MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Identifying Positive and Negative Reinforcement

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Positive And Negative Reinforcement

American psychologist B.F. Skinner is best known for his work in operant conditioning.Like all great academics, Skinner was not without influence. His work was inspired primarily based on Thorndike's Law of Effect. This law states that behaviors paired with positive consequences/effects/rewards are likely to be repeated, while behaviors paired with unpleasant consequences/effects/rewards are likely to be avoided.

While this principal inspired Skinner, he researched it further and named this principle operant conditioning. Skinner's research showed that conditioning/learning could occur through the use of punishments and rewards. The two important concepts of operant conditioning include punishment and reinforcement. Finally, Skinner also discussed the possibility of a neutral operant, which neither increased nor decreased the likelihood of a behavior occurring.

In operant conditioning, what is the term used to describe taking away a desired stimulus in order to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring?

Possible Answers:

Negative reinforcement

Negative punishment

Positive reinforcement

Positive punishment

Correct answer:

Negative punishment

Explanation:

Reinforcement always acts to increase the likelihood of a behavior occurring; therefore, "positive reinforcement" and "negative reinforcement" can be eliminated. "Positive punishment" acts to add an undesirable stimulus in order to decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring. On the other hand, "negative punishment" acts to remove a desired stimulus to reduce the likelihood of a behavior occurring, like the question asks.

All MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences Resources

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