Operant Conditioning

Speaking in front of a crowd can be an overwhelming experience, especially for an eighteen year old fresh from high school. After my high school, I was engaged as a volunteer in an NGO organization and was appointed to present a pitch to a group of donors. My supervisor noted how anxious I was as I kept moving up and down at the backstage. One of my colleagues volunteer, gave a small trick of calming my nerves. This involved breathing in and out slowly and concentrating on the rhythm, more like some yoga move. I took the advice and gave the best presentation I had ever imagined. This won me funding of $50,000 towards my college education. From this, I adapted a method of calming myself before a meeting, presentation, or a pitch event and I have succeeded in negotiations and meetings that I, initially, thought was difficult to achieve.

From my experience described above, the breathing rhythm was the learned behavior I learnt through experience and associated it with calming myself and succeeding in making presentations. This was an example of operant conditioning (Staddon, & Cerutti, 2003).  The main influencer for this behavior was the reward that came with it after I first attempted it. The winning of $50,000 college sponsorship was a reward that made me like this behavior. This can be said to be the positive reinforcement which helps as a pleasant stimulus.

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While ending this behavior may be a tough task, it can be achieved through methods such as extinction, replacement behavior, or abstinence reinforcement. Extinction would require ignoring or redirecting behavior. On the other hand, replacement behavior requires engaging in a different behavior in a situation where one would have used the behavior to be changed. Abstinence of reinforcement implies breaking the chain that associates the behavior with the achievement (Bouton, 2014).


Bouton, M. E. (2014). Why Behavior Change is Difficult to Sustain. Preventive Medicine0, 29–36.

Staddon, J. E. R., & Cerutti, D. T. (2003). Operant Conditioning. Annual Review of Psychology54, 115–144. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145124

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