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Operant conditioning as a way of motivating

The most common version of the behavioral perspective motivation is the theory of operant conditioning related to B.F. Skinner (1938, 1957) "). The description of this study aimed at changing behavior, but the same operant model can be transformed into an account of motivation. In operant model, you may recall that has learned to behavior (the "operant") increases the frequency or probability because running makes a gain available. To understand this model in terms of motivation, think of the possibility of response as the motivation and reinforcement as motivator. For example, a student learning by operant conditioning to answer questions during class discussions: each time a student answers a question (operant), the teachers praise (highlight) this behavior in addition as a behavioral study of thinking of this situation. But you can also think of it in terms of motivation: the probability that a husband students answer questions (motivation) increases due praise from the teacher (the motivator).

 Many concept of operant conditioning, can be understood in motivational terms. For example, the concept of death, which we defined as the tendency of behavior are more likely learned as a reinforcement for no more than a-kind "forget", or at least a reduction in the performance of previously learned . The reduction in performance can be seen frequencies can be regarded as a loss of motivation and removal of reinforcement as the removal of motivator.

Definition phrased in terms of learning

Definition phrased in terms of motivation

Classroom example


Behavior that becomes more likely because of reinforcement
Behavior that suggests an increase in motivation
Student listens to teacher’s comments during lecture or discussion
Stimulus that increases  likelihood of a behavior
Stimulus that motivates
Teacher praises student  for listening
Positive reinforcement

Stimulus that increases likelihood of a behavior by being introduced or added to a situation.
Stimulus that motivates by its presence; an “incentive”

Teacher makes encouraging remarks about student’s homework
Negative reinforcement

Stimulus that increases the likelihood of a behavior by being removed or taken away from a situation
Stimulus that motivates by its absence or avoidance
Teacher stops nagging student about late homework

Stimulus that decreases the likelihood of a behavior by being introduced or added to a situation
Stimulus that decreases motivation by its presence
Teacher deducts points for late homework


Removal of reinforcement for a behavior

Removal of motivating stimulus that leads to decrease in motivation
Teacher stops commenting altogether about student’s homework
Shaping successive approximations

Reinforcements for behaviors that gradually resemble (approximate) a final goal behavior

Stimuli that gradually shift motivation toward a final goal motivation

Teacher praises student for returning homework a bit closer to the deadline; gradually she praises for actually being on time
Continuous reinforcement

Reinforcement that occurs each time that an operant behavior occurs

Motivator that occurs each time that a behavioral sign of motivation occurs
Teacher praises highly active student for every time he works for five minutes without interruption
Intermittent reinforcement

Reinforcement that sometimes occurs following an operant behavior, but not on every occasion

Motivator that occurs sometimes when a behavioral sign of motivation occurs, but not on every occasion
Teacher praises highly active student sometimes when he works without interruption, but not every time

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