This website provides a link to a YouTube video from Big Bang Theory (a popular television series) that demonstrates operant conditioning. In addition to the video link, the website provides learning objectives, discussion questions, and a transcript of the video. The video is 2:45 minutes in length and serves as a fun approach to demonstrating positive reinforcement. The video link and accompanying materials are hosted by Mindgate Media.
• Learners will understand operant conditioning principles (with specific emphasis on positive reinforcement).
• Learners will understand how operant conditioning principles can be applied to shape/modify social behavior.
Target Student Population:
As a teaching resource, the clip might be most effective for an introductory psychology course (undergraduate) or for a high school general psychology course. However, students from middle school through graduate students as well as professionals would benefit from this demonstration. Students will appreciate the applied nature of the example; graduate students through professionals will find it useful as an explanatory tool.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
No prerequisite knowledge is needed to use the site. Additional information is needed to fully understand the concept as well as the applications. Most of this information is on the website.
Type of Material:
Presentation (YouTube video with associated discussion questions)
This clip provides a real world example of operant conditioning that would help one better understand the concept, but should also facilitate discussion of the concept and its many applications. This would be useful in any course discussing behavior including many levels of psychology and communication. The concept is introduced in General Psychology courses, but may be elaborated on in courses such as Learning, Social Psychology, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In all, the clip would serve as an effective discussion starter to explore principles of operant conditioning.
• Internet access is required. The site was successfully reviewed using recent versions of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer.
• Users must have a video player that allows YouTube videos; speakers are also required.
Evaluation and Observation
• The clip is short while still showing the concept of positive reinforcement correctly.
• This site goes beyond providing the video link to include instructional resources, learning objectives and discussion questions.
• The explanation on the Mindgate Media site is somewhat misleading. The statement that one of the characters “fails to note that all social interaction is based on operant conditioning” is out of context and requires further clarification via discussion. The key issue for Leonard’s character is that his girlfriend is being manipulated – the key issue for anyone first shown the concept or with a personal connection to the manipulation. The point the character Leonard makes is a fair one – that the other character (Sheldon) is manipulating Leonard’s girlfriend into what Sheldon “considers correct behavior.”
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
• Most texts focus on Skinner and training of animals. While this is important, this clip (and the site) provides a relatable example. It certainly helps that it is from a very popular show, but one does not need to know the show to appreciate the example.
• This is a high-quality video that provides a real-life example of operant conditioning; the presentation as a YouTube video ensures ease of playing the video format.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
• The site is easy to use. The video clip link is on the main page as are additional examples.
• The video clip and an overview of operant conditioning are easily available via a single click.
Other Issues and Comments:
• Overall, the site provides a fun and accessible presentation of operant conditioning.
• The material is high-quality. The inclusion of supplements to guide the use of the video in class is very helpful.