When I was young, I was not good in mathematics. However, at one time, I did very well but I was back to my old habit in the next immediate exam. One day out of the blues, my dad brought me a gift and claimed it was because I did well in mathematics in my previous exam. In the next exam, I did extremely well and received a gift too. This continued for some time and I got used to receiving a gift every time I did well in mathematics. I associated my doing well with receiving a gift and I always anticipated for the gift after every exam.
My dad applied the operant conditioning principle of learning. He made me associate my doing well in mathematics with the reward of a gift. He used positive reinforcement to strengthen my behavior of doing well in mathematics. As I learnt from my dad after growing up, he introduced the gift idea intentionally. He wanted to see if it will have an effect on my working hard and it did.
Operant conditioning can strengthen or reinforce a behavior. I think it is common for us humans to change our behavior based on the benefits or consequences of doing so. Assume a robber who is caught and jailed. After release, the robber will most likely not repeat the behavior for fear of going back to jail. This is a negative reinforcement on the operant behavior. This principle of learning is very common especially when one is young. Parents always make their children associate a behavior with positive or negative outcomes. This helps to strengthen or weakens a certain behaviors.
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