Operant Conditioning - Questions & Answers & Exercises

To extinguish an operant conditioned response, you should withhold the ___________.

When you put quarters in a gum-ball machine, you receive _____________ reinforcement; when you put quarters in a slot machine, you receive ______________ reinforcement.

Marshall wears the same necklace to every exam. Explain how his superstitious behavior might have developed.

How would you use shaping to teach a friend proper diving techniques?

Professor Miller gives a quiz once a week; but he never tells the students on what day the quiz will be. This is a _____________ schedule.


1. Reinforcement

2. continuous, partial

3. It's a superstitious behavior. It probably developed when Marshall got a high grade on the first exam he took when wearing the necklace.

4. At first, praise every dive that approximates a proper dive, then successively praise closer & closer approximations to the second dive

5. Variable interval

Is it Positive or Negative Reinforcement?

A very bright, mildly painful light is turned on a rat. The rat has learned that he can turn off the light by pressing a lever on the other side of his cage. As soon as the light comes on, the rat runs across the room and presses the lever.

Answer: This is negative reinforcement. By executing the desired response, the rat removes a stimulus. The next time the light is turned on the rat, it will probably press the lever to turn off the light, thus ending the mild pain.

Nancy's behavior of leaving unclean dishes on the kitchen counter annoys her roommate, Sue. Sue has decided to change the situation by telling Nancy "I really appreciate your help in keeping the apartment neat," whenever she sees her rinsing & putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Lately Sue has noticed that Nancy consistently puts her dishes in the dishwasher as soon as she is done eating.

Answer: This is positive reinforcement. A stimulus (attention, compliments) is being applied which results in an increase in behavior on the part of Nancy.  Whenver Sue caught Nancy doing the desired behavior (cleaning activities), Sue gives Nancy praise and attention.  When Sue gives Nancy praise and attention, she is applying a stimulus.  Because this stimulus is applied, Nancy's behavior increases.  So:  there was a stimulus applied and behavior increased, therefore, this is positive reinforcement.


  1. Ratio schedules of consequences are based on:
    1. Time passing between responses
    2. Time passing between a response and a consequence
    3. The frequency of responses (i.e., work output)
    4. The number of consequences that are given for one response
  2. Psychologists call behavior that receives feedback in the form of a reinforcing or punishing consequence ____________ behavior.
    1. Respondent
    2. Classical
    3. Operant
    4. Involuntary
Answers: 1 - c; 2 - c


  1. A crucial component of operant conditioning is the kind of consequence that follows a behavior.
  2. The process of reinforcing behavior that approximates a desired response is called shaping.
  3. Punishment can be used to establish new, desirable behaviors in children.
  4. A response will be more likely to resist extinction if, previous to the extinction procedure, it was reinforced on a consistent & frequent schedule.
Answers: 1 - True; 2 - True; 3 - False; 4 - False


  1. Conditioning for a response to occur by either increasing or decreasing a response as a consequence of the behavior is called ____________________.
  2. Operant conditioning is also known as ____________________.
  3. ____________________ decreases the chance of a behavior occurring.
  4. _____________________ increases the chance of a behavior occurring.
  5. Skinner designed a box called a ________________ which had a mechanism inside it which delivered a consequence.
  6. What a psychology reinforces a behavior that is close to the desired behavior, he is said to be _________________.
  7. A reinforcer that is based on the survival of the organism is called a _________________.


1. operant conditioning

2. instrumental conditioning

3. punishment

4. reinforcement

5. Skinner box -or- operant chamber

6. shaping

7. primary reinforcer


  1. Sam collects aluminum cans and drops them off at the local grocery store for cash. He works hard gathering cans because he earns twenty-four cents for each pound of cans he collects.
  2. Lynn goes door-to-door selling cookies. Sometimes people buy a box, other times they do not. Lynn knows that the more doors she knocks on, the higher her total sales will be.
  3. Because Ginger's psychology teacher tends to given unannounced pop quizzes, she studies more frequently and consistently for her psychology class than she does for any other class.
  4. Miguel's job allows a lot of freedom. He can work hard or not so hard & either way he gets his usual paycheck at the end of the week.

1. fixed ratio

2. variable ratio

3. variable interval

4. fixed interval

Hopefully this little review served as some assistance to you. But, remember, this is all purely supplementary in nature. You've still got to read your textbook and come to class. You wouldn't merely take vitamins without ever eating any food, would you?