I really enjoyed reading the text for this class. I’m really interested in psychology – hence being a psych major – and honestly, learning is one of my favorite subjects of psychology. I feel like I’ve learned an incredible amount within a short time period by taking this class. I feel like the class covered many different topics that had a great flow to them. I reviewed the ideas of Empiricism, structuralism, functionalism, and Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism; I revisited the ideas of research methods (independent and dependent variables, recording methods, and research designs); I reread the many ideas and takes on classical conditioning and how reinforcement effects behaviors, and I went through the many ideas of operant conditioning.
I feel like all of these ideas and concepts are all very important to understanding human behavior. I feel like a person’s identity is a formation of half genetics and half learning; therefore, I deem how humans learn very important for identifying how a person’s environment shapes and molds them. By reading about classical and operant conditioning and the reinforcers and punishments that go with them, I feel like I’ve learned many new reasons as to why certain people think and act the way they do. That’s one of the reasons why one of my favorite parts of the course was learning about positive reinforcement.
FAVORITE PART OF THE COURSE
Positive reinforcement is defined by Powell et al. (2009) as, “The presentation of a stimulus (one that is usually considered pleasant or rewarding) following a response, which then leads to an increase in the future strength of response. One of my favorite examples of positive reinforcement is seen in the show The Big Bang Theory. In this show, an Asperger-like character named Sheldon wants to train his friend’s girlfriend to be quiet while watching movies. He begins by telling her to shush, and when she becomes quiet, he offers her a chocolate. Each time she is quiet, he again offers her a candy. Soon, she begins to be quiet without Sheldon asking, he again provides her with a candy. In this scenario, Sheldon provides Penny – the girlfriend – with a reward (the positive reinforcement) to elicit a particular response from her (her being quiet). Penny continues to engage in being quiet because she is unknowingly rewarded with a stimulus – the chocolate candy.
I find that positive reinforcement is seen daily in real life situations. For instance, I have seen many times my sister tell her children that she will reward them if they behave; for example, if all her children do their chores and follow directions, they will be rewarded with a dollar. Even though it is only a dollar, once the children are reminded of it when they start acting crazy, they immediately begin to behave because they want that feeling of pleasure they obtain when they receive that dollar bill. I have also seen positive reinforcement go terribly awry. For example, I was in a store the other day and saw a young girl screaming at the top of her lungs. Instead of her parent ignoring her requests for a stuffed animal, the parent gave in and bought her the toy in order to stop the child’s crying. Unknowingly, the mother reinforced her daughter’s behavior by rewarding her bad behavior with a positive stimulus. So, from now on, the daughter will most likely cry like the crazed maniac she is in order to be rewarded by her mother. I feel like this information is extremely important for current or future parents and current or future teachers.
I couldn’t find an embedded video of the Big Bang Theory video, so here is the link to the youtube video:
Here is a commercial that illustrates how parenting positive behavior works: