Another type of learning, very similar to that discussed above, is called Operant Conditioning. The term “Operant” refers to how an organism operates on the environment, and hence, operant conditioning comes from how we respond to what is presented to us in our environment. It can be thought of as learning due to the natural consequences of our actions.
Let’s explain that a little further. The classic study of Operant Conditioning involved a cat who was placed in a box with only one way out; a specific area of the box had to be pressed in order for the door to open. The cat initially tries to get out of the box because freedom is reinforcing. In its attempt to escape, the area of the box is triggered and the door opens. The cat is now free. Once placed in the box again, the cat will naturally try to remember what it did to escape the previous time and will once again find the area to press. The more the cat is placed back in the box, the quicker it will press that area for its freedom. It has learned, through natural consequences, how to gain the reinforcing freedom.