6 Major Significance of Operant Conditioning In Our Daily Life
(ii) Another significance of operant conditioning is that the appropriate behaviour as desired can be shaped. A large part of our behaviour is due to shaping of our attitudes, values, customs and beliefs by others. Even our language is due to this shaping. The method of shaping has been used in humans as well as in animals. Among animals, it has been used to teach chickens to ‘play’ a toy piano, to teach basket-ball to rabbits and to play ping- pong to pigeons.
(iii) Instrumental or operant conditioning is also applied in some forms of behaviour therapy or behaviour modification. It is used to extinguish maladaptive behaviour and establish socially adaptive behaviour. It has also been used to help people change their bad habits of smoking, excessive eating, drinking of alcohol, drugs etc. It can be used to make a person achieve greater self-control.
(iv) Operant conditioning is important in the area of education. It is used for devising educational programmes like programmed instruction and personalised system of instruction. In programmed learning, the final complex task is broken into small steps. Reinforcement is made contingent upon the performance of each step and the learner makes responses at his or her own pace.
Personalised system of instruction (PSI) is another educational application of instrumental, or operant conditioning principles. Many forms of PSI exist, but an essential idea is that the material in the course is divided into small units, each of which must be mastered to a high level of proficiency before the next unit is attempted.
For instance, students might be required to pass an examination at the end of each unit with a score of 90 per cent or better. If they do not, they must study the material again until they can pass at this level. Students set their own pace because they can take the examination of a unit whenever they feel ready.
Being allowed to go on to the next unit of material after the mastery of the previous one serves as positive reinforcement in this system. In addition, students who have mastered a certain number of units are sometimes given the opportunity to participate in special activities, such as field trips. This can be positively reinforcing.
(v) In business operations, applications of reinforcement principles can often increase employee-productivity and company profits. The use of contingent positive reinforcement in the form of praise by the supervisors can mould the behaviour of employees so that they become more effective on their jobs. They make more sales calls, fill in orders more quickly and accurately, use the right packing materials, or whatever else they do in their jobs that can be measured and positively reinforced.
(vi) In recent years, operant conditioning techniques have been applied to control visceral responses like intestinal contractions, heartbeat, dilation of blood vessels, etc. This can be helpful in treating people with high blood pressure.
Thus, from the above discussion we see that operant conditioning has immense possibilities of changing the behaviour and quality of our life.