Humans, just like animals behave differently when placed in different scenarios and in most occasions, it has something to do with past experiences. Perhaps that’s how theorists came up with classical conditioning and operant conditioning among other propositions. In a bid to unravel the extent to which these theories apply to human beings, I set out an investigation through observing the behaviors of hungry children in a fast food restaurant. This paper seeks to explain why the hungry children behaved or misbehaved the way they did in the restaurant and how their behavior relates to theories to classical conditioning and operant conditioning theories.
It’s easy to argue that you can never miss people in a fast food restaurant. I chose to visit the nearest fast food restaurant with a pen and notebook so that I could observe the behaviors of the children who walked into the restaurant with their parents. I ordered my meal and sat down in a strategic position where I could almost see everyone enter the joint and sit down to eat. The clown by the entrance was conspicuous, dressed in bright colors including yellow pants, a red shirt with white stripes and a green jacket. His shoes were mismatched in colors; one was red with green laces, and the other was yellow with red laces. His face was smeared with paint and his nose painted red. He had a peculiar black hat and a bell at hand that he rang almost every other minute to draw the attention of customers and attract them to the joint. I had done some research before going to this joint. The conspicuous primary colors can easily be seen especially by children. One child passing by was so attracted to the clown that she suddenly stopped. Then she started pulling her mother to enter the restaurant and buy her a burger. I discovered this was an event of classical conditioning since the kid had most likely eaten at the joint before and the clown with the bell reminded her of the time she had a burger at the place. Classical conditioning (also known as respondent conditioning) is a learning process in which biologically potent stimulus like food is paired with a previously neutral stimulus like a bell (Clark 77-81).
Soon afterward, a young mother walked in with a young boy who looked grumpy. As the two sat to wait for food, the boy became more irritable. I figured out the boy was misbehaving because he was hungry thus his basic needs were not met. The boy could not take instructions from his mum to stay quiet and behave. Instead, he started acting up and threw a tantrum as he cried. The kid also seemed like he wanted to eat something else that was not on the menu when the food came. Children respond with anger and misbehavior when they don’t get what they want. They also respond similarly when their basic needs are not met (Kristensen, p. 1)
A few minutes later, another family entered the restaurant. This time it was not the kid leading the way but the parents. Her parents held her by her arms. She humbly waited for her parents to pick a place they would sit before following their lead. She asked her mum if she could have water before their order came to which her mum agreed to. She also waited for her dad to signal her so she could order whatever she wanted. I discovered this was a perfect case of operant conditioning. The young compliant girl had learnt which behaviors work best through reinforcement or perhaps punishment. Children are believed to behave or misbehave by watching others. In this case, the kid learned what is right by watching her parents. That is why parents are encouraged to set good examples to their children and show them what behaviors are acceptable including praising appropriate behavior (Kristensen, p. 3).
Clark, R. E. "Classical Conditioning And Brain Systems: The Role Of Awareness." Science 280.5360 (1998): 77-81. Web. 18 Apr. 2018.
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