Operant conditioning

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Operant conditioning is the use of a behavior's antecedent and/or its consequence to influence the occurrence and form of behavior. Operant conditioning is distinguished from classical conditioning (also called respondent conditioning) in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of "voluntary behavior" or operant behavior. Operant behavior "operates" on the environment and is maintained by its consequences, while classical conditioning deals with the conditioning of reflexive (reflex) behaviors which are elicited by antecedent conditions. Behaviors conditioned via a classical conditioning procedure are not maintained by consequences.[1]

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Reinforcement, punishment, and extinction

Reinforcement and punishment, the core tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative (withdrawn following a response). This creates a total of four basic consequences, with the addition of a fifth procedure known as extinction (i.e. no change in consequences following a response).

It's important to note that actors are not spoken of as being reinforced, punished, or extinguished; it is the actions that are reinforced, punished, or extinguished. Additionally, reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are not terms whose use is restricted to the laboratory. Naturally occurring consequences can also be said to reinforce, punish, or extinguish behavior and are not always delivered by people.

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