Part 1: Basic Concepts and Principles The first part of the paper discusses the fundamentals of operant conditioning based on animal research. First Two Paragraphs on Page 1: Begin with a definition of operant conditioning as an approach to analyzing behavior that focuses on the ways in which behavior is influenced by its consequences in the environment. You can illustrate the process of operant conditioning by using the prototypical experiment of a rat that presses a bar, receives food, and then presses the bar at a higher rate. NOTE: It would be useful to define reinforcement and punishment here in the first paragraph when you discuss the consequences of behavior. However, DO NOT start defining positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment, in the first paragraph because these are technical distinctions that would distract from the basic point of the paragraph. For contrast, in the next paragraph (not later in the paper), present a short paragraph (half page maximum) that discusses classical conditioning as a process in which learning occurs even though the learned behavior has no consequences in the environment. You can illustrate this process with the experiment in which the ringing of a bell is paired with food and a dog learns to salivate when the bell is rung even though the food is given regardless of the animal’s behavior. (You don’t have to use the terms US, UR, CS, CR.) Starting with the Third Paragraph and Continuing for 2 or 3 pages: Define and give your own examples of the terms listed below (Part 1 is not a literature review). A common problem with students’ papers is that they leave out required terms or do not provide the requested information. It is suggested that you check off each of the following terms and related information as you complete it. Do not simply the list the terms. They should be conceptually related to each other with logical transitions between terms. SEE CHECKLIST ON NEXT PAGE
Key Points on Terms … 1. Be sure to define a technical term before you use it to explain something else. 2. Do not use the term that you’re defining in the definition of that term.
Part 2: Human Operant Research The second part of the paper summarizes two or more experiments (from different research articles, not from the same article) on human operant behavior that illustrate concepts from Part 1. The articles you use must involve human participants in either a laboratory or applied setting. No credit will be given for a summary in which the subjects were animals. IN AT LEAST ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES, THE PARTICIPANTS MUST BE NORMAL ADULTS OR NORMAL TEENAGERS (i.e. not children, not psychotics, not mental patients, not autistic persons, and not mentally retarded persons). The main purpose of the research must have been to study a process in operant conditioning (they can’t just use an operant concept to explain results from a study in a different field). Do not use an article that assesses ways of teaching operant conditioning. The articles must be from a primary source in a printed journal (not a website or web page) describing the full original experiment and not from a secondary source, such as Psychological Bulletin, that presents summaries. Each of the experiments you summarize must come from a different research article. If a research article includes more than one experiment, you do not have to summarize all of the experiments in that article. One is enough if your summary of it is detailed and substantial. Each article must be summarized separately. Do not combine two 9 articles into a single summary that makes blanket statements about what the two studies had in common. Begin each summary by stating what concept or concepts from Part 1 it illustrates. In at least 1 page per article (preferably more than 1 page), describe the rationale, procedure, and specific findings of the study. In other words, you should compare findings (e.g., response rates) in different conditions or groups and not just state a general conclusion that the researchers drew from their findings. The summary is in past tense. For an article on shaping, describe in detail the successive approximations that were used to establish the target response. Whatever topic you select, your description of the research must be thorough enough to demonstrate that you have carefully read and understood the research. Use your own words and avoid paraphrasing and jargon. Before summarizing your first study, present a paragraph to relate Part 1 to Part 2. You should indicate which concepts from Part 1 will be illustrated. Also, point out the key role of instructions in human operant research. A significant way in which human operant research differs from research with nonhuman species is that with human participants instructions are usually included to speed up the conditioning process. Typically, instructions are used to describe the response that will be reinforced. After the response occurs, it produces reinforcement and then the frequency of the response is increased. Instructions may also be used to describe the reinforcers (or punishers) involved and the schedules under which they will be administered (e.g., the complex reinforcement systems used in token economies). You can point out that even though the use of instructions may seem to make human operant research fundamentally different from animal research, the instructions themselves may be conceptualized in basic operant conditioning terms. Instructions can be a type of discriminative stimulus in that they precede the response and signal that if the response is performed it may be reinforced. In this sense, instructions are just a more complex form of the visual and auditory stimuli used as discriminative stimuli in animal research. Referring to an article. When you introduce an article in Part 2, give the authors’ last names and the year of publication, like: “A study by Renee and Creer (1976) used shaping to …” Do not give the authors’ first names, their institutional affiliation, or the title of the article. SUGGESTED READINGS As a general suggestion, you could look through issues of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. This journal specializes in the study of human operant behavior in socially significant settings. In addition to the paper copies available in the library, all issues (except those from the most recent 6 months) are available online for free in pdf format. Links to all of the issues and articles can be found in the following archive: In your summary of each article, highlight the ways in which the researcher used instructions to facilitate conditioning, for example, by describing the response that was required for reinforcement or by describing the possible outcomes of that response. see attachment for articles to read and research.