AP Psychology : Operant Conditioning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Operant Conditioning

Timmy's parents give him a dollar every time he cleans his room. Which kind of reinforcement schedule are the parents implementing?

Possible Answers:

Fixed Ratio

Fixed Interval

Continuous

Variable Interval

Variable Ratio

Correct answer:

Continuous

Explanation:

Because Timmy's performance of the target behavior (cleaning his room) is always reinforced, we know that this is a continuous reinforcement schedule.

Example Question #11 : Operant Conditioning

Joseph forgot to take out the trash as part of his weekly chores, so his parents took away his video game privileges for the rest of the week. Joseph's parents are using which of the following principles of Operant Conditioning?

Possible Answers:

none of the other answers

positive punishment

negative punishment

negative reinforcement

shaping

Correct answer:

negative punishment

Explanation:

Negative punishment refers to taking away something pleasant in order to change a certain behavior (i.e. - the parents take away the video games in order to get Joseph to take out the trash). Positive punishment refers to adding something unpleasant (so if the parents spanked Joseph or forced him to have to play his video games with his younger sister). Negative reinforcement involves taking away something in order to encourage the continuation of a certain behavior. Shaping is a technique in which someone/thing is gradually rewarded only when it does certain things but not others so that it will reach a desired behavior.

Example Question #13 : Operant Conditioning

Of the given options, which type of reinforcement is used to strengthen a response by presenting a stimulus?

Possible Answers:

Primary reinforcer 

Negative reinforcement 

Operant conditioning 

Positive reinforcement 

Reinforcement schedule 

Correct answer:

Positive reinforcement 

Explanation:

In operant conditioning there are two kinds of reinforcements - positive and negative reinforcement. 

Reinforcement is a method that strengthens a desired response. The difference between negative and positive reinforcements is simply that one requires taking something away (negative) and the other adds something (positive). For positive reinforcement, a usually pleasurable stimulus is presented after the desired response. For example, after a dog successfully completes a trick, such as rolling over, we might present the dog with a tasty treat. 

Because this question is focused on the definition of a term, primary reinforcement would not be correct. This is a reinforcer that is unlearned, such as satisfying a biological need. One common example is eating when hungry. 

For the same reason as primary reinforcer, reinforcement schedule would also be incorrect. This is in regards to how often a response is reinforced. This is not particular to the type of reinforcer being used - positive or negative reinforcement could be used.

Example Question #14 : Operant Conditioning

How does continuous reinforcement promote a desired behavior?

Possible Answers:

Rapid learning occurs, making it ideal for mastering a desired behavior.

Slow learning occurs, making it ideal for mastering a desired behavior.

Rapid learning occurs, making it ideal to positively reinforce an undesired behavior. 

Desired behaviors are sometimes not reinforced.

Desired behaviors are sometimes reinforced.

Correct answer:

Rapid learning occurs, making it ideal for mastering a desired behavior.

Explanation:

Reinforcement is the process by which usually desired behaviors are strengthened. Continuous reinforcement is simply reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs. Because it "directly" reinforces a behavior at every occurrence, it promotes rapid learning. This rapid learning in turn promotes a quick mastering of the desired behavior. For instance, if a mouse is rewarded a piece of cheese after pushing a bar every time, the mouse will master the technique of pushing that bar. In this case, the mouse will have experienced positive continuous reinforcement. 

Example Question #71 : Learning

What does intermittent reinforcement entail?

Possible Answers:

The desired behavior is sometimes reinforced and sometimes not.

The behavior is quickly learned and therefore becomes quickly mastered. 

The behavior is learned through association with primary reinforcers.

The behavior is unlearned.

The desired behavior is reinforced continuously.

Correct answer:

The desired behavior is sometimes reinforced and sometimes not.

Explanation:

Intermittent reinforcement is simply when there is partial reinforcement. This means that a response will only be reinforced sometimes. While this may not entail rapid learning, such as continuous reinforcement with reinforcing every desired behavior, the slow acquisition allows for greater resistance from extinction. Extinction is the process by which the conditioning is forgotten. Therefore the two options pertaining to continuous reinforcement would be incorrect. 

Primary reinforcers pertain to unlearned biological processes. A common example is food as a stimulus when one is hungry. This provides a pleasurable satisfaction to the biological need hunger. Therefore the two answers pertaining to primary reinforcers would also be incorrect.

Example Question #16 : Operant Conditioning

What is entailed by a fixed-ratio schedule?

Possible Answers:

Responses are reinforced after a particular number of responses.

Responses are reinforced after a specific amount of time. 

Responses are reinforced continuously.

Responses are reinforced after a variable number of responses.

Responses are never reinforced.

Correct answer:

Responses are reinforced after a particular number of responses.

Explanation:

Reinforcement schedules are patterns that define how often reinforcement will occur for a desired behavior. 

For a fixed-ratio schedule in operant conditioning, the desired behavior is reinforced only after a particular number of responses. For instance, a frozen yogurt shop may reward us with a free cup of frozen yogurt after 10 purchases. A simple way to remember the difference between ratio and interval schedules is to keep in mind ratio refers to "n" number of responses while interval refers to time. These terms are modified by the schedule being specified as variable or fixed.  

Example Question #11 : Operant Conditioning

What is entailed in a variable-ratio schedule?

Possible Answers:

Responses are reinforced after a specified number of responses. 

Responses are reinforced after an unpredictable amount of time. 

Responses are reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses. 

Responses are never reinforced. 

Responses are reinforced continuously.

Correct answer:

Responses are reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses. 

Explanation:

Reinforcement schedules are patterns that define how often reinforcement will occur for a desired behavior. 

For a variable-ratio schedule in operant conditioning, the desired behavior is reinforced only after what seems like an unpredictable number of responses. For instance, individuals playing slot machines experience this kind of reinforcement. Because the reinforcers increase with the number of responses, this type of schedule receives high rates of responding. A simple way to remember the difference between ratio and interval schedules is to keep in mind ratio refers to number of responses while interval refers to time. These terms are modified by the schedule being specified as variable (varying) or fixed (specified).  

Example Question #18 : Operant Conditioning

A group of researchers is interested in observing mice ring a bell. As a positive reinforcement, they offer cheese. If the mice fail to do so, they provide a small electrical shock. After some time, they change their reinforcement schedule. From reinforcing every desired behavior, they only reinforce behavior after an unpredictable number of responses. What reinforcement schedule have they most likely chosen?

Possible Answers:

Variable-ratio schedule 

Variable-interval schedule 

Fixed-ratio schedule 

Continuous reinforcement schedule 

Fixed-interval schedule

Correct answer:

Variable-ratio schedule 

Explanation:

Reinforcement schedules are patterns that define how often reinforcement will occur for a desired behavior. 

For a variable-ratio schedule in operant conditioning, the desired behavior is reinforced only after what seems like an unpredictable number of responses. For instance, individuals playing slot machines experience this kind of reinforcement. Because the reinforcers increase with the number of responses, this type of schedule receives high rates of responding. A simple way to remember the difference between ratio and interval schedules is to keep in mind ratio refers to number of responses while interval refers to time. These terms are modified by the schedule being specified as variable (varying) or fixed (specified). 

Example Question #81 : Learning

A group of researchers is interested in observing mice ring a bell. As a positive reinforcement, they offer cheese. If the mice fail to do so, they provide a small electrical shock. After some time, they change their reinforcement schedule. From reinforcing every desired behavior, they only reinforce behavior after an unpredictable amount of time has elapsed. What reinforcement schedule have they most likely chosen?

Possible Answers:

Variable-ratio schedule 

Continuous-interval schedule

Fixed-ratio schedule 

Variable-interval schedule 

Fixed-interval schedule 

Correct answer:

Variable-interval schedule 

Explanation:

Reinforcement schedules are patterns that define how often reinforcement will occur for a desired behavior. 

For a variable-interval schedule in operant conditioning, the desired behavior is reinforced after what seems to be unpredictable amount of time. This resembles receiving a rewarding text message after persistently checking one's phone. There's no way of being able to determine how long the waiting period will be between texts. A simple way to remember the difference between ratio and interval schedules is to keep in mind ratio refers to number of responses while interval refers to time. These terms are modified by the schedule being specified as variable (varying) or fixed (specified).  

Example Question #261 : Individual Psychology And Behavior

Which of the following best explains how operant conditioning differs from classical conditioning?

Possible Answers:

Classical conditioning is complex in that it employs negative and positive conditioning whereas operant focuses on one or the other

Operant conditioning focuses on conditioning reflexive behaviors, unlike classical conditioning

Operant conditioning is complex in that it employs negative and positive conditioning whereas classical focuses on one or the other

Classical conditioning operates with a stimulus unlike operant conditioning

Classical conditioning focuses on conditioning around the environment and consequences, unlike operant conditioning

Correct answer:

Operant conditioning is complex in that it employs negative and positive conditioning whereas classical focuses on one or the other

Explanation:

Classical conditioning was illustrated by Pavlov's dog experiment. Pavlov observed canine reflexively as they salivated at the site of food. He used an initial neutral stimulus and was able to condition the dogs to associate the once neutral (now conditioned) stimulus with the site of food. Ultimately the dogs would no longer require the actual site of food to salivate because the conditioned stimulus sufficed to induce the response. Conversely, operant conditioning was illustrated in Skinner and Thorndike's law of effect, where behaviors that were rewarded were more likely to be repeated than those that had negative consequences.

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