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Life Span-Emotional Development

LifeSpan-Emotional Development


Theorist Information and Year

The theory of operant conditioning was propounded by B.F. Skinner in 1938 when he published a book called the Behavior of Organisms (Staddon &amp Cerutti, 2003).

The behavior theory was propounded by John B. Watson in 1913 when he published an article called &quotPsychology as the Behaviorist Views It.&quot

Theory Overview

The operant conditioning theory is concerned with intentional actions (operants) which affect individuals’ immediate environment. According to Skinner, behavior can be best comprehended by focusing on their causes and impacts (Staddon &amp Cerutti, 2003). This is why Skinner suggested that the likelihood of the occurrence of behavior is determined by the kind of reinforcement.

Watson is credited as the father of behaviorism because of the contributions he made to this theory. According to the theory of behaviorism, human behaviors are only acquired as a result of the reactions to the stimuli. Watson held the view that classical conditioning can be used in training individuals to acquire the desired behaviors (Hergenhahn, 2005). Therefore, the best way to predict to person’s behavior is to observe the responses to the elicited stimuli.

Aspect of Lifespan Development (Module Focus)

The theory focuses on behavior development. It looks at behavior as a result of what happens in an individual’s surrounding. The type of behavior adopted by an individual is only determined by what is acquired from the environment as a response to the expected reinforcement (Cole, 1990). This justifies why the neutral, positive and negative reinforcements affect people’s behaviors in different ways.

In his theory, Watson rejected internal mental processes because they are irrelevant and subjective. This is why the theory of behaviorism is only concerned with behavior development. It is purely based on what is observed from an individual (Hergenhahn, 2005). All behaviors are learnt as a result of conditioning and interaction from the immediate surroundings in which one lives.

Theory Components (List)

The following are the components of the operant theory:

  • Use of reinforcement

  • Intentional actions

  • Law of effect

The following are the components of the operant theory:

  • Response to stimuli

  • Conditioning

Process (Expansion of Theory Components)

Use of reinforcement: The likelihood of the occurrence of an individual’s behavior is determined by the kind of reinforcement expected.

Internal Actions: The behavior of an individual is controlled by operant actions experienced.

Law of Effect: An individual behaves in a manner likely to suit the desired outcome. If a bad outcome is expected, the behavior is discouraged from recurring.

Response to Stimuli: A person behaves in response to the changes in the immediate surroundings.

Conditioning: Behavior is acquired as a result of a continued interaction with one’s environment. This is way children tend to behave like the parents because they observe their behaviors.

Application to Learning/Education

The theory of operant conditioning is important in the teaching and learning process. It can enable the teacher to identify the most appropriate reinforcement to use to help learners to acquire appropriate behaviors (Cole, 1990).

This theory is relevant in a teaching and learning environment. It can help the learners to observe the environment, identify the changes and appropriately respond to them.

Application to Educator Role

The theory is important to me as a future high school counselor. If properly utilized, it will enable me to understand the diverse needs of each of my learners and identify the best ways of imparting knowledge to them.

The theory will enable me to know how students respond to the provided stimuli. Therefore, I will do my best to train them and make them acquire the desired behaviors.

Theory: Mechanisms of Change

For an individual to develop according to this theory the change agent is training. What needs to change is training and monitoring of the learning process. The learners need to be closely monitored and trained using the most appropriate reinforcements.

For this theory to be applied, an individual needs to be given time to interact with the immediate surrounding and acquire the right behaviors. Conditioning is successful in a good environment.

Self-Study: Personal Mechanisms of Change

I managed to develop according to this theory because of the training I got from my parents, older siblings and teachers who helped me to acquire the desired traits.

I managed to successfully develop according to this theory because I had an ample opportunity to interact with my environment to acquire the desired behaviors.

Self-Study: Reflection of Reaction to Theory

What in you development confirms this?

The theory applies to me because it enables me to predict my behaviors. So far, it has helped me to adopt the most desirable behaviors.

The theory has helped me to behave in an acceptable manner. This is why I have succeeded in whatever I do in school and at home.

Self-Study: Application to Specific Part of the Lifespan

This theory mainly impacted on me during my childhood, when I was being trained by my parents.

The theory greatly influenced the development of my behavior during my teenage years when I was observing my environment.

Self-Study: Factors that Affect Normal Development (List &amp Justify)

Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement encourages behavior to be repeated.

Environment: Interaction with environment influences one’s behavior.

Stimuli: People behave in response to the stimuli.

Observation: Behavior learnt through observing what other people do can facilitate learning (Crain, 2010).

Self-Study: Where Am I Now?

The theory has helped me to be who I am today because it taught me a lot of things. I have been a successful high school teacher and coach because of this theory.

I have managed to become what I am today because of this theory because it tamed my behaviors. The theory has played a significant role in my success as a coach and teacher.

Self-Study: Where Am I Going?

I would like to use the theory to understand the behavior of my learners and teach them well. I need to apply the theory when I become a counselor.

The theory will help me to succeed as a high school counselor because I will know how to handle all my students. The theory will help me to be a good counselor.


Cole, M.R. (1990).&quotOperant hoarding: A new paradigm for the study of self-control&quot. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. 53: 247–262.

Crain, W. (2010). Theories of development: Concepts and applications (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hergenhahn, B. R. (2005). An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

Staddon, J. E. R. &amp Cerutti, D. T. (2003). “Operant behavior.”Annual Review of Psychology, 54:115-14 2.