Rat Operant Conditioning Experiment


Rat operant conditioning is a psychological experiment that is conducted in a lab. The experiment was first conducted at a small institution. It mainly focused on the continuous as well as intermittent schedules of reinforcement in determining which may be more efficient. Operant conditioning is a behavior shaping technique that was developed by B.F. Skinner.


In the rat operant experiment, the rat was placed in an operant chamber. The rat was placed in such a way that it was required to press a bar within a chamber. On pressing, the rat was given water as a reward. Before the experiment, the rat had been deprived of water for the previous twenty four hours in order to ensure that it was thirsty and in dire need of water.


From the experiment, Skinner discovered what he later called ‘shaping’. He realized that most animals, for example, the rat, cat, among others, can be shaped to behave in a certain way, and later get rewarded for their behavior. Thus, the animals would take up a behavior in anticipation of the reward that followed their action. Shaping refers to the reinforcement of step-by-step approximations to a good behavior. He also used other kinds of animals such as the pigeon in order to enhance his research.


It was observed that when animals are made to behave in a certain way, there are a few consequences that are expected. There can be positive reinforcement. From the rat operant experiment, a stimulus was delivered when the rat was engaged in a target behavior. There is also negative Reinforcement that occurs when a stimulus is removed immediately after the response. Thirdly, positive punishment can be experienced. This involves the increase in the intensity or the addition of the stimuli in order to decrease the action. There can also be negative punishment which occurs when a response is followed by the complete removal of the stimuli. Finally, there is what is referred to as extinction. This is when the stimuli is removed, but the behavior continues because the animal was already used to it. For example, when the water stimuli was withdrawn from the operant box later, the rat continued to press the lever more and more slowly until it eventually stops.


In conclusion, the rat operant experiment is one of the biggest psychological experiments that has been conducted on the behavior of human beings and animals. Skinner managed to illustrate that a particular target behavior can be achieved by using stimulus for some time.

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