AP Psychology : Operant Conditioning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : Operant Conditioning

Sarah's dad takes away her cell phone after she fails a test for the first time. The taking away of the phone best represents which of the following types of operant conditioning consequences?

Possible Answers:

Positive punishment

Negative reinforcer

Positive reinforcer

Negative association

Negative punishment

Correct answer:

Negative punishment

Explanation:

Operant conditioning is learning by consequence, and a reinforcer is a good consequence that increases the possibility that the action will be repeated and a punishment is a bad consequence that decreases the possibility that the action will be repeated. Sarah's dad is trying to get Sarah to not repeat her actions in the future and is taking away her phone as a punishment. Positive punishment is when a bad thing is added and negative punishment is when a good thing is taken away. Since a good thing is taken away to decrease the likelihood that she will repeat her action, the removal of the phone is a negative punishment.

Example Question #32 : Operant Conditioning

Sarah's dad bakes her a batch of her favorite cookies after she gets straight A's for the first time. The cookies best represent which of the following types of operant conditioning consequences?

Possible Answers:

Positive reinforcer

Negative punishment

Negative reinforcer

Positive association

Positive punishment

Correct answer:

Positive reinforcer

Explanation:

Operant conditioning is learning by consequence, and a reinforcer is a good consequence that increases the possibility that the action will be repeated and a punishment is a bad consequence that decreases the possibility that the action will be repeated. Sarah's dad is trying to get Sarah to repeat her action in the future and is using the cookie reward as a reinforcer. Positive reinforcers are when a good thing is added and negative reinforcers are when a bad thing is taken away. Since a good thing is added to increase the likelihood that she will repeat her action, the cookies represent a positive reinforcer.

Example Question #33 : Operant Conditioning

In operant conditioning, the process by which reinforcers guide a response closer and closer towards a desired behavior is called __________.

Possible Answers:

tweaking

modeling

shaping

reconditioning

approximation

Correct answer:

shaping

Explanation:

The process of shaping also involves customizing the timing of reinforcement, in addition to the nature of the reinforcements themselves, in order to produce the desired behavior in the desired manner over the desired timeframe.

Example Question #34 : Operant Conditioning

Which of the following thoughts best represents intrinsic motivation?

Possible Answers:

"Susan is a member of Debate Club. If I want to be like Susan, I need to join Debate Club also."

"I should help my neighbor carry in his groceries, since people ought to be kind to one another."

"If I can study for two hours every night before the test, I should be able to pass with a C or better."

"I shouldn't steal from my workplace, since I'll probably get caught."

"I wish this teacher would slow down, but I don't think I should ask her to. It'd be rude."

Correct answer:

"I should help my neighbor carry in his groceries, since people ought to be kind to one another."

Explanation:

Intrinsic motivations are those motivations which result from a desire to perform an act for its own sake, and not for any promised rewards or threatened punishments. The correct answer is the only one which both deals with a motivation for performing a task, and provides an intrinsic reason for that motivation.

Example Question #35 : Operant Conditioning

A beggar holds up a sign asking for spare change on a street corner, and sometimes people who walk by will drop some change into his cup. Which reinforcement schedule does this best represent?

Possible Answers:

Variable interval

Continuous

Fixed ratio

Variable ratio

Fixed interval

Correct answer:

Variable ratio

Explanation:

Variable ratio reinforcement is a schedule where a behavior is reinforced after an unpredictable amount of responses. Note that the amount of responses does not have to be a dependent variable truly free of interaction. For example, research shows that a person is far more likely to give change to a beggar if they first witness other people not giving change, so in our example the odds of the beggar getting a reinforcing response may rise over time, but they still don't know exactly when the reinforcement will occur.

Variable ratio is acknowledged as being the schedule of reinforcement which produces the longest-lasting results after extinction of the reinforcer. In some cases, the modified behavior can be permanent.

Example Question #36 : Operant Conditioning

Which of the following best represents a fixed interval schedule of reinforcement?

Possible Answers:

An office worker receives a biweekly paycheck for $630.

A random number generator dispenses a food pellet into a pigeon's cage on either every third, fifth, or seventh press of a button.

A gambler wins a jackpot after 1,000 spins on a slot machine, then immediately wins a second jackpot on the next spin.

A student receives an A after studying for 3 hours the night before a test.

A pet dog is fed in the morning when his owner gets up, and then again in the evening when the owner gets home.

Correct answer:

An office worker receives a biweekly paycheck for $630.

Explanation:

A fixed interval schedule of reinforcement occurs when a reinforcer predictably occurs after a set number of responses (or time) have passed. Paychecks and report cards (if good) are both examples of fixed interval reinforcers. The dog's feeding schedule may seem like a good example of fixed interval at first, but is actually a continuous schedule of reinforcement, since (unless the owner is negligent) there will be no morning or evening that passes where the dog is not fed.

Example Question #37 : Operant Conditioning

As a reward for helping his younger sister with her homework without being asked, John’s mother tells him he doesn’t have to do his chores. This example is best described as which of the following types of operant conditioning?

Possible Answers:

Negative punishment

Positive reinforcement

Negative reinforcement

Positive punishment

Correct answer:

Negative reinforcement

Explanation:

This is an example of negative reinforcement. It is a form of reinforcement because John’s mother wants to encourage him to continue a good behavior (e.g. helping his sister) by presenting a consequence that he enjoys (e.g. not doing chores). It is considered “negative” because something is being taken away (e.g. the chores) as a consequence: remember that negative refers to something being taken away, without any regard for whether or not the thing taken away is “good” or “bad.”

Example Question #38 : Operant Conditioning

In Ms. Johnson’s class, each student receives a prize every Friday, only if he or she has been well behaved all week. This reward is an example of which of the following reinforcement schedules?

Possible Answers:

Fixed interval

Variable ratio

Fixed ratio

Variable interval

Correct answer:

Fixed interval

Explanation:

Since the reward is given consistently on every Friday—not sometimes on Thursday and sometimes on Monday–the reinforcement schedule is considered fixed. Since the reward is given on the basis of time, not on the basis of number of desirable responses (i.e. number of good, well-behaved actions), it is considered to be an interval schedule. Another way to think about this interval schedule is that no matter how good a student is, he or she cannot “speed up” the reward. In other words, it doesn’t matter if he saves the world from imminent doom on Monday, Ms. Johnson will still not reward him until Friday. Combining the “fixed” and “interval” aspects, we get the correct answer: this is a fixed interval schedule of reinforcement.

Example Question #39 : Operant Conditioning

Which of the following statements is most accurate regarding the reinforcement-as-activity approach (i.e. the Premack principle)?

Possible Answers:

Reinforcement only occurs when existing activities and desired behaviors are relatively equal in probability

Children’s preferences for reinforcement activities tend to be consistent and universal  

Lower-probability activities reinforce higher-probability activities

Higher-probability activities reinforce lower-probability activities

Correct answer:

Higher-probability activities reinforce lower-probability activities

Explanation:

When using the Premack principle, it is important to consider activities that are highly preferred by the individual. What is the child’s favorite thing to do? Play video games, or play basketball? Whichever behavior is preferred tends to have a higher probability of occurring naturally and that activity would be used as reinforcement for a less-preferred (i.e. lower-probability) activity like cleaning up one’s bedroom.

Example Question #40 : Operant Conditioning

An annoying beeping noise is playing in a rat's cage. When it presses a lever, the noise goes away. Eventually, the rat begins pressing the lever often, even when the beeping is not playing. This is an example of which of the following aspects of operant conditioning? 

Possible Answers:

Chaining

Extinction

Punishment

Negative reinforcement

Positive reinforcement

Correct answer:

Negative reinforcement

Explanation:

Negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of a behavior, such as pressing a lever, by removing an aversive—unpleasant—stimulus (e.g. the annoying beep) when that behavior occurs. Using the current example, positive reinforcement would be a food pellet appearing when the lever was pressed. Negative reinforcement is often confused with punishment, but punishment decreases the likelihood of some behavior. It is important to note that both positive and negative reinforcement increase the likelihood of that behavior.

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