[Prompt] Unit 4 Practice: Learning

These questions are modeled after Free Response Questions (FRQs) of the AP Psychology Exam. Below would most likely represent one of two questions that could appear on the FRQ. The instructions on the most recent FRQs have included the following: It is not enough to answer a question by merely listing facts. You should present a cogent argument based on your critical analysis of the questions posed, using appropriate psychological terminology.

Use the items below to assess your mastery of knowledge of the topics below, but also how you might apply your knowledge to present your “cogent argument.”

Ephraim is a new teacher hoping to use psychological techniques to manage his classes more effectively.

A. Explain how each of the following might contribute to Ephraim having a well-behaved class.

  • Token Economy
  • Negative Reinforcement
  • Mirror Neurons

B. Describe one way in which classical conditioning can occur in a school environment.

C. Ephraim decides to reward each student who does homework with a piece of candy. Use the overjustification effect to explain a disadvantage of doing this.

Token economy is when currency-like rewards are given to persuade good behavior. Ephraim might give gold stars to top scorers or students who display good behavior, which can later be exchanged for a reward of a student’s liking (with the accumulation of the gold stars). Negative reinforcement is punishing those who display behavior that is bad or shouldn’t be kept for a longer amount of time. If a student bullies another student and Ephraim finds out about that, he can call the bully’s parents or take away his recess for a limited amount of time to give the chance for the bully to change his/her ways. Mirror neurons allow for organisms of the same species to act similarly if not the same as each other. If a student A hasn’t been behaving so well looks at a student B who has been behaving well and has been rewarded for doing so, student A might copy what student B is doing in order to try to get the same amount of reinforcement.

Classical Conditioning is when two specific stimuli are paired together in order to elicit a sort of response together. For instance, if classical conditioning were to be used in a school environment, an elementary school might use a bell to start and end recess at specific times during the day. Once students start getting the idea that the bell means to start and end recess, they will then start following those directions without the need of teachers reminding them.

The overjustification effect is being taught to do something with a reward without actually liking what is taught/assigned. Ephraim might start rewarding students with candy for homework, but this might start making some kids not having the ability to do homework without that reinforcement. This also might start making kids dislike homework more and only doing it for candy.

Token Economy, or the rewarding of desired behavior with tangible rewards will help with maintaining a well behaved class, as students will continue proper behavior in order to be rewarded; this may only happen if they act civilized.
Negative Reinforcement, or the strengthening of behavior by removing a stimulus will aid in a civilized classroom; if students misbehave, the teacher can take away privileges or inform their parents so that this behavior is corrected, and so there is no more negative outcomes.
Mirror neurons, which are neurons that come into affect after observing and imitating another organism come into affect as they will help maintain order in the classroom; if one student behaves well, even more than one, other students will be inclined to behave just as well, and keep behaving as so.
Classical conditioning, or learning association of two stimuli repeatedly paired together, happens in a learning environment; if a bell rings at certain times every day, students will know that it signifies the end of start of a new lesson or recess. In this, they will automatically follow the bell’s signal without needing to be told by the teacher, or without needing instructions.
Overjustification is when an incentive actually decreases someone’s intrinsic motivation. If Ephraim gives students who turn in homework candy every time, students may actually feel unmotivated to put in effort into their work, and just submit anything to get candy; they may not try to learn their material, instead just rush work or write down responses to be rewarded. They may also not be motivated to do homework unless they receive an incentive.

A) the teacher would use the token economy as a secondary reinforcement as the students demonstrate a desired behavior they are given one token so this behavior continues to happen. The tokens can be exchange as a way of having more rewards and giving students motivation to earn more tokens.

The negative reinforcement is as taking away homework or class time for students that show positive wanted behavior by the teacher and it is more likely to be be repeated.

The final contribution, mirror neurons are going to be produced by student’s brains as they see others with good behavior to get rewarded so this students would imitate and follow the people winning this awards as the tokens or getting class off. Bringing more students to commute to this reinforcements.

B) in the school environment classical conditioning can happen by stimulus as ringing the bell to go to break or to go to class. They function as indications or stimulus that students would respond as being in time on class and not suffering consequences they learn to associate the neutral stimulus as the bell for a conditional response as coming to class.

C) the over justification effect as giving awards for doing something relatively mandatory for their grades to go up is encouraging students and make them used to having candy every time they do their homework. if the teacher stops giving candy students are more likely to stop making their homework and giving the effort they were giving before.


  1. A token economy is when rewards are used to encourage good behavior that a person shows. Ephraim can use this tactic in his class in a way that when students do all their homework from the day before, they will receive a monopoly dollar bill. Every time the student/s show a form of good behavior, they will receive a monopoly bill and can later be exchange that for a reward. This will encourage the students to keep up the good behavior.

  2. Negative reinforcement is taking something pleasant away in order to decrease a certain behavior. This could help Ephraim control his class because every time a student talks out loud without raising their hand or shows a type of any other unacceptable behavior, they will have time off of their recess or lunch took off. By using this strategy, the students will learn to associate bad behavior with punishment and therefore the bad behavior will eventually diminish.

  3. Mirror neurons can help contribute to Ephraim having a civilized class. This will happen if a student is behaving well and receives a reward for it, other students who have had trouble with being civilized in class may start intimidating the good students in order to obtain rewards. This will result in better behavior overall in Ephraim’s class.


  1. Classical conditioning is a form of learning that works by creating associations between stimuli. One way that classical conditioning can occur in a school environment is every time the teacher rings the bell, the teacher then quiets everyone down by shushing them. Therefore, by repeated exposure to the stimuli which is the ring of the bell (conditioned stimuli), the children will learn to become quiet at the sound of it (condition response).


  1. The overjustification effect is when extrinsic motivations actually decrease a behavior. If Ephraim decided to reward each student with a piece of candy, this might work at first but the students who originally did homework for instinct rewards such as feeling accomplished, getting candy for doing this work will make them realize that doing homework is not worth it if all they are getting is a piece of candy. Therefore, the disadvantage of going about the completion of homework this way will decrease the behavior of finishing work for some students. It could also decrease the quality of work because the students will start turning anything in order to get candy and once the reward stop being given out, they will stop completing their work.

Token economy, or a system in which generalized reinforcers (e.g. money) are used as “tokens” that are exchangeable for the variety of other reinforcers (e.g. food, water, rest), can be used to establish a well-behaved class by offering tokens every time a student has good behavior. For example, Ephraim can establish a class rule that every time a student turns in their homework on time, that student will receive a “good strike” (the tokens); once the student reaches a total of twenty strikes, he/she can receive a reward of his/her choosing (e.g. a $5 gift card, a toy, candy [the other reinforcers]).

Negative reinforcement, or the removal or decrease of something undesirable, can also be used to encourage good behavior in Ephraim’s class. For example, if the class dislikes essays, Ephraim will issue that if the class expresses good behavior (e.g. turning in work on time, frequent participation, no tardies) for a month, he’ll take away essay assignments— encouraging the desired behavior of good behavior by taking away an undesirable stimulus, essays.

Mirror neurons, or neurons (nerve cells) that mimic another subject’s actions, can also encourage good behavior in the classroom by making himself an example of “good behavior.” In other words, during class time, Ephraim can repeatedly express or showcase “good behavior” to his students (e.g. asking questions); because his students are witnessing it, their mirror neurons will trigger simulation of Ephraim’s actions of asking questions, thus imitating their teacher and practicing “good behavior.”

Classical conditioning, or a type of learning where a subject learns to associate a neutral stimulus to a natural, reflexive response, can also be integrated in the classroom. For example, everytime the students start on classwork, Ephraim can ring a bell. With consistent application and enough time, Ephraim can use the bell to prompt his students to start on classwork whenever they’re misbehaving, as they’ve learned to associate the bell with working on their classwork.

The overjustification effect is the phenomenon in which the presence of an extrinsic reward decreases one’s intrinsic motivation; thus, if Ephraim offers candy to his students, those who were intrinsically motivated (doing their work for the sake of enjoyment, satisfaction, or knowledge) would be discouraged, as the candy- the reward- decreases their intrinsic interest.

  1. Token Economy is the conditioning of students’ behavior using tokens to encourage favorable behaviors. This could be used to have a well-behaved class by giving children stickers next to their name when they have done something well, and take them away when they have done something wrong. Negative reinforcement is when a stimulus is removed where it causes an individual to be more likely to perform a behavior again. This could be used to have a well-behaved class where students receive less homework if they have been good, prompting students to be more likely to exhibit better behavior while in class. Mirror neurons fire when someone sees another individual exhibiting an action and signals are sent to the brain to figure out how the action is performed so that it may be replicated by the person. This can be applied to a well-behaved class as the teacher may point out that a student has had very good behavior in class, and the rest of the students will observe that student’s actions and will be more likely to imitate it so that they may be rewarded by praise as well.
  2. Classical conditioning is when a neutral stimulus results in the acquisition of a conditioned stimulus in a subject through the process of learning, such as a dog salivating upon hearing the bag of food opening, relating the sound to being fed. This can occur in a school environment such as when students are scolded or given mean looks for talking they will stop talking during class.
  3. The overjustification effect is when an individual is less likely to perform a behavior after being rewarded for it. If Ephraim gave every student who did their homework candy, they would be less motivated to do their homework since they would believe that doing a few of their homework and being rewarded for them would validate them missing a few homework assignments over.

A) Token economy is a system of management based on reinforcing good behavior through the use of tokens that can be traded in for other reinforcers. Ephraim can reward students that behave well with tickets that they can later trade in for homework passes or extra recess. Negative reinforcement is a consequence in which an aversive stimuli is removed to strengthen or increase a behavior. Ephraim could take away homework problems for students that show good behavior which would motivate them to continue their good behavior. Mirror neurons in the brain fire when somebody observes somebody else doing an action. If students in Ephraim’s class observe their peers raising their hands when answering a question, they may be motivated to do the same.

B) In a school environment, classical conditioning can occur when students learn to associate the school bell with food. For example, the students may become excited (UR) to the smell of pizza in the cafeteria (US). If the smell of pizza is repeatedly paired with the ringing of the bell (NS), the students may learn to become excited (CR) to the ringing of the bell (CS).

C) If Ephraim continues to reward students who do their homework with a piece of candy, students who did their homework for personal gain might not feel motivated to do their work. In this case, the repetition of candy actually decreased behavior.

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