Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay

Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay

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Operant and respondent (classical) conditioning are both used to establish and modify behaviors. These concepts originated in the field of behavioral psychology and share similarities and differences. Perhaps the clearest example of the difference between the two concepts is whether the behavior to be modified is automatic (i.e., involuntary) or under the subject’s conscious control (i.e., voluntary) Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.

A thorough understanding of the similarities and differences between respondent (classical) conditioning and operant conditioning can provide you clarity about which would be most appropriate to apply in a given learning situation.

For this Discussion, you will contrast operant conditioning and respondent (classical) conditioning in the acquisition of a behavior and a rationale for the use of each. You will also identify behaviors that could be established using each technique.

To Prepare

  • Review the Learning Resources for this week.
  • Contrast operant conditioning and respondent conditioning in the acquisition of a behavior and consider why each works with some behaviors and not with others.
  • Select two behaviors, one that could be established through operant conditioning and one that could be established through respondent conditioning.
  • Review the interactive media in the Learning Resources, “Respondent or Operant Conditioning?”

By Day 4 of Week 8

Post an explanation contrasting operant conditioning and respondent conditioning in the acquisition of a behavior. Be sure to identify why each works with some behaviors and not with others. Then, explain why each of the two behaviors you chose is more appropriate for respondent or operant conditioning Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.

WK 8 Discussion: Respondent and Operant Conditioning

sample 1

What are the main factors for the contradiction between operant Conditioning and respondent conditioning? According to the article, Conditioning was undoubtedly not the insignificant survival of a thriving response; it increased the response rate or the reflex strength. (Skinner, 1998) We can determine that the behavior is shaped because of the consequences, and the shaping is due to either reinforcement or punishment.

Also, operant Conditioning concentrates on strengthening or weakening spontaneous behaviors. In respondent conditioning, the pairing of the neutral and unconditioned stimuli evokes a different or learned response. When focusing on automatic, involuntary behaviors and indicates the behavior is not yet displaying, not until following the Conditioning.


Operant conditioning works with punishing the undesirable behavior for decreasing and reinforcing the good behavior to increase. For example, we may provide stickers as a reward to the children who did great at school, and providing the reward is positive reinforcement. A different example where operant Conditioning does not work with some behavior is when there is a punishment, and we utilize punishment to decrease undesirable behavior Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.

Nonetheless, there are occasions that instead of reducing it, the behavior that we want to decrease starts to increase. For example, if we punish a child because of his bad grades and behavior in school, she may rebel rather than behave. An example of respondent conditioning that works with some behavior is when we attempt to get rid of fear or a phobia. If someone has a phobia of dogs, and while displaying the dog, we pair it with a piece of relaxing music. It could work with moderate phobia but not with severe cases.

Increasing and decreasing a particular behavior is suitable in operant Conditioning as its primary objective is to either reinforce good behavior and punish bad behavior. Reducing any phobias or fear in respondent conditioning is also reasonable and suitable as we can apply the concepts to reduce the symptoms of the phobia undergone by a person.


Skinner, B. F. (1998). The experimental analysis of operant behavior: A history. In R. W. Rieber & K. Salzinger (Eds.), Psychology: Theoretical-historical perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 289–299). American Psychological Association Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.

Read your colleagues’ postings.

Note: For this discussion, you are required to complete your initial post before you will be able to view and respond to your colleagues’ postings. Begin by clicking on the To Participate in this Discussion link, then select Create Thread to complete your initial post. Remember, once you click on Submit, you cannot delete or edit your own posts, and cannot post anonymously. Please check your post carefully before clicking on Submit!

By Day 6 of Week 8

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts by expanding on each of their explanations of how their chosen behaviors are more appropriate for respondent or operant conditioning.

Be sure to support your posts and responses with specific references to behavior-analytic theory and research. In addition to the Learning Resources, search the Walden Library and/or the internet for peer-reviewed articles to support your posts and responses. Use proper APA format and citations, including those in the Learning Resources.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights that you have gained because of your colleagues’ comments.

sample 2

Classical conditioning was described by Pavlov. In classical conditioning, the animal is passive or restrained. Here, the learning process occurs by continuous exposure and experience. It results from the repeated pairing of a neutral stimulus (which becomes conditioned) with a stimulus that naturally evokes a response (the unconditioned stimulus). Behaviors that could be developed include; Stimulus generalization-which occurs when a conditioned stimulus is transferred to another. Example if a dog begins to respond to tuning fork just as it responds to Bell. This theory would explain the ability to learn from similarities. Another behavior include; Discrimination-the process of recognizing and responding to the differences between stimuli. Example when an animal begins to respond differently to two different bells.


Operant Conditioning was described by B.F. Skinner. The animal has to do something to get a reward or punishment. Operant Conditioning can be primary reward conditioning, escape conditioning, avoidance conditioning, secondary reward conditioning. In Primary reward conditioning; the animal learns to operate on the environment to obtain a biological reward such as food or water. In Escape conditioning; the animal learns to get out of a place it prefers not to be. In Avoidance conditioning; the animal learns to respond to a cue to avoid punishment In Secondary reward conditioning; the instrumental behavior is used to get a non biological reward which may have been used to get a biological reward. Example collecting tokens which can be exchanged for food. But later the animal just works to earn the tokes even when it is not interested in exchanging them for food.

Operant conditioning can be reinforced. A re-inforcer is anything that maintains a response or increases the strength of the response. The re-inforcer rewards the animal and reinforces the behavior (response) Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay


Harris, B. (2002). Whatever Happened to Little Albert? W.E. Pickren & D.A. Dewsbury (Eds.), Evolving perspectives on the history of psychology (pp. 237-245). American Psychological Association.

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., (2020). Applied behavior analysis

Skinner, B.F (1998). The experimental analysis of operant behavior: A history in R.W Rieber & K. Salzinger (Eds.), Psychology: Theoretical historical perspectives (2nd ed; pp 289-299).

Waiden University, LLC. (2021). Respondent and operant conditioning (Video). Walden University Blackboard.


sample 3

Keller and Schoenfeld (Cooper et. al, 2020 pg. 34) suggest that “operant conditioning is visible everywhere within the activities of humans from birth to death”. It considers the “consequences on behavior because they influence a response and determine if a similar response will occur again. Dr. Little (Walden University, 2021) explains how with operant conditioning the organism or human subject will “learn the relationship between their own behavior from either reinforcing or punishing consequences”.  For instance, reinforcement in operant conditioning strengthens the probability that a response will occur again. Whereas punishment decreases the likelihood that the response will occur. Operant conditioning is only concerned with how “consequences affect future behaviors” (Cooper et. al., 2020 pg. 34) Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.

Classical or respondent conditioning on the other hand considers the “responses that the organism or human has little to no control over” (Walden University LLC., 2021). It suggests that “neutral stimuli can obtain the ability to elicit a response by learning” (Cooper et. al, 2020 pg. 30). Take Pavlov’s experiment for example. He found that a neutral stimulus by itself doesn’t elicit a response. It is only when the neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditioned stimulus that it can elicit a response. Dr. Little (2021) explains in his lecture how an “unconditioned stimulus naturally brings about a specific behavior or response”. The “unlearned reaction or unconditioned response is then brought on by the unconditioned stimulus” (Walden University LLC., 2021).  When the neutral stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus it becomes a conditioned stimulus that can elicit a response. The conditioned stimulus elicits the same response as the neutral stimulus. When the neutral stimulus elicits the response, it becomes a conditioned response. The conditioned response occurs when another stimulus other than one that naturally occurs produces it” (Walden University LLC., 2021). Conditioned is another way of saying something is learned. Cooper et. al. (2020) explains how “Pavlov found out that once a response was conditioned it could weaken if the conditioned stimulus was presented repeatedly whenever the unconditioned stimulus wasn’t present”.  This causes extinction, which doesn’t allow the connection to the neutral stimulus. Dr. Little (2021) says that “spontaneous recovery occurs after extinction when a behavior is able to occur if there is another presentation of the neutral stimulus”. Stimulus generalization says that a behavior can be generalized (Walden University LLC., 2021). Dr. Little (2021) continues in his lecture to explain how “stimulus discrimination allows you to respond differently to two or more stimuli that may appear similar but are very much distinct”. A conditioned response can also occur by the pairing of a neutral stimulus and conditioned stimulus which is known as the higher order conditioning.

In contrasting operant and respondent conditioning: respondent conditioning is behavior that automatically occurs, and we can’t control it such as sneezing or jerking away when you’re startled by something. Whereas operant conditioning deals with behaviors that we can control. For instance, a child that completes their homework daily because their parents said that at the end of the week, they will get pizza. I think they each work with some behaviors and not others because the behaviors need to be able to be observed and measured. You can observe someone sneezing and take data on how often the individual sneezes, but you can’t take data on someone feeling hopeful or determined. I think the behavior of sneezing is more appropriate for respondent conditioning because you can’t control when you will sneeze and it is something that naturally occurs. The behavior of completing homework to obtain pizza on Fridays is something that can be controlled. The individual can control if they will get pizza or not by completing the homework Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay.


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis (3rd ed.). Pearson.

Walden University, LLC. (2021). Respondent and operant conditioning [Video]. Walden University Blackboard. Respondent and Operant Conditioning Essay

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