Our behavior is modified by consequences. That's the crux of operant conditioning. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive and negative punishment and extinction are the common terms psychologist B.F. Skinner coined. The definitions below sum up this tool:
- Positive reinforcement (Reinforcement): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a stimulus that is appetitive or rewarding, increasing the frequency of that behavior. In the Skinner box experiment, a stimulus such as food or sugar solution can be delivered when the rat engages in a target behavior, such as pressing a lever.
- Negative reinforcement (Escape): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus, thereby increasing that behavior's frequency. In the Skinner box experiment, negative reinforcement can be a loud noise continuously sounding inside the rat's cage until it engages in the target behavior, such as pressing a lever, upon which the loud noise is removed.
- Positive punishment (Punishment) (also called "Punishment by contingent stimulation"): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a stimulus, such as introducing a shock or loud noise, resulting in a decrease in that behavior.
- Negative punishment (Penalty) (also called "Punishment by contingent withdrawal"): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of a stimulus, such as taking away a child's toy following an undesired behavior, resulting in a decrease in that behavior.
Further, these are factors that alter effectiveness of consequences:
- Satiation/Deprivation: The effectiveness of a consequence will be reduced if the individual's "appetite" for that source of stimulation has been satisfied. Inversely, the effectiveness of a consequence will increase as the individual becomes deprived of that stimulus. If someone is not hungry, food will not be an effective reinforcer for behavior. Satiation is generally only a potential problem with primary reinforcers, those that do not need to be learned such as food and water.
- Immediacy: After a response, how immediately a consequence is then felt determines the effectiveness of the consequence. More immediate feedback will be more effective than less immediate feedback. If someone's license plate is caught by a traffic camera for speeding and they receive a speeding ticket in the mail a week later, this consequence will not be very effective against speeding. But if someone is speeding and is caught in the act by an officer who pulls them over, then their speeding behavior is more likely to be affected
- Contingency: If a consequence does not contingently (reliably, or consistently) follow the target response, its effectiveness upon the response is reduced. But if a consequence follows the response consistently after successive instances, its ability to modify the response is increased. The schedule of reinforcement, when consistent, leads to faster learning. When the schedule is variable the learning is slower. Extinction is more difficult when learning occurs during intermittent reinforcement and more easily extinguished when learning occurs during a highly consistent schedule.
- Size: This is a "cost-benefit" determinant of whether a consequence will be effective. If the size, or amount, of the consequence is large enough to be worth the effort, the consequence will be more effective upon the behavior. An unusually large lottery jackpot, for example, might be enough to get someone to buy a one-dollar lottery ticket (or even buying multiple tickets). But if a lottery jackpot is small, the same person might not feel it to be worth the effort of driving out and finding a place to buy a ticket. In this example, it's also useful to note that "effort" is a punishing consequence. How these opposing expected consequences (reinforcing and punishing) balance out will determine whether the behavior is performed or not.
Skinner treated people like, well the rats used in experiments. The human factor is ignored. We are not rats, robots or cattle to be herded with such tools.
Now these methods can be applied to us. We do not have to accept them. We have free will, self determination.
Oh yes. You might look at Lost. It's rife with Skinnerism. Examine the faith, fate, fact angles.
Also, with self determination comes self respect. We clean up our own messes.
So, study this stuff. Take a peak at Marxism and its myriad spawn. Study your enemies.
Bit by bit construct and undo them.
That way, you will not be put in a box -s-.