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Skinner brought about the concept of operant conditioning to elaborate the influence of the environment in determining an individual’s behavior. Skinner asserts that a particular behavior is a product of the expected consequence. Most of the time the behavior is a voluntary one but in some instances, operant conditioning can be used to modify involuntary behavior.
In the context of drivers slowing down once they see a police vehicle doing radar in their vicinity to avoid a speeding ticket, Skinners principle of operant conditioning applies. In this scenario, the police car acts as a positive reinforcement to the behavior of driving within the speed limit. Every time the speeding drivers see a police car they are forced to reduce their speed so as to avoid getting a speeding ticket.
The police car doing radar ahead is the condition that acts in modifying the voluntary behavior of reducing the speed limit by the drivers. Every time the drivers come in the vicinity of a police car doing radar, their behavior is influenced and as such reduces their speed to avoid a speeding ticket.
The overall reward comes in when the driver’s license is due and they are not required to undertake a driving test due to having received a speeding ticket. This reward reinforces good behavior among drivers and as such they will always drive within the speed limit to avoid a speeding ticket. The police in this case act as the positive reinforcement.
The issuance of a speeding ticket to those drivers found driving above the speeding limit acts as a positive punisher to reduce the tendency of drivers over speeding. According to Skinner’s principle of operant conditioning, positive punishment decreases the performance of an undesired behavior.
Every time an unwanted behavior occurs, one receives a punishment and as such the punishment deters a repeat of the same behavior (Coon and Mitterer 234).
In this scenario, once a driver receives a speeding ticket (positive punisher), he/she will be reluctant to drive over the speed limit (condition). The act of slowing down in the presence of a police car doing radar reduces the anticipated punishment and encourages driving within the speed limit.
Negative reinforcement is observed when an unpleasant condition is abolished or extinguished so as to augment the occurrence of a particular desired behavior. In this context, whenever there is no police car doing radar in the vicinity, there is an increased chance that the drivers will drive above the speeding limit.
The absence of the police car is the negative reinforce for driving above the speed limit. In addition, the drivers will not be afraid of receiving any speeding ticket since the police will not be around to issue them. The absence of the police car will reinforce the behavior of driving above the speed limit.
Negative punishment is a concept of operant conditioning brought about by Skinner to explain the reduction in particular behaviors as a result of removal or denial of a particular condition. In this context, the withdrawal of ones driving license by the police and being banned to drive acts as a negative punishment to deter drivers from driving above the speed limit.
Coon, Dennis, and Mitterer, John. Psychology: A Journey. Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2010.