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The principles of classical and operant conditioning

Assignment 2: Learning

Goal: The goals of this assignment are 1) to apply the principles of classical and operant conditioning to shaping behavior and personality 2) to reflect on the limits of this approach 3) recognize classical and operant conditioning principles in a real-world scenario. All parts of the assignment need to be typed and submitted to Blackboard under the Assignments tab by 9/20/19 at 8:00PM.

Part I

Remember this quote from Watson? “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”

Imagine that Watson just left a baby on your doorstep, with a set of instructions informing you that he would like this child to become a Sherlock Holmes-type: a clever and successful detective, rude to others, who has no interest in relationships. (And let’s forget about the fact that we would first call the police and child protective services if a baby were left on our doorstep!). With that task in mind, answer the following questions:

1. Use principles of classical and operant conditioning to explain how you would teach the baby to become just like Sherlock Holmes – a clever and successful detective, rude, with no interest in relationships. Explain at least five ways you would manipulate the environment to shape the baby to become like Sherlock Holmes.

The child would be home schooled throughout nursery to college

a. A clever and successful detective

i. Operant Conditioning: The child would be made to do puzzles 4 times a day, if the child finishes the puzzle correctly (behavior), the child would be given an hour extra TV time to watch his/her favorite show ( positive reinforcement). These puzzles would be upgraded, in terms of difficulty, every month. Eventually the child would be made to use his/her thinking skills in order to get something he/she wants. Later on, in life the child would have developed his/her intellectual skills and would be willing to further it even more.

ii. Classical Conditioning: The child would be shown a picture of an item ( conditioned stimulus), which the child originally would not have any response to. A bowl of nicely scented food would be hidden somewhere in the room (unconditioned stimulus) which would cause the baby to feel hungry and search for the food following the smell ( unconditioned response). For 10 years of the child’s life the child would be shown a picture of an item followed by the smell of a good food, in which he would follow the scent of the food to find the item and the food. Over time the child would learn to look for items using their sense of smell and possibly other senses ( conditioned response).

b. Rude to others and has no interest in relationships

i. Operant Conditioning: Each time the child is found interacting or playing with other children (behavior), I would take away the child’s games and toys ( negative punishment). This will ensure that the child understands that when he socializes with other children, he/she would lose something that he/she likes and over time, as the child grows with this in mind he/she will grow to understand that they should not have/does not need any relationships with other people.

ii. Operant Conditioning: I would put the child on a time-out for 10 hours a day and each time the child raises his/her voice or uses unpolite words towards me or any other person (behavior) he/she would get 5 minutes off the next day’s time-out (negative reinforcement). This way the child understands that being rude to people would mean that he would get less time-out, over time it is likely that the child would grow to believe that being rude is the best way to behave.

iii. Classical Conditioning: The child would be exposed to a show of affection ( conditioned stimulus), like hugs and kisses e.t.c, which the child would initially not have any response to, the child would be forced to watch their favorite toys get destroyed ( unconditioned stimulus) which would, by reflex, make the child very unhappy and cause them to act out ( unconditioned response). For 10 years of the child’s life every day the child would be exposed to show of affection and love and almost immediately or simultaneously would be made to watch there toy get destroyed. Over time the child would become unhappy and act out anytime there is any exchange of affection (conditioned response).

2. Explain to what degree do you think these conditioning principles alone shape personality and provide examples of two problems you might expect with this approach.

a. Classical conditioning does indeed proves that people do things in response to their environment, and to an extent explains why humans learn new things in response to the things that happen around is and in the world, how ever classical conditioning is not free from flaws, as it is not certain that individuals would react in the same way as human beings are unique and do not respond the same way to the same things. This proves that classical conditioning could not be the only factor to the shaping of personality.

b. Operant conditioning to some extent may shape a personality, because most of the time individuals tend to take actions with the consequence of the action in mind. This is fundamentally the basis of operant conditioning. However, this principle is flawed as it may be difficult and time-consuming to use operant conditioning when it comes to teaching a more complex or technical concept to an individual.

c. Problems I may encounter:

i. With the conditioning experiment that has to do with the child becoming clever, the baby may only be triggered to look for something only when he/she is hungry.

ii. With the operant conditioning, the extinction rate might be high depending on how easy or difficult it is for the specific individual to become uninterested with the consequences of his/her actions.

Part II

3. Watch the video found at: https://news.wttw.com/2019/08/05/social-media-sans-metrics-one-artist-s-quest-hide-likes . Describe how phenomenon discussed in the video reflects classical conditioning (name the US, UR, CS, & CR), operant conditioning (provide at least two examples of reinforcement and/or punishment), and observational learning .

a. Operant Conditioning:

i. Positive Reinforcement: More likes when people post specific type of photos, to keep people posting more pictures.

ii. Negative Punishment: Taking away the ability view likes, so that people are not extremely interested in quantification.

b. Classical Conditioning:

i. US: People showing interest in your picture.

ii. UR: Users have that feeling of confidence and better esteem when people show interest in our picture

iii. CS: Numbers

iv. CR: When users see more numbers in relation to their picture, they feel like more people are interested in the picture, and subconsciously seeing a larger amount of numbers like views or retweets may make an individual feel good. Even though views and retweets do not always exactly translate to people liking the photos or videos.

c. Observational Learning: Social media users see other users get more likes when they post specific type of photos, so they follow these other users so thy can get more likes like them.


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