13 Examples Of Operant Conditioning in Everyday Life


Have you ever wondered, how did you learn to behave in a specific situation either to act good or bad? Of course, our parents and teachers have a great hand behind our behavioral aspects. But what are the tools that derive the behavior in our life?

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Psychologist B.F. Skinner has defined Learning behavior through a called an operant conditioning theory. According to him, “The behavior of an individual is influenced by the consequences. It is the form of conditioning which explains the relationship between behavior and their consequences or rewards (Reinforcements and Punishments)”.

Two principal terms influence operant conditioning:

a. Reinforcements (Positive or Negative): Increase the rate of behavior.

b. Punishments ( Positive or Negative): Decrease the rate of behavior.

Major parts of operant conditioning

Now, let’s understand how operant conditioning operates our daily life activities:

Examples of Positive Reinforcement

In Positive reinforcement, one gets rewarded for a certain kind of behavior; with this, the probability of continuing good behavior increases. Let’s have some relevant examples of positive reinforcement:

1. Homework Completion

Completing homework operant conditioning

A student tends to complete his/her homework daily; because he/she knows that he/she will be rewarded with a candy (action) or praise (behavior).

2. Cleaning Room

Cleaning room operant conditioning

A child may learn to clean his/her room regularly; because he/she will be rewarded with extra TV hours every time he/she cleans up.

3. Incentives and Bonuses

Incentives and bonus operant conditioning

Workers are often offered with the incentives and bonus in return of completing their targets in time or for regular attendance. It makes the workers to perform better, so that, they can continuously get those incentives and bonus.

4. Discounts and Benefits

discount and benefits operant conditioning

Sales Person often give Discounts and prizes to their customer in return for their assurance to shop with them again in the future. Similarly, most of the gyms also offer certain discounts to their customers, if they work out a certain number of times and use their diet products.

Examples of Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement tends to take away something unpleasant, which is acceptable and helps in strengthening the behavior. Let’s have some relevant examples for Negative reinforcements:

5. Following Rules

Following rules operant conditioning

Students or children will follow rules strictly to avoid being nagged by the teachers or parents. So, to avoid nagging, the child might end up following the rules strictly. Similarly, army personnel also have to follow the strict routine to avoid disciplinary actions against them; it shapes them into a disciplined individual.

6. Class Presentation

Class presentation operant conditioning


Class presentations are daily parts of student life. If a student is praised or complimented, he/she will be encouraged to do well, but if the student is laughed on or criticized in front of everyone, the presentation will be nothing more than just a formality in future.

7.  Avoiding Tantrums

Temper Tantrums operant conditioning

A  child throws a tantrum because he/she didn’t get the candy bar. So, his/her father gets him one. He/She then stops the tantrum i.e. something unpleasant is avoided, and his/her father’s behavior of getting candy will increase.

8. Unpleasant Noise

Unpleasant sounds -operant conditioning

A man turns on the TV sound to prevent the irritating sounds coming from outside of his house, maybe of vehicle’s honking or from an under-construction area. Turning on the TV or increasing the volume might decrease that unpleasant sound.

Examples of Positive Punishments

Positive Punishments is presenting something unpleasant after the behavior. It tends to decrease that behavior of the individual. Let’s have some relevant examples of positive punishment:

9. Insult/Shout

Insult and shout on a teacher

A student who always comes late to the class gets insulted every time in front of everyone from the teacher. To prevent the insult or shouting from the teacher, he/she may avoid coming late to the class.

10. Ignorance

Fighting in class operant conditioning

After hitting a classmate, a student is made to sit alone in the class, and no one is allowed to talk to him or sit with him. It may ensure that the child will never hit his classmates again in the future.

11. Neglecting Studies or Failing

Neglecting studies operant condition

A student who ignores his/her studies or regularly gets failed in his/her exams and does not care towards his/her studies is often scolded by his/her parents and teachers. Sometimes, his allowances (pocket money) may also be reduced or completely cut off, the student though reluctantly, may be forced to focus on his/her studies to avoid the failures again.

Examples of Negative Punishment

Negative Punishment is removing something pleasant after the behavior. It also tends to decrease that behavior.

12.  Criticism

Criticism in office operant conditioning

An employee getting criticized in front of the whole office by his boss and having certain privileges taken away as a consequence to his bad behavior at work may motivate him to stay in line and be more sincere.

13. Fine and legal issues

Rules operant conditioning

For instance, a driver is fined to some amount, and his driving license is ceased for not following the traffic rules. Here, money and license are removed as his pleasant affair.


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