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MCAT Psychology – Experiment Design

  • by Kerry Goldstein
  • Feb 27, 2015
  • MCAT Blog, MCAT Psychology, MCAT Question of the Day

A psychologist conducts an experiment in which a dog is trained to roll over. The dog has a small device strapped to its back. Rolling over depresses a button on the device. If the dog rolls over in time, the button is pressed and the device does not shock the dog. This form of conditioning would best be described as using:

A) negative reinforcement through escape
B) negative punishment
C) negative reinforcement through avoidance
D) positive reinforcement

Explanation

A) negative reinforcement through escape
B) negative punishment
C) negative reinforcement through avoidance
D) positive reinforcement

Here the MCAT is testing your knowledge of operant conditioning. When a subject is presented with the removal of a negative stimulus, the subject is experiencing negative reinforcement. Remember reinforcement is used to encourage or increase a behavior. Here, the researcher is reinforcing the behavior of rolling over. This is negative reinforcement because the rolling over behavior is being reinforced through the removal of a negative stimulus. Because the dog is avoiding the shock entirely, choice (C) is the correct answer.

A: Escape requires that the subject actually experience the noxious stimulus and the correct behavior then removes the noxious stimulus. For example, the dog would receive a mild shock and the shock would stop upon rolling over.

B: Punishment is used to stop a behavior. Here we are trying to encourage the behavior of rolling over.

D: Positive reinforcement is providing a positive stimulus to encourage a behavior. Here, the dog is not receiving any positive stimulus: instead it is merely avoiding a negative one.

 

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