The Principles of Operant Conditioning

Part I. Section 1. Description of a Restaurant

To conduct the observation and examine the relations between parents and children according to the principles of operant conditioning, one of the McDonald’s restaurants was chosen. The observation was conducted on February 28, 2013. The time of the dinner was selected to have the opportunity to observe as many parents with children as possible.

The fast food restaurant has the large dining area which is divided into several blocks. To observe adults and children during their interactions, the most open area in the dining hall was chosen. It was also possible to see the cash register from the place for observing the subjects.

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Section 2. Three Observations

1. Positive reinforcement for desired behaviors. I observed the young Caucasian mother with the five or six years old daughter who were dining at the table in the corner of the restaurant. The girl hesitated whether to drink or not the portion of the milk cocktail. The mother said that they had already paid for the cocktail.

The girl decided to drink the whole portion of the cocktail. The mother encouraged the desired behavior with a smile and a praise, stating that her daughter was a good girl, and it was really better to drink and eat the whole portions ordered.

2. Positive punishment for undesired behaviors. The Caucasian father in his thirties and a schoolboy (8-9 years old) were observed. The father and his son were standing at the cash register. The boy was capricious and asked the father to buy the big portion of ice-cream instead of a small one.

The man did not pay attention to the boy’s words. The boy started to ask louder. The father asked the boy to be calm. The boy decided to cry louder to draw the father’s attention. The father reacted rather angrily and almost shouted at the boy, paying attention to the boy’s inappropriate behaviour and impossibility to buy the large portion of the ice-cream. The boy was offended, but he stopped crying and asking for the ice-cream.

3. Negative punishment for undesired behaviors. The family consisting of a young Asian mother and two girls was observed. The girls were five or six years old. The family was dining. One girl ate well and did not look aside. However, the other girl was involving in playing with a doll, and paid less attention to eating.

When the first girl ate the portion and continued to speak with the mother, the other girl stopped to eat because of playing with the doll. The mother noted that the girl’s behaviour was inappropriate and decided to take the doll away to provide the girl with the opportunity to eat her dinner.

Section 3. Comments and Reflections

According to the example of the positive reinforcement for the desired behavior, the mother did not misuse the positive reinforcer to accentuate the daughter’s appropriate behaviour.

It is possible to speak about the further repeats of the discussed behaviour to be encouraged by the mother’s praise because it is one of the easiest but rather emotional variant of reinforcement. Basing on the further observation, I also focused on the mother’s usage of discrimination while reinforcing the daughter.

Discussing the example of the positive punishment for the undesired behavior, I can state that the father did not fail to operate the principle, but he misused it because the extremely aggressive reaction as the form of punishment could provoke the boy’s being scared or even the repetition of the undesired behaviour instead of stopping it. In spite of the positive results of the punishment, it cannot be considered as appropriate for the situation under discussion.

The mother of two girls depicted in the third example used the negative punishment for the undesired behavior effectively because the reaction of the daughter to the punishment was the immediate stop of the negative action. The undesired behaviour was the play with a doll while eating, and it was stopped when the stimulus in the form of the doll was taken away. Thus, the principle of operant conditioning was used successfully.

Part 2. Describe Any Examples of Generalization or Discrimination

Paying attention to the behaviours of the parents in relation to their children, I could not observe the examples of generalization when persons provide the same response to some similar stimuli.

However, I observed the example of discrimination when the desired behavior and the desired response were associated with the reinforced stimulus (Coon and Mitterer 247). Thus, the girl depicted in the first example is inclined to react to the stimulus provided only by her mother because she is reinforced with a smile or a praise.

I observed that the girl was reinforced to use a napkin when it was necessary because her mother paid attention to her appropriate or positive behaviour. Nevertheless, the other behaviours which could not be discussed as necessary or positive were ignored. Therefore, it is possible to state that the mother developed the situation of discrimination.

Works Cited

Coon, Dennis, and John Mitterer. Psychology: A Journey. USA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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