AP Psychology : Operant Conditioning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Psychology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #51 : Operant Conditioning

Karen's boss gives her a holiday bonus each year. Karen's boss is using __________ conditioning and a __________ schedule of reinforcement.

Possible Answers:

classical. . . variable ratio

classical. . . fixed interval

operant. . . variable interval

operant. . . fixed interval

operant. . . fixed ratio

Correct answer:

operant. . . fixed interval

Explanation:

Karen's boss is providing rewards for her performance, which is an example of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning uses reinforcement and punishment to increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors. On the contrary, classical conditioning involves forming associations between stimuli. Karen's boss is also providing reinforcement on a fixed interval schedule because the reinforcement is given after a set (i.e. fixed) period of time (i.e. interval). 

Example Question #52 : Operant Conditioning

Which of the following is the process through which a stimulus slowly stops producing a learned behavioral response?

Possible Answers:

Reverse modeling

Extinction

Discrimination

Generalization

Correct answer:

Extinction

Explanation:

The correct answer here is "extinction," which refers to the decreased in a learned behavior as (i.e. if the behavior was learned via operant conditioning) the behavior is unpaired with reinforcement that encourages the behavior or when the conditioned stimulus is unpaired with the unconditioned stimulus that originally produced the behavior (i.e. if the behavior was learned via classical conditioning). "Discrimination" refers to the ability to distinguish between a particular stimulus associated with a learned response and similar stimuli. "Generalization" refers to the ability to transfer a conditioned response from the originally presented stimulus to other similar stimuli. Last, "reverse modeling" is not a real concept, but modeling refers to learning a behavior by observing another individual experience the consequences of classical or operant conditioning.

Example Question #53 : Operant Conditioning

Alan is tired of hearing his mother ask him to take out the trash, so he finally gets up and does it. Which process of operant conditioning prompted this behavior (i.e. taking out the trash)?

Possible Answers:

Negative reinforcement

Positive reinforcement

Positive punishment

Negative punishment

Correct answer:

Negative reinforcement

Explanation:

In operant conditioning, “negative” and “positive” refer to whether an unpleasant stimulus is taken away or a pleasant stimulus is added, respectively. “Reinforcement” increases the likelihood a behavior will occur, while “punishment” decreases the likelihood a behavior will occur. Since Alan’s trash-taking behavior increased, we know that this situation involved reinforcement. Since this behavior was motivated by the promise of a negative stimulus (e.g. Alan’s mother’s lecturing) being taken away, the label negative is most appropriate. Alan taking out the trash in order to prompt his mother to stop lecturing him is an example of negative reinforcement.

Example Question #54 : Operant Conditioning

Ben's older sister, Kelly, always teases her. In order to make her less likely to tease him in the future, Ben ignores her whenever she is mean to him. Which of the following terms describes Ben's behavioral strategy?

Possible Answers:

Shaping

Classical conditioning

Juvenile dependency

Negative reinforcement

Negative punishment

Correct answer:

Negative punishment

Explanation:

"Negative punishment" involves taking away a certain desired item after the undesired behavior happens in order to decrease future responses. In the example above, ignoring Kelly functions as negative punishment, in that Ben is removing his attention to reduce Kelly's teasing behavior. 

Example Question #55 : Operant Conditioning

Lena puts off studying for a test and only studies 1 hour. This results in a score of 59 percent on that test. For the next test, she studies 3 hours, but she only gets a 63 percent. She becomes very frustrated, feeling that there is no point in studying anymore. This is an example of which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Social desirability bias

Learned helplessness

Habituation

Modeling

Correct answer:

Learned helplessness

Explanation:

Lena is experiencing "learned helplessness"—she has apparently learned that studying is unrelated to positive test performance. She has started to feel that there is no amount of studying that will stop the undesirable grades. Learned helplessness is also seen in lab animals. If shocks are randomly administered to the animal, with no regard to what the animal is or is not doing at the time, then the animal will learn that there is no behavior that will stop the aversive stimulus (i.e. the shock). At this point, the animal will simply stop responding.

Example Question #56 : Operant Conditioning

The most effective use of punishment to eliminate an undesired behavior occurs during which of the following? 

Possible Answers:

Right after an undesired behavior has been expressed

When it involves both physical and mental punishment

When it is delivered by an authority

When it is severe

Correct answer:

Right after an undesired behavior has been expressed

Explanation:

The association of the punishment to the undesired behavior becomes stronger if punishment is delivered in a proximal time frame to the behavior. Repeated use of this kind of treatment will create an operant conditioning dynamic that will produce a consequence to a preceding action. The severity and form of delivery do not matter as much as the close association of punishment to behavior. 

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