Bike and psychology (1/3)

I open a three-post series dedicated to psychology and bicycle. The subject of psychology is a field so large that it can not be explained in detail here. Rather, I am going to give some broad brushstrokes.

The first one is the use of psychology as a trick to teach someone to ride a bike. In particular, I am writing about the use of operand conditioning for such a purpose. Operand conditioning is the use of rewards and punishments effectively to encourage and teach whatever behavior to anyone. This theory was explained by the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner in the midst of the 1900s. Specifically, he claimed that learning involves changes in behavior in response to external stimuli. Do not confound this theory with the classical conditioning which involves reflexive, involuntary behaviors.

In operand conditioning, a reinforcement is anything that encourage or strengthen a desired behavior. A positive reinforcement may be giving something that a person really enjoys after the target behavior is done. On the other hand, negative reinforcement means stopping or removing something that the person does not want. For instance, when teaching how to ride a bicycle to a child, a negative reinforcer could be a day without chores, whereas a positive reinforcer is encouraging words.

Moreover, operand conditioning contemplates punishment. Again, punishment can be positive (introduction of something unenjoyable after a behavior: use of angry words) or negative (restricting access to something enjoyable such as taking away TV or play time).

Overall, punishments are less effective and desirable than reinforcements, being positive reinforcement the most effect conditioning method. Thus, you could try to minimal punishment (better: no punishment) while teaching to ride a bike. The better strategy is reinforce each small step because every step makes a path with teaching how to ride a bike as the finish line. Such action allows teaching to ride a bike faster since the novice gets encouraged and enjoys the process. Furthermore, reinforcements should be sincere, otherwise the learner will not take it seriously.

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