Evaluate operant conditioning (3) Answer

 If you were in an essay balance of strengths and weaknesses is more important but as this question was point marked it didn’t matter whether you put in only strengths or only weaknesses although a variety is good practice.

There was some good application to drug addiction, a sensible choice given that we went through it at length 😉 If using a study to support the theory be specific about the behaviour that is being learnt and specific about how this happens, e.g. what were the rewards, punishments; there was some very limited knowledge of Skinner’s rats, Thorndike’s puzzlebox, ,might be better to use the pigeons study which is described in more detail in the textbook or Vaughn’s cows.
Some evidence of sound revision, e.g. knowledge of studies about substance abuse, also some pupils did know some decetn terminology about Thorndike, e.g. law of effect, stamped in, trial and error learning. Where there was knowledge of studies this was not always phrased using the sandwich model to properly top and tail the point and make it relate to operant conditioning.
There were some well elaborated comments about the fact that much of research is on animals and the consequent problems with this. Examples were very vague where an attempt had been made to create an application to society, e.g. lack of revision? Could you have brought in token economy for example?
Good application to the maintenance of phobias. If you use a study to support the theory but then give a methodological criticism of that study to gain more credit, you will only be guaranteed a mark by inking back to the theory, e.g. if there are problems with the study the evidence for op cond is weakened.
Well done for reading question carefully and including the applications as well as other types of evaluation point as well. Some confusion of material relating to classical conditioning and/or social learning theory (e.g. vicarious learning) instead of operant conditioning
When using an alternative theory to try and evaluate a theory you must do more than just say there is another theory, this is not a strength or weakness , you have not judged the current theory in nay way but saying there is another theory that looks at x instead of y. You need to make a comparison whereby you state which theory is better and why and frame this as a S or W of op cond.
Be careful of bold statements that we can’t extrapolate from animals to humans, we can and do all the time in psychology, you need to couch your criticism more tentatively.
One strength of operant conditioning theory is it has many applications to society such as the use of token economies with people with mental health problems; desired behaviours such as making eye contact are rewarded using secondary reinforcers (tokens) which can be saved up and exchanged for primary reinforcers (e.g. treats like an outing or a special dinner) with the effect of increasing eye contact and therefore helping modify social behaviour for the client.
Furthermore, operant conditioning can explain the maintenance of phobias for example a person’s anxiety is reduced by avoiding the feared object meaning that avoidant behaviour is stamped in and becomes more likely due to negative reinforcement.
Finally, operant conditioning is supported studies such as Vaughn et al where cows were taught to urinate in the correct part of their enclosures through rewards showing that the consequences of a behaviour are important in determining whether that behaviour becomes more or less likely. CHECK THIS IN BOOK

There lots of ways this question could be answered and here are some other themes that could have been included:

  • Evidence: Skinners studies with pigeons, more info in the book on this than there is regarding the rat experiments, but why not use Vaughn as ther is actual data in the book on this study re OC and CC.
  • Applications:. token economy for behaviour modification, training cows on farm, training guide dogs or other animals in behaviour shaping, substance abuse
  • Comparing with other theories: classical conditioning e.g. learning completely new behaviours can’t be explained by CC or social learning theory, which demonstrates that behaviours do not need to be directly rewarded or punished in order to be learnt.