Through B.F Skinner's studies, we are able to understand how to use operant conditioning to alter the behavior of both animals and humans. This understanding is not limited to psychologists in laboratories and can be used in daily life. In today's essay, I will be demonstrating how to use operant conditioning on my older sister in order to make her help clean our shared room.
As my sister and I have grown older, we have become busy with both work and school. Due to this, our room often gets messy with strewn out clothes and dirty dishes. Though I admit that I dirty the room as well, it seems as if every time the room is clean my sister finds a way to cause chaos by the next day. This has become more evident as I travel on the weekends and come back to a once clean room back to a disaster. With that said, through operant conditioning, I would like to alter my sister's behavior to keep our shared room clean as long as possible.
To start the change of my sister's behavior, I should set a time during the weekend in which both of us are free and able to clean our room. Setting a schedule of when to clean is an important aspect of operant conditioning in order to reinforce a specific behavior. In this case, when it is time to start cleaning, my sister and I will get up right away and take the time to clean our room. According to verywellmind.com, creating a schedule is the most effective way to teach a new behavior because will help reinforce the idea. By setting up a specific time we will start cleaning, it will help create a continuous behavior that will benefit both of us. This is also beneficial for both of us as we are both full-time students and part-time workers. This schedule will not only help us keep our room clean but also relieve the stress we get from walking into a messy room. In this situation, I will be using a fixed-interval schedule due to the fact that we do not get a lot of free time in general. If my sister is able to accomplish the tasks given to her by a certain time, she will be rewarded. If she is unable to, she will not be rewarded but the next time we have to clean, she will feel motivated to finish her tasks quickly in order to get rewarded.
Additionally, another way to alter the behavior of my sister is to encourage her to clean up the room with positive reinforcement. My sister usually has a bad attitude when I ask her to clean the room. However, having a fixed-interval schedule will cause my sister to want to clean up the room due to the reward at the end. Something that my sister enjoys a lot is food. After our scheduled cleaning time, I will thank her for cleaning up the room and ask if she would like food from my work. Since my sister continuously asks me to bring her food from my workplace, offering to give her food after cleaning will make her enjoy cleaning a bit However, as stated before, if she does not want to clean her share of the room or does not fully accomplish the goal, I will not offer her food and praise her until she finishes her tasks. As said in the book, "One of the important principles of operant conditioning is that consequences are required in order for learning to occur" (Chapter 8-4d).
In conclusion, I will be able to change my sister's behavior by setting up a schedule that reinforces her to clean our room at a certain time and by also giving positive reinforcement that makes her want to continue to keep our room tidy. The use of operant conditioning is a powerful tool that can help change a behavior greatly and when I slowly stop giving my sister praises and rewards, she will learn how to clean without even needing them.