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Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories

3. Operant Conditioning

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In this lecture, we think about operant conditioning, focusing in particular on: (i) a more complicated version of that real world scenario from module two, which could not be easily explained by classical conditioning; (ii) the ‘Skinner Box’ as a method of demonstrating operant conditioning in action; (iii) changes in interval or ratio factors regarding the ‘pay out’ within the Skinner box, which can impact how a rat behaves towards the lever; (iv) extinction, which is the process by which an associated behaviour is unlearned through a lack of continued expected outcomes; (v) the process of negative reinforcement, whereby a behaviour is reinforced by it resulting in a removal of negativity; (vi) some practical applications of operant conditioning in education, including gamification and token economies.


In this course, Dr Cathal O’Siochru (Liverpool Hope University) explores behaviourist learning theories in the context of growth and development. In the first lecture, we think about what learning and development is and how it relates to behaviourism. In the second lecture, we think about classical conditioning as the original behaviourist theory. In the third lecture, we think about operant conditioning, which was the focus of much of B. F. Skinner’s research. Next, we think about learning through observation, with a specific note toward Bandura’s ‘bobo doll experiments’ in the 1960’s. In the fifth and final lecture, we think about self-efficacy and the role it plays in all forms of behavioural reproduction.


Dr Cathal O’Siochru is a senior lecturer in education studies at Liverpool Hope University and has a background in psychology, research methods and education. Dr O’Siochru’s research interests include the psychology of education, epistemological and pedagogical beliefs, and assessment practices. Some of Dr O’Siochru’s recent publications include 'Action learning: how can it contribute to a collaborative process of pedagogical action research?' (2020) and 'Academic perspectives of metrics: Procedural justice as a key factor in evaluations of fairness' (2019).

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O'Siochru, C. (2022, April 20). Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories - Operant Conditioning [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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O'Siochru, C. "Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories – Operant Conditioning." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 20 Apr 2022,

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