A Quick Explanation Using Appropriate Terminology on the Difference Between Operant and Respondent Based Techniques For Changing Behavior.
By Niki Tudge
The techniques used for changing behavior are either operant conditioning techniques or respondent conditioning techniques. Respondent conditioning techniques are used for addressing conditioned emotional responses for example behaviors such as fear, panic or anxiety that are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Operant conditioning techniques are used for changing operants which are behaviors that are controlled by their consequences.
Respondent conditioning techniques for changing behavior focus on the antecedents, the stimuli, setting events and motivating operations that contribute to or elicit the problematic conditioned emotional responses and the operants they motivate
Respondent conditioning techniques and procedures used for changing behavior are a combination of, a) In vivo systematic desensitization where the animal is systematically and gradually exposed to the problem stimulus while maintaining the animal below the conditioned emotional response threshold, b) counter conditioning a type of exposure therapy where the problematic conditioned emotional response is replaced with a more desirable or appropriate response and c) attention exercises that promote relaxation by redirecting the animal’s focus (O’ Heare 2009).
In contrast to respondent conditioning, operant conditioning behavior change techniques change the operants by controlling the postcedents and affecting those that have an effect on the behavior, i.e. the consequences. Operant conditioning takes place when a response in a given situation is reliably reinforced; there is a contingency between the response and the reinforcer. Shaping behaviors and differential reinforcement are operant techniques for changing behavior that focus on developing appropriate target behaviors, referred to as the constructional approach. The application of positive reinforcement, negative punishment, negative reinforcement and positive punishment are all procedures that can be used to affect and change behavior with or without extinction trials. The least aversive and invasive operant conditioning behavior change techniques, shaping and differential reinforcement, also positively affect respondent behaviors (Miltenberger 2004).
O’Heare, J. (2008) Behavior Change Programming and Procedures 2009, CASI,
Miltenberger (2004) Behavior Modification Principles and Procedures Third Edition, Thompson. USA