviour is a behaviour modification program, a treatment that modifies or discontinues undesirable behaviours using principles based on operant conditioning (Plotnik, 2005). This paper will begin by describing Claire's problem in behavioural terms and then describe the operant learning theory developed by B.F Skinner that will be used in the behaviour modification program to follow. Three empirical journal articles relating to Claire's behaviour will be reviewed to demonstrate the success of operant conditioning and reinforcement in various situations. A suitable behavioural modification program will then be outlined top successfully modify Claire's behaviour.

The way parents or caregivers' respond is critical in tantrum management and will be the primary focus in this behaviour modification program.


Operant conditioning, developed by B.F Skinner in the 1930's, is a learning situation in which the organism is reinforced for making a certain response in order to increase the probability of that response on the next trial (Plotnik, 2005). The principles of operant conditioning involve identifying the target behaviour, preparing the subject, selecting reinforcers and then shaping the behaviour. This technique has proven extremely successful by various researchers in the field of psychology (Carlson, Arnold, Becker & Madsen, 1968; Wolf, Ridley & Mees, 1964; Burchard & Tyker, 1965) By progressively reinforcing responses that are in the direction of a desired pattern of responses, new or desired behaviours can be learned or dropped. In Claire's...