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Operant Conditioning and Superstitions

Many people believe that superstitions are absolutely true. This often causes them to believe and act in ways that are out of the norm either to avoid a negative outcome or to bring about a positive outcome. However, the origins of all superstitions lie in operant conditioning (for example, wearing the same shirt worn during a victory game to all future games in order to ensure victory).

In this assignment, you will examine the process by which operant conditioning can lead to the formation of a superstition.

Using the module readings, the Argosy University online library resources, and the Internet, research the development of operant conditioning and its basic principles. Then, address the following:

  • Describe the historical antecedents of operant conditioning. What factors led to the rise of operant conditioning?
  • Describe the principles/concepts which can be applied to explain the process by which operant conditioning can lead to the development and maintenance of superstitions.
  • Brainstorm to come up with a number of superstitions you may have heard or read about. Using your knowledge and vocabulary of operant conditioning, choose one of these superstitions. Then, describe in detail, the thinking processes involved that resulted in the acquisition and perpetuation of this irrational belief.
  • Describe a specific aspect of the operant conditioning process that leads to these beliefs becoming so deeply ingrained and long standing in nature.
  • Explain whether a person can ever be rid of superstitions. What methods can be used to help such a person?
  • Interview a family member or friend to discover a superstition that he or she believes in. Explain the nature of the event that led to the formation of this superstition. Does this information fit with your understanding of how the operant conditioning process results in the development of superstitions? Why or why not?

 

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