Select a target behavior that you would like to strengthen in a person or animal in which you have daily contact. For example, you may choose to have your child pick up his/her toys more often; try to get more hugs from your significant other; train a dog to sit on command, etc. Try to avoid selecting a target behavior you would like to weaken, which would require the use of positive punishment (punishment by application) or negative punishment (punishment by removal).
Step 1 Written Portion: State your target behavior. If you choose a target behavior in an animal, include the animal’s name, age, gender, and breed. If you choose a target behavior in a person, include his or her first name, age, and relationship to you (such as a friend, co-worker, child, or significant other).
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Once you have decided on a target behavior, collect data over the next day to find out how often the target behavior occurs without your guidance or reinforcement. In other words, just observe and count the times the target behavior occurs on its own. For example, if you choose the following target behavior: Teaching your dog how to roll over on command, then you would give the roll over command and count the times the dog rolls over (without your interference or guidance). This data is called the baseline frequency.
Step 2 Written Portion: State your baseline frequency data. Describe your data collection, including the number of hours observed, where you observed the target behavior, and any other relevant information. Also, report any biases that may be introduced in your baseline frequency data collection. For instance, if you are doing your baseline frequency count on the number of times your dog sits on command, and you observe your pet during an obedience class, a bias will be introduced.
*Please note*: A baseline frequency of one day will implement a bias in your study. Report the bias, stating that a baseline frequency observed and recorded over several days may produce a more valid and reliable record of the target behavior.
On the next day, begin the process of operant conditioning. The first time the target behavior occurs; reinforce it with a behavior that you believe has meaning to the person/animal. Think through your operant conditioning terms. For instance, if the target behavior occurs, and you respond with “Great Job,” your compliment is positive reinforcement with a secondary/conditioned reinforcer, which increases the likelihood the target behavior will occur again.
If the baseline frequency is 0, in other words, if the target behavior does not occur on its own, then you will need to employ the technique of shaping.
Step 3 Written Portion: Write a paragraph reporting the number of times the target behavior occurred during the operant conditioning phase. Explain why you think the target behavior increased, decreased, or stayed the same. Use your operant conditioning terms to describe what you did, including your use of primary or secondary/conditioned reinforcers of positive reinforcement. Also, explain if and how you used escape or avoidance conditioning of negative reinforcement. In addition, identify if you stayed with one type of effective reinforcer or if you used many. Also, if you used shaping because the target behavior did not occur on its own, discuss how you applied shaping. Lastly, describe what you may have done differently, and report any conclusions you may have about your operant conditioning efforts.
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