Behaviorist B.F. Skinner first identified and described operant conditioning. He believed that to understand human behavior, we don’t have to analyze internal thoughts or motivations. Human behavior can be explained by examining external causes that are observable. Operant conditioning theory examples reveal that the premise operant conditioning relies on is fairly simple—actions can be strengthened when followed up with reinforcements, making them more likely to occur in the future.

Operant conditioning examples in everyday life show how we consciously control operant behavior. Either we have experienced the consequences or are aware of the outcome. We don’t put our hand in the fire or skip work for a week without notice just to see what happens.  

Examples of operant conditioning demonstrate that it’s a learning method that employs punishments and rewards for influencing behavior. According to operant conditioning theory examples, these consequences decide the probability of an action being repeated. It works on the same fundamentals as the law of effect but with more precision. Real-life examples of operant conditioning show that if people laugh at a funny story, the storyteller will probably tell it again in the future. Reinforcement is simply a desirable outcome that strengthens the preceding action. Similarly, an undesirable outcome or punishment will weaken the actions and prevent any recurrence. 

To better understand the concept, we’ll look at all its components and some examples of operant conditioning.

Real-Life Examples Of Operant Conditioning And Its Components


There are two main components in examples of operant conditioning—reinforcement and punishment. Let’s look at them in detail.

  1. Reinforcement

  2. Punishment



Operant conditioning examples in everyday life demonstrate reinforcement as an event that increases or strengthens the actions that it follows. It’s classified into two types:

  • Positive reinforcement

    Positive reinforcement encourages actions and behavior with positive responses or rewards. These are favorable outcomes or events.

  1. We can see operant conditioning examples in the classroom during debates and presentations. A teacher encourages students to participate as it’s important for character-building in the formative years. When they do well, clapping, cheering and praising them act as positive reinforcement.
  2. One of the common examples of operant conditioning that displays positive reinforcement is the workplace. Employees look to constantly improve their performances as their reward might be a bonus, increment or other perks.

Positive reinforcement uses rewards to increase a particular behavior.


  • Negative reinforcement

    Negative reinforcement is a response that looks to terminate an unpleasant behavior. Operant conditioning examples in everyday life show us how negative reinforcement strengthens a behavior by removing unfavorable experiences. 

  1. One of the most frequently seen real-life examples of operant conditioning is a strategy where apps let users consume free content but include frequent ad interruptions. It prompts users to upgrade plans to avoid the unpleasant experience. 
  2. Rules are negative reinforcement when looking at operant conditioning examples in the classroom. Rules are equal and have to be followed by all. Teachers can cancel events and activities if students break rules. 

Negative reinforcement is taking away rewards to increase response.


We will see from the examples of operant conditioning that punishment is an unfavorable or unpleasant reaction to an action or behavior. Punishment is a consequence to stop unpleasant actions from reoccurring. It’s also divided into two types:

  • Positive punishment

    Most real-life examples of operant conditioning will show that punishment by application is a positive response to bad behavior or actions. 

  1. Students are restricted from using phones in the classroom as they’re a distraction. Confiscating the phone if a student is caught using it is positive punishment. This is a classic operant conditioning example in the classroom.
  2. Operant conditioning examples in the classroom also include a teacher scolding a student publicly for repeating mistakes. It’s a positive punishment for coming late to class repeatedly or being too talkative. 

Positive punishment is most common with parents and in educational institutions.


  • Negative punishment

    Removing something pleasant as a result of an unpleasant behavior is natural and important, as we see in operant conditioning examples in everyday life. This is called negative punishment. 

  1. Seizure of property for defaulting payments is one of the most widely seen examples of operant conditioning. If EMIs are not paid, banks seize property to recover the money they lent.
  2. We see operant conditioning examples in everyday life with kids. If a child misbehaves, lies or does something unacceptable, a parent may take away their video games or toys.


Operant conditioning examples in the classroom can be a way to analyze reinforcement and punishment. Student behavior is an honest reflection of risks, rewards and other underlying consequences. Although natural consequences can lead to changes, rewards and punishments can be consciously doled out to create change.  Operant conditioning is therefore an important tool for learning and modifying behavioral processes.

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