AP Psychology : Operant Conditioning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Operant Conditioning

John's parents give him $5 for allowance every time he finishes doing 2 loads of laundry. This is an example of which kind of reinforcement schedule?

Possible Answers:

Fixed ratio

Continuous

Variable ratio

Variable interval

Fixed interval

Correct answer:

Fixed ratio

Explanation:

Because John's parents reward him based on how much work he does, it is a ratio-based schedule of reinforcement. Since his reward comes regularlyafter every 2 loads of laundryit is a fixed ratio schedule.

Example Question #2 : Operant Conditioning

B.F. Skinner studied operant conditioning through the use of an operant conditioning box, which is also known as what? 

Possible Answers:

Conditioning cage

Skinner box 

Skinner house 

Pavlov's box 

Animal house 

Correct answer:

Skinner box 

Explanation:

When Skinner developed the operant conditioning box, it famously became known as the Skinner box. When a stimulus was presented, the box was designed such that a reward (or punishment) could be delivered depending on the subject's reaction to the stimulus. For example, when a light was shown, a mouse could push a lever and receive food.

Example Question #2 : Operant Conditioning

Which one of these teaching strategies was not a method employed by Skinner for his box experiment? 

Possible Answers:

Positive reinforcement 

Positive punishment 

Placebo 

Negative reinforcement 

Negative punishment 

Correct answer:

Placebo 

Explanation:

Although placebos are used in a great deal of experiments, the Skinner box was developed to study the impact of reinforcement and punishment on learning and behavior.

Positive reinforcement rewards actions by presenting a positive stimulus, while negative reinforcements rewards actions by removing a negative stimulus. Positive punishment introduces a negative stimulus, while negative punishment removes a positive stimulus.

Example Question #3 : Operant Conditioning

Whenever Kylah's students behave well, she reduces their amount of homework for that night. This is an example of what aspect of operant conditioning?

Possible Answers:

Variable interval

Fixed interval

Positive reinforcement

Negative reinforcement

Punishment

Correct answer:

Negative reinforcement

Explanation:

Negative reinforcement occurs when a negative stimulus (in this case, the homework) is removed in response to the desired behavior (behaving well in class).

Example Question #4 : Operant Conditioning

A rabbit is in a cage with a red button. Regardless of how the rabbit interacts with the button, a trap door releases a food pellet every twenty minutes. This reinforcement schedule would be classified as __________.

Possible Answers:

variable-ratio

fixed-ratio

variable-interval

fixed-interval

continuous

Correct answer:

fixed-interval

Explanation:

Because the passage of time is the only factor governing the release of the food pellets, this is an interval-based schedule; because the food is released regularly every twenty minutes, it is a fixed interval schedule.

Example Question #5 : Operant Conditioning

Mr. Jones is in the habit of offering extra-credit points on the next exam to students who contribute to class discussions. What kind of reinforcement strategy is Mr. Jones using to encourage class participation?

Possible Answers:

Positive punishment

Negative punishment

None of these

Positive reward

Negative reward

Correct answer:

Positive reward

Explanation:

Positive reinforcement involves the introduction of a new stimulus, whether that stimulus is pleasing or harmful. A reward refers to any pleasing reinforcement, either the awarding of something desired or the removal of something unwanted.

Because Mr. Jones is reinforcing class participation by giving his students something they want (extra credit on the next exam), he is giving them a positive reward.

Example Question #7 : Operant Conditioning

What are the methods to use a stimulus to condition behavior in operant conditioning? 

Possible Answers:

In the case of positive reinforcement, the subject tries to attain a positive stimulus. In the case of negative reinforcement, the subject avoids a negative stimulus.

In the case of positive reinforcement, the subjects either seeks to attain a positive stimulus, escape a negative stimulus, or actively avoid the prospect of a negative stimulus. In negative reinforcement, they may be threatened with a negative stimulus or the removal of a positive stimulus. In the case of neutral reinforcement, the subject is not given any stimulus at all for behaviors, which cannot be definitively said to be good or bad.  

The subject, through trial and error, tries to determine how to avoid and get rid of a negative stimulus and attain a positive stimulus.

In the case of positive reinforcement, the subjects either seeks to attain a positive stimulus, escape a negative stimulus, or actively avoid the prospect of a negative stimulus. In negative reinforcement, they may be threatened with a negative stimulus or the removal of a positive stimulus. 

Correct answer:

In the case of positive reinforcement, the subjects either seeks to attain a positive stimulus, escape a negative stimulus, or actively avoid the prospect of a negative stimulus. In negative reinforcement, they may be threatened with a negative stimulus or the removal of a positive stimulus. 

Explanation:

In operant conditioning, there are two primary methods of conditioning behavior: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is aimed at increasing a particular behavior, while negative reinforcement is designed to decrease a behavior.

In positive reinforcement, the subject either seeks to attain a positive stimulus, escape a negative stimulus, or actively avoid the prospect of a negative stimulus. In negative reinforcement, the subject may be threatened with a negative stimulus or the removal of a positive stimulus.

Examples of positive reinforcement include presenting food or removing an uncomfortable environmental factor. Examples of negative reinforcement include electrical shocks or removing a toy.

Example Question #8 : Operant Conditioning

Who is the founder of operant conditioning?

Possible Answers:

Sigmund Freud

Edmund Thorndike

William James

Karen Horney

B.F. Skinner

Correct answer:

B.F. Skinner

Explanation:

B.F. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. This ideal forms the basis of operant conditioning.

Example Question #6 : Operant Conditioning

Which of the following is an example of a fixed-interval reinforcement schedule?

Possible Answers:

Mike gets a piece of candy at random times during which he is on task

Mike gets a piece of candy every 15 minutes, regardless of if he is on task or not

Mike gets a piece of candy for every homework assignment he completes

Mike gets a piece of candy for every 15 minutes that he remains on task in class

Mike gets a piece of candy for every other homework assignment he completes

Correct answer:

Mike gets a piece of candy for every 15 minutes that he remains on task in class

Explanation:

A fixed-interval reinforcement schedule reinforces responses after a standardized period of time. In the correct answer, Mike is reinforced with a candy every 15 minutes that he completes the desired behavior of staying on task in class.

Example Question #7 : Operant Conditioning

Suppose Billy was punished because he had stolen his brother's lunch money. His parents punished Billy harshly as a result, but did not give any general guidelines for how Billy should treat his brother in the future. Which of the following choices is the most likely outcome due to this punishment?

Possible Answers:

Billy internalizes the punishment, and he behaves well for the rest of the day.

Billy seeks revenge against his parents as a result of the punishment.

Billy becomes emboldened and his behavior worsens.

Billy fails to understand what is expected of him, and simply becomes fearful and resentful.

Billy suddenly realizes the value of empathy.

Correct answer:

Billy fails to understand what is expected of him, and simply becomes fearful and resentful.

Explanation:

Punishment is an attempt to decrease unwanted behavior. It is the opposite of reinforcement, which is used to strengthen or increase behavior. Punishment does not, however, indicate that the subject has forgotten about their bad behavior. Because no positive reinforcement has been added, Billy has simply been told what not to do, there has been no indication of what he should do. It follows that, rather than learning from his mistake, Billy may simply become afraid of further punishment.

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