Assignment: Operant Conditioning Change

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Assignment: Operant Conditioning Change

Assignment: Operant Conditioning Change

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Assignment: Operant Conditioning Change
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Psychologists like B. F. Skinner have studied how we can use operant conditioning to change the behavior of people and animals. Drawing on your personal experience, choose a person or animal whose behavior you want to change. (You may select your own behavior for this question if you wish.) How could you use operant conditioning to change the behavior of this person or animal?

In a multi-paragraph essay, describe your plan to change this behavior. Be sure to mention what type of reinforcer and reinforcement schedule you would use and explain why you made those particular choices. Include information from class materials, readings, and research on operant conditioning to support your discussion.  300 words

Many organizations have undertaken a wide variety of OD efforts, from large corporations to schools, communities, and local, state, and federal governments, as well as increasingly international efforts (Cummings and Worley, 1993; French and Bell, 1990). Although numerous reasons have been put forth for OD’s widespread popularity, no data are available to empirically address this question. Based on the author’s experience, two aspects of OD seem to facilitate entry into organizations and acceptance of its interventions: (1) compatibility among the verbal communities of OD and business/administrative clientele (OD practitioners often receive their training in business schools), and (2) client participation and involvement inherent in the action research approach.

Action research underlies most organization development activities (French and Bell, 1990, p. 98) and essentially involves data collection, feedback of the data to clients, and action planning based on the data (Lewin, 1946). The key element in action research is participation by the client in all phases of the process. Participative management and team building can be important in implementing interventions (Fawcett, 1991) and may reduce countercontrol attempts and resistance to change by Organizational members (Miller, 1991; Redmon, 1992).

Perspectives on Social Validity

Participation and involvement by clients relates directly to the notion of social validity (Schwartz and Baer, 1991; Wolf, 1978). Social validation assessments are aimed at evaluating the acceptability or viability of an intervention. Such assessments are usually accomplished by asking consumers to complete a satisfaction questionnaire in order for the program planners or experimenters to be able to anticipate rejection of the program and take steps to prevent or ameliorate problem areas. Surprisingly few interventions reported in the OBM literature address or include social validation processes (Balcazar et al., 1989).

As we have noted with the action research paradigm employed in OD interventions, choices can be made interactively with clients. The concept of collaboration has served the OD community well in involving clients as partners and owners of the process of research and action. Community psychology, a close companion of OD, has a long tradition of client-researcher collaboration (Kelly, 1986), and calls have been registered for establishing this collaborative process as a value for future applications of behavior analysis in communities (Fawcett, 1991, pp. 622-624). A similar approach is suggested by Mawhinney (1989, p. 190) wherein operant measures of job satisfaction are routinely employed as dependent variables in OBM interventions.


Both commonalities and differences among OBM and OD approaches to organizational change have been noted, along with suggestions whereby each field may learn from examining the other’s history. We now examine some issues that require consideration in order to enhance the likelihood of behavior change by practitioners in both fields.

Humble Behaviorism Issues

Neuringer (1991) outlined a concept he named “humble behaviorism,” wherein he called upon behavior analysts to be more tentative in their methodological and theoretical positions, to consider alternatives, and to realize that all knowledge is subject to change. Chase (1991) suggested in response to Neuringer’s humble behaviorist position, “An I’m right/ You’re wrong perspective is disheartening, damaging to the image of behavior analysis held by other scientists, and probably as responsible for the misinterpretations of behavior analysis as any single variable” (p. 15). This call for greater acceptance of diversity by behavior analysts constitutes a critical issue both for evaluating the feasibility of interaction among OD and OBM and for gaining widespread acceptance of OBM.

The issue is not so simple as greater tolerance by behavior analysts, nor does Neuringer imply that it is. As McDowell (1991) suggests, there may be fundamental, and perhaps irreconcilable differences between behavior analysis and other competing behavioral science approaches. The difference that McDowell emphasized was ontological: behavior analysis and other behavioral sciences disagree about what constitutes reality. Behavior analysts advocate a materialist ontology, i.e., the world consists of material objects and events, while other approaches, such as OD, include nonmaterial phenomena, as well as spiritual underpinnings.

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