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Related to operant: Operant learning


1. in physical medicine, improvement of physical health by a program of exercises; called also physical conditioning.
2. in psychology, a form of learning in which a response is elicited by a neutral stimulus which previously had been repeatedly presented in conjunction with the stimulus that originally elicited the response. Called also classical or respondent conditioning.

The concept had its beginnings in experimental techniques for the study of reflexes. The traditional procedure is based on the work of Ivan P. Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. In this technique the experimental subject is a dog that is harnessed in a sound-shielded room. The neutral stimulus is the sound of a metronome or bell which occurs each time the dog is presented with food, and the response is the production of saliva by the dog. Eventually the sound of the bell or metronome produces salivation, even though the stimulus that originally elicited the response (the food) is no longer presented.

In the technique just described, the conditioned stimulus is the sound of the bell or metronome, and the conditioned response is the salivation that occurs when the sound is heard. The food, which was the original stimulus to salivation, is the unconditioned stimulus and the salivation that occurred when food was presented is the unconditioned response.

Reinforcement is said to take place when the conditioned stimulus is appropriately followed by the unconditioned stimulus. If the unconditioned stimulus is withheld during a series of trials, the procedure is called extinction because the frequency of the conditioned response will gradually decrease when the stimulus producing the response is no longer present. The process of extinction eventually results in a return of the preconditioning level of behavior.
aversive conditioning learning in which punishment or other unpleasant stimulation is used to associate negative feelings with an undesirable response.
classical conditioning conditioning (def. 2).
instrumental conditioning (operant conditioning) learning in which a particular response is elicited by a stimulus because that response produces desirable consequences (reward). It differs from classical conditioning in that the reinforcement takes place only after the subject performs a specific act that has been previously designated. If no unconditioned stimulus is used to bring about this act, the desired behavior is known as an operant. Once the behavior occurs with regularity the behavior may be called a conditioned response.

The traditional example of instrumental conditioning uses the Skinner box, named after B. F. Skinner, an American behavioral psychologist. The subject, a rat, is kept in the box and becomes conditioned to press a bar by being rewarded with food pellets each time its early random movements caused it to press against the bar.

The principles and techniques related to instrumental conditioning are used clinically in behavior therapy to help patients eliminate undesirable behavior and substitute for it newly learned behavior that is more appropriate and acceptable.
physical conditioning conditioning (def. 1).
respondent conditioning conditioning (def. 2).
work conditioning a physical exercise program designed to restore specific strength, flexibility, and endurance for return to work following injury, disease, or medically imposed rest; it may be part of a complete work hardening program when other aspects of functional restoration are required.


In conditioning, any behavior or specific response chosen by the experimenter; its frequency is intended to increase or decrease by the judicious pairing with it of a reinforcer when it occurs.
Synonym(s): target behavior (1) , target response


/op·er·ant/ (op´er-ant) in psychology, any response that is not elicited by specific external stimuli but that recurs at a given rate in a particular set of circumstances.


1. Operating to produce effects; effective.
2. Psychology Of, relating to, or being a response that occurs spontaneously and is identified by its reinforcing or inhibiting effects.
1. One that operates.
2. Psychology An element of operant behavior.

op′er·ant·ly adv.


Etymology: L, operare, to work
any act or response occurring without an identifiable stimulus. The result of the act or response determines whether or not it is repeated.


adjective Referring to responses contingent upon, or influenced by, their impact on the environment or a situation, and/or by the success of those responses in achieving a reward or reinforcement.


Psychology adjective Referring to response(s) contingent upon or influenced by their impact on the environment or a situation, and/or by the ability of response(s) to achieve reward or reinforcement


In conditioning, any behavior or specific response chosen by the experimenter; its frequency is intended to increase or decrease by the judicious pairing with it of a reinforcer when it occurs.
Synonym(s): target response.


see instrumental and operant conditioning.

Patient discussion about operant

Q. I am worried how safe the operation would be and the post surgery complications? My wife has a cyst in her right breast and further tests are going on. Doctors have advised to go for an operation. I am worried how safe the operation would be and the post surgery complications?

A. My friend, surgery for the cyst in breast is common. Any cyst in breast indicates breast cancer. These surgeries are very safe. Initially they used to cut the complete breast to remove the cyst. Now with the advanced technology, only the cyst would be removed without harming other tissues. Rather complete removal is done these days, but that depend upon the severity of the cancer. These surgeries are proven with results. If the cyst is less they will remove only the affected portion and yes they do remove some nearby tissues because there some cancer cells may lay and can arrive again. For any post surgery complications, chemotherapy treatment is also available.

Q. Should I do surgery for varicoceles? I went to an urologist and he recommended surgery, but I don’t know if I should do this…is it dangerous? Can I live with the varicocele?

A. I don’t see your problem, you said an urologist advised you to do so- that should be enough no? if you don’t trust him, go and get a second opinion. The surgery is not that bad, an hour later and you are walking out. Vary small risk of complication. I did it and it was fine.

Q. What types of gastric bypass surgeries are there? I heard all sorts of options for gastric bypass are available. What is the most in use?

A. Bariatric surgeries or – gastric bypass surgeries for weight loss fall into three categories: Restrictive procedures make the stomach smaller to limit the amount of food intake, malabsorptive techniques reduce the amount of intestine that comes in contact with food so that the body absorbs fewer calories, and combination operations employ both restriction and malabsorption. The exact one to be done should be decided with the physician according to each patients abilities and pre-operative function level.

More discussions about operant
References in periodicals archive ?
Consequently, understanding how operant and Pavlovian processes contribute together to the genesis, maintenance and change of symbolic processes is a must for a full-fledged behavioral characterization of language.
We cannot forget the contribution of the evolution of software technologies in operant conditioning studies--providing a higher level of flexibility and user-friendliness.
Positive correlations between the percentage of time spent by rats in the central area and the efficiency index during the first 5 and 15-min session of the operant task were found (Figure 1A).
As noted, each verbal operant may have multiple causes.
Variability plays an important role for operant behaviors because the absence of variability would mean a lack of acquisition via shaping, a lack of generalization, and restricted contact with reinforcing contingencies.
The purpose of this article is to present one way that psychology instructors can allow their students to learn and practice important psychological principles while performing socially-beneficial work: by using students in advanced learning courses as operant trainers in animal shelters.
identification in the title reflects the narrator's suspicion that she has been her parents' lab rat for the conditioning program, the prototypical utopian operant.
He claims this inhibits the ``king of the hill'' mentality operant in the minds of the shooters at affluent/white schools - their confidence nobody will shoot back.
4) The core of this new training entailed Pavlovian and operant conditioning.
This paper briefly comments on Delfabbro & Winefield's (1999) paper 'Poker-machine gambling: An analysis of within-session characteristics', published in the British Journal of Psychology, and questions their notion that gambling is maintained by winning and losing sequences within the operant conditioning paradigm (i.
Setting event literature has generally failed to address issues of concern in the measurement and control of the three terms of the operant, including antecedents, behaviors, and consequences.
Rather than articulate a distinctive "Protestant poetics" (which Barbara Lewalski and others have found operant in the genre of Donne's Holy Sonnets), Oliver notes its "lack of a fixed theological viewpoint" (147); Donne turns the sonnet, rather, into "a platform to rehearse different, often mutually hostile, religious positions" (147).