Write a 2–3 page paper in which you explain how you would apply behavioral learning principles to create a plan designed to help someone (perhaps yourself) successfully reach a specific goal. Learning plans are often requested of a psychologist, to help someone learn new behaviors. For this assessment, you will be applying the behavioral principles in operant conditioning to a real-world scenario, to help yourself or someone else to achieve a goal.By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 1: Apply foundational theories in psychology to current issues in the field of psychology.
    • Explain how operant conditioning principles are relevant to changing behavior.
  • Competency 2: Describe scientific research methods presented in scholarly psychology literature.
    • Describe scholarly research on how operant conditioning can be used to change behavior.
  • Competency 3: Apply research findings from scholarly literature to current issues in the field of psychology.
    • Apply operant conditioning principles to shaping and reinforcing specific behaviors.
  • Competency 5: Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and consistent with expectations for professionals in the field of psychology.
    • Write coherently to support a central idea with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics, as expected of a psychology professional.
    • Use current APA format and style.

Behavioral Learning Principles

Human beings are remarkably resilient and adaptable because of our great capacity for learning in numerous ways.



If you know that you will get a large bonus from your boss if you accomplish some very specific goals, how hard will you work to achieve those goals? How do you feel when you are being punished? Does it really change the behavior, or does it just make you better at avoiding being caught at it? Reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools that we have, yet we rarely apply its principles in our life situations.


Experience is an extremely important aspect of learning. If you go out on a date and have a great time, the next time you see that person you will want to be with that person again. On the other hand, if you touch a hot stove and burn yourself, you will stay away from hot stoves in the future. Experience has given you connections that you store in your memory and utilize later to make decisions and choices about your behavior.

Associations and Observations

We also learn by association. If we have a great time every time we go to McDonald’s, we learn to associate McDonald’s with a good time. If we get something out of it every time we interact with a certain teacher, we learn that the teacher is a positive influence on us. If we get hurt every time we play ice hockey, we learn that hockey can be dangerous.

Children observe a TV show and attempt behaviors they see on the show. We learn by practice, we learn by reading and memorizing, and we learn by observation.

Suggested Resources

The resources provided here are optional and support the assessment. They provide helpful information about the topics. You may use other resources of your choice to prepare for this assessment; however, you will need to ensure that they are appropriate, credible, and valid. The PSYC-FP1000 Library Guide can help direct your research. The Supplemental Resources and Research Resources, both linked from the left navigation menu in your courseroom, provide additional resources to help support you.

Key Theories in Human Development

  • McSweeney, F. K., & Murphy, E. S. (2014). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Staddon, J. E. R., & Cerutti, D. T. (2003). Operant conditioning. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 115–44.
  • Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2016). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior (14th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Available from the bookstore.
    • Chapter 6, “Conditioning and Learning.”
  • Human Development Theories | Transcript.


Examples of How The Theories Apply

  • Beyers, W., & Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2010). Does identity precede intimacy? Testing Erikson’s theory on romantic development in emerging adults of the 21st century. Journal of Adolescent Research, 25(3), 387–415. (This material was also recommended for Assessment 1.)
  • Doolan, K. E., & Bizo, L. A. (2013). Reinforced behavioral variability in humans. The Psychological Record, 63(4), 725–734.

NBC Archives on Demand

  • Click Robots Teach Communication to Kids With Autism to view a video from NBC Learn.

Robots Teach Communication to Kids With AutismBEGIN ACTIVITY ICONTranscript

Research Links

  • Getting Started With the Library.
  • Automated Citations From the Library Databases.
  • Find Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Sources.
  • Database Guide: PsycARTICLES.
  • Using the Tools of Academia | Transcript.


Select Option A or Option B below as the focus of your assessment:

Option A 

Carrie Ann has a tendency to procrastinate before completing her assignments. Between family, job, and schoolwork, she has a busy schedule and often does not feel up to the task of trying to understand what is expected for assignments. Between her busy schedule and anxiety about doing the tasks required for assignments, she tends to wait until the day before an assignment is due to begin work on it. Because her work is rushed, she ends up not doing her best work. She would very much like to begin her work sooner, but each time she has an assignment due she ends up repeating the procrastination. Carrie Ann has decided to use operant conditioning principles to help her develop better habits in completing assignments. Carrie Ann will need to develop a target goal and plan for herself.

Option B 

Identify a goal that you have for yourself. It could be personal, financial, professional, educational, or health-related. Think specifically and realistically about the goal. For example, it would not be realistic to plan to lose 20 pounds in one week. Once you have identified your specific and realistic goal, think about how operant conditioning behavioral learning principles can be used to help you reach the goal. Create a plan for meeting the goal by applying operant conditioning behavioral learning principles.

Instructions for Both Option A and Option B

Create a change plan for meeting the goal in the option you chose. Include the following information in your change plan:

  • Provide an introduction that discusses operant conditioning behavioral learning principles and how they are relevant to changing behavior.
  • Describe a specific target goal for a behavior change plan.
  • Describe your behavioral plan.
  • Describe how the concept of shaping (a behavioral learning theory term) can be employed to help in incremental progress toward the goal.
  • Describe how the behavior can be shaped through operant conditioning principles.
  • Identify and apply specific reinforcers (both primary and secondary) you could apply to make progress toward the goal.
  • Apply a schedule of reinforcement that would be used for each reinforcer that is part of the plan. For example, a person losing weight might treat himself to a movie as a reward for the first week in which he exercised for at least 40 minutes each day. In this case, the movie would be a positive primary reinforcer delivered on a fixed ratio schedule.
  • Using information from at least two scholarly sources, describe what research shows about how operant conditioning can be used to change behavior.

Apply the following behavioral terms in the change plan:

  • Shaping.
  • Positive reinforcement (you can also use negative reinforcement if it applies to your goal).
  • Use one or both of the following in your plan (at least one must be included):
    • Primary reinforcers.
    • Secondary reinforcers.
  • Schedule of reinforcement (include one or more of the following):
    • Fixed ratio.
    • Variable ratio.
    • Fixed interval.
    • Variable interval.

Additional Requirements

  • Written communication: Written communication should be free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • APA formatting: Ensure that resources and citations are formatted according to current APA style and formatting guidelines.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12-point.
  • Length: 2–3 pages.

Please use the scoring guide as a reference to complete the assignment. Proficient is the minimum grading accepted