Most people are not well informed when it comes to animal training, specifically marine animals. For instance, people think that a dolphin is taught to jump 20 feet in the air, and that is all. Animal training entails a psychological technique known as operant conditioning. It is a procedure that increases or reduces certain characters by meaningful actions. In other words, good behavior is given a good reward, whereas no reward or a bad reward is awarded for bad behavior. In this way, animals adopt a routine depending on the results received after operating in a particular manner. Therefore, if an animal receives a favorable outcome after performing a particular deed, it is more likely to repeat it repeatedly. Animals apply operant conditioning daily. For instance, if a woodpecker finds an abundant supply of its favorite bugs on a particular tree, it will probably return to the tree the following day. Operant conditioning is applied by both animals and human beings because there is an assurance of what result one will receive.
Humans start emulating the technique at quite a tender age. For instance, if a child willingly does a chore like mopping the house and the parent praises him or her, the child will continue doing more chores voluntarily. However, if no one seems to acknowledge the deed done, then the child will not repeat being helpful in the house. After a behavior is trained, the trainer applies another type of reinforcement schedule, such as partial/intermittent reinforcement. Here the animal or person is only reinforcement after performing the desired deed. Partial reinforcement has two schedules, namely fixed or variable. In the case of fixed, the number of reactions or time duration between reinforcements is set and unchanging. In variable schedules, time and responses between rewards fluctuate. From the reading, Skinner reveals that animals can adhere to a schedule. He applied a fixed ratio schedule to give a reward after the animal pressed the lever thrice (Slater 13). The next time the rat came, it did not bother pressing once but three times instead. With the elimination of reinforcement, Skinner noticed that the rats stopped pressing the lever completely regardless of hearing the pellets’ raining sound.
The time taken to learn a response is different depending on the frequency of awarding. Measuring the learning duration and predictability made Skinner the first scientist to come up with the science of behavior. The most significant discoveries by Skinner were in variable schedules of reinforcement. By intermittently rewarding animals with the food, they continue following a routine regardless of the outcome. This revelation applies to human beings too. It explains why people continue to do dumb things even when they are not rewarded constantly. Skinner’s discovery on intermittent reinforcement is responsible for women loving too much, whereas the men stock-trade on margin. For instance, as a boy and girl are in courtship, the boy is often more caring and romantic, which makes the girl sink deep in love. Therefore the woman in the relationship will always continue showing love to the man even when the man is no longer romantic. In this case, the woman has reached a state whereby she cannot stray from being loving regardless of not being rewarded.
Reinforcement used when teaching a behavior should be positive. If this award is given each time an animal exhibits a behavior, then it is referred to as continuous reinforcement, which is the quickest technique of teaching a character. Take an example of a dog that is being trained to sit. The success of the procedure is more probable if the dog is given a reinforcer immediately he sits. Doing so makes it easy for the animal to see the relationship between the targeted behavior and the outcome (reward). Among human beings, intermittent reinforcement can lead one into being utterly obsessed with someone (Birch).
According to research, people are more receptive to intermittent reinforcement than they are to continuous reinforcement. The implication of this is that individual A is likely to yearn for individual B the more if they are available, then not. In such a case, the individual is unsure when B will be readily available, resulting in obsession. There is something about not knowing when you will receive the next text (reward), which makes a person excited and focused.
When it comes to people, lack of consistency keeps them hopeful and always trying. When approaching a potential girlfriend, intermittent reinforcement might come in handy in ensuring the girls fall for the courtship. A guy should take her out and be readily available than out of the blues go missing, all in excuse of being busy. It is a dangerous move, but it surely will keep the girl yearning for the guy’s free time. In conclusion, operant conditioning is a vast concept that applies to both animals and human beings. And the main thing that seems to drive the involved subjects is the reward they hope to earn in the end.
Birch, Adelyn. “The Most Powerful Motivator on the Planet ~ Intermittent Reinforcement.” Psychopaths and Love, 18 Dec. 2016, psychopathsandlove.com/intermittent-reinforcement/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.
Slater, Lauren. Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.