Operant conditioning examples from recent comic strips

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Good cartoonists are excellent observers of people, and that’s why cartoons can be a tremendous resource for teaching psychology. Use these cartoons by visiting their websites as copying/pasting into your slide deck or your learning management system is most likely a violation of copyright.

Use these to freshen your operant conditioning examples, or use these as a basis for discussion or as a stand-alone assignment.

Edge City, May 3, 2021. We see both Colin’s behavior and his father’s behavior. What behavior has likely been positively reinforced? And what behavior has likely been negatively reinforced? Explain.

Deflocked, March 26, 2021. We know both the sheep’s behavior and the sheep’s mother’s behavior. Which behavior has been positively reinforced? And which behavior has been negatively reinforced? Explain.

Bleeker: The Rechargeable Dog, March 11, 2021. The real dog has learned to turn off the robot vacuum. Has the “turning off” behavior been positively or negatively reinforced? Explain.

Stone Soup Classics, February 9, 2021. Max has learned a new word. When he yells this word, he gets a reaction that will likely increase the chances of him saying it again. Has his saying the word been positively or negatively reinforced? Explain.

Nest Heads, December, 2020. We know both Taylor’s behavior and her grandfather’s behavior. What behavior has likely been positively reinforced? And what behavior has likely been negatively reinforced? Explain.

And now for the hard one.

Drabble, February 23, 2021. In operant conditioning, a discriminative stimulus is a signal that a specific behavior is likely to be reinforced. What is the discriminative stimulus in this strip? What behavior has this discriminative stimulus signaled will be reinforced?

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.