CCJS 461 Project 1

Topics: Reinforcement, Operant conditioning, Behaviorism Pages: 9 (2002 words) Published: July 27, 2015

CCJS 461 7380 Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Operant Conditioning in the Criminal Justice System
July 12, 2015

Psychology plays a very important role in the field of criminal justice. It is needed to help assess individuals who commit crimes, as well as, help to be a predictor of criminal behavior. Utilizing theories such behaviorism and operant conditioning, individual behavior is able to be assessed by the response to learning what actions result in rewards and what actions result in punishment. As a result of how individuals respond to rewards and punishment, learned behaviors have the possibility to be deterred or corrected. Behaviorism

Behaviorism is a very important foundational theory in psychology. This theory of thought was founded by American psychologist John B. Watson. Merriam Webster online dictionary defines Behaviorism as “a school of psychology that takes the objective evidence of behavior (as measured responses to stimuli) as the only concern of its research and the only basis of its theory without reference to conscious experience”( ). Theorists in this category suggest that behaviors are strictly a result of conditioning. Cherry states that conditioning “occurs through interaction with the environment” (p.2). This theory does not take into consideration internal thoughts, reasoning, or responses. Behaviors are strictly managed or are a result of training and external stimuli. This theory does not take into consideration anything person. It believes that all people given the same set of circumstances will have the same response or behaviors. Relying mainly on training, all people start with a clean slate in this theory. Positive and negative reinforcement increase likelihood of behaviors reoccurring. While reinforcements increase the probability of behaviors reoccurring, the opposite is said with punishments. Punishments, either positive or negative, decrease the likelihood of behaviors reoccurring. Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning took a deeper look and concentration into behaviorism. BF Skinner is known as the father of operant conditioning and he believed that in order to understand behaviors it is important to understand the causes of actions and the consequences. McLeod (2015) states that “Skinner set out to identify the processes which made certain operant behaviors more likely to occur” (p.1). Skinner takes into the consideration mental thoughts but recognizes that it is important to understand and study behavior that is observable. The three type of responses or operant’s are neutral operants, re-inforcers, and punishers. Each of these operants play an important part operant conditioning. During operant learning, behaviors are associated with consequences associated to behaviors. Individuals learn what behaviors to adopt or avoid in order to receive awards or not to receive punishment. Individuals who respond to positive reinforcement have behaviors that strengthened by providing a consequence that is found to be rewarding. This can include an increase in pay or bonus for doing a good job. Negative reinforcement occurs when an unpleasant action is removed and behaviors are strengthened. Individuals change their behaviors in order to have a negative action not occur to them. An example of a negative reinforcement is paying a company like weight watchers for when you gain weight, when the goal is to lose weight. Punishment is another area that affects learning and changes behaviors. The goal of punishment is weaken or decrease the likelihood of undesirable behaviors occurring. McLeod (2015) states that “like reinforcement, punishment can work either by directly applying an unpleasant stimulus” (p.3). Individuals are discouraged from doing negative behaviors when they receive a consequence for doing a behavior that is not appropriate. It is interesting to consider that while...

References: Cherry, Kendra (n.d.). Behaviorism. Retrieved July 10, 2015 from
DeMar, G. (1989, April 1). Behaviorism. ForeRunner retrieved from
McLeod, S. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from
Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved on July 10, 2015 from
Ross, R. & McKay, B (1980). Behavioral Approaches to Treatment in Corrections – Requiem for a Panacea. Retrieved from
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