instrumental conditioning

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Related to instrumental conditioning: Respondent conditioning

Instrumental conditioning

Learning based upon the consequences of behavior. For example, a rat may learn to press a lever when this action produces food. Instrumental or operant behavior is the behavior by which an organism changes its environment. The particular instances of behavior that produce consequences are called responses. Classes of responses having characteristic consequences are called operant classes; responses in an operant class operate on (act upon) the environment. For example, a rat's lever-press responses may include pressing with the left paw or with the right paw, sitting on the lever, or other activities, but all of these taken together constitute the operant class called lever pressing.

Consequences of responding that produce increases in behavior are called reinforcers. For example, if an animal has not eaten recently, food is likely to reinforce many of its responses. Whether a particular event will reinforce a response or not depends on the relation between the response and the behavior for which its consequences provide an opportunity. Some consequences of responding called punishers produce decreases in behavior. The properties of punishment are similar to those of reinforcement, except for the difference in direction.

The consequences of its behavior are perhaps the most important properties of the world about which an organism can learn, but few consequences are independent of other circumstances. Organisms learn that their responses have one consequence in one setting and different consequences in another. Stimuli that set the occasion on which responses have different consequences are called discriminative stimuli (these stimuli do not elicit responses; their functions are different from those that are simply followed by other stimuli). When organisms learn that responses have consequences in the presence of one but not another stimulus, their responses are said to be under stimulus control. For example, if a rat's lever presses produce food when a light is on but not when it is off and the rat comes to press only when the light is on, the rat's presses are said to be under the stimulus control of the light. See Conditioned reflex

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

instrumental conditioning

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000

instrumental conditioning

[‚in·strə′ment·əl kən′dish·ə·niŋ]
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Instrumental conditioning. In: Mackintosh, N.J., Ed.
Blockade of NMDA receptors in the dorsomedial striatum prevents action-outcome learning in instrumental conditioning. European Journal of Neuroscience 22:505-512, 2005x.
Inactivation of dorsolateral striatum enhances sensitivity to changes in the action-outcome contingency in instrumental conditioning. Behavioural Brain Research 166:189-196, 2006.
A central question addressed in several of the papers is whether spatial learning differs in kind from the learning that occurs in experiments on classical and instrumental conditioning. These are surely specialised mechanisms deployed in spatial navigation, such as the use of the sun as a compass, but spatial and non-spatial learning may also share many features in common, and several papers examine the extent to which this is or is not true, while others focus on the brain mechanisms underlying spatial learning and navigation in both birds and mammals.

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