Operant Conditioning


Operant conditioning is a psychological term that was first introduced and created by Skinner. Operant conditioning is the utilization of punishment for bad behaviors and rewards for good behaviors that condition a person or animal to perform some behaviors and stay away from others. An example of this would be if your child is hitting other children, then punishing them by putting them in a time out when they hit and rewarding them with positive reinforcement when they play nicely is an example of operant conditioning. However, for it to work there has to be positive behaviors and rewards given to the child or animal for doing what they are supposed to do. In my own life, a person’s behavior that I would like to change is my teenage brother. He is extremely rude to all the members of my family and no one knows how to punish or deal with him. Thus, using Skinner’s operant conditioning a plan can be devised to change his behavior.

Analysis of Behavior

A common behavior that occurs regularly from my brother is back talking and being rude to me and my family members. He also continuously slams doors, throws objects at the furniture, and stomps through the house when asked to do chores or complete other tasks. No amount of verbal commands will make him stop, as we have tried before. Reinforcing positive behavior and punishing negative behavior is likely a solution that will help to control his behavior and ensure that the negative behavior he is displaying is put to an end. The utilization of operant conditioning will help to change his behavior and make sure he acts appropriately.

Operant Conditioning Plan

There are a few techniques that can be utilized when implementing the operant conditioning techniques on my brother. Whenever he back talks or is verbally rude to a member of the family he should be sent to his room without any technology for 30 minutes. Additionally, as time goes on if he continues to be verbally rude to members of the family, then the punishments will be more severe. For example, the time in his room without technology will increase to an hour. His phone will be taken away for the rest of the evening and possibly the next day as well. My brother is very attached to his technologies and will play on them consistently if given the chance. Another form of punishment that should be utilized to address the rude verbal statements is making him do his homework downstairs at the kitchen table under supervision. This way he can’t get off track and get distracted on his computer. Then, when he is done with his homework the computer can be shut off immediately.

While the punishment is a big part of operant conditioning, so is the reward part for good behavior. Whenever my brother is not rude my parents need to reward him with positive reinforcement such as verbal reinforcement and a hug. If the behavior continues, then they could take him out to his favorite restaurant as a treat. They could also allow him to go out with his friends or stay out later as a reward for being kinder to his family and not so rude. This also applies for his responses to being asked to do chores. If he calmly agrees and does not stomp or throw things, then he should be verbally rewarded.

When my brother does slam the doors, stomp through the house and get angry when asked to do chores, my parents need to have a conversation with him. This should be the first step in putting the operant conditioning in place. Then, the next time they ask him to do something if he continues to follow this same pattern of behavior, then they need to take away his phone and laptop after he is done with his homework for the day. The key to reward and punishment with operant conditioning, and particularly with a teenager, is that you need to punish them with something that they love, and take it away, and reward them with something that they love. My brother loves playing on his desktop computer, his phone, and his laptop if he has nothing else. Thus, taking these things away when we are punishing him for certain behaviors will be more effective than taking away something he doesn’t care about.

When my brother has done something good, then he needs to be reinforced with positive consequences and behaviors. Typically, this will involve extracurricular activities and being able to go out. My brother loves to hang out with his friends, go places after soccer practice, and just be social with the people he likes. If he is allowed to do this more often and my parents make it clear that it’s because of his good behavior at home, he will be more likely to act this way at home. Additionally, if they continue the operant conditioning system, eventually he will just continuously act this way with no rewards and punishments necessary. This is the end goal of operant conditioning that we are trying to achieve by implementing the rewards and punishments into his schedule and life as a whole.

Another area that the operant conditioning should be implemented is with my brother’s grades. Often, he doesn’t try at school and needs consistent supervision to ensure that he is doing his schoolwork and homework. Recently, he refused to sign up for the PSAT. Once again, my parents need to have a conversation with him about how this is important for his future and being able to get into college. If he continues down this path, then his future is likely to be bleak. He needs prompt reinforcements and conditioning using operant conditioning to straighten him out. If he does well in school, then they should reward him with being allowed to go see a movie and hang out with his friends. Utilizing the operant conditioning will help my brother to get back on the right track and stop treating his family disrespectfully.


Skinner’s operant conditioning is critical to change the behavior of animals and people alike when needed. An example of this would be the behaviors of my brother that I would love to change, as he treats my family disrespectfully and is struggling in school. When asked to do chores, he yells, throws things, and stomps through the house. Additionally, when he is doing good, then my parents should reinforce the positive behavior with positive attributes, such as letting him go out with his friends, go to the movies, or taking him to his favorite restaurant. By doing this, they will be using operant conditioning to get my brother to do better in school and not be rude to the family.

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