November 2011 Archives

Operant Conditioning

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I was curious to see if operant or classical conditioning was used in any t.v. show or movie, and if so, how accurately it was portrayed.
The first "participants" or operants were that of animals, including B.F. Skinner's rats that were trained to stay away from the electrified grid in order to receive some type of reinforcement, generally food.
Which is the same case in the t.v. show The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon conditions Penny to be, well, not so annoying or to perform behaviors that he thought to be favorable. He conditions her to realize when she is doing something to aggravate him and then she stops, and he rewards her with a piece of chocolate. For people who haven't seen the show Sheldon is pretty much a genius and Penny is the slightly less intelligent girlfriend of Sheldon's roommate Leonard. Although this is of course a t.v. show and can't generally be trusted because it is scripted a major thing that I found interesting was the fact that Sheldon was able to not only train Penny to not behave in a certain way, but to also train her to have the ability to realize when her behavior is "unacceptable". This allows her to not only respond to what Sheldon says, but to train herself to stop acting undesirably.
sheldon and penny.jpg

">Video: Operant Conditioning The Big Bang Theory
(For those that haven't seen the show, I highly recommend watching it because it is pretty comical!)
I felt that is was relatively accurate in portraying the way operant conditioning works, although it was in more of relaxed and less scientific setting. This is also an interesting look at operant conditioning because it is being used to "train" or tweak a human's behavior instead of that of a lab rat in a Skinner Box. I would recommend this video to other Psychology students trying to study operant conditioning because it's an accurate portrayal of the learning style. It offers a real life example that people may be able to relate to on some bizarre level. It also is a pretty fun situation of how this type of learning can be effective.

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