Motivating Operations – Behavioral Psychology Essay

In behavioral psychology, practitioners hold that motivation is a key contributor to the development of certain types of behavior in individuals, in the case of both children and adults. As such it is imperative that psychologists examine and understand the various motivations of behavior to enable the design the appropriate environments that foster the development of alternative and better behaviors. Motivation is that internal state or condition that energizes behavior and provides it with direction. Motivating operations refer to events that play a role in increasing and decreasing the probability of behavior. Motivating operations serve two main purposes: to alter the effectiveness of a particular stimulus as a reinforcer and to change the present frequency of all behavior that is reinforced by that particular stimulus.  Generally, motivating operations affect how much an individual “wants” something and how hard he or she will “work” to obtain it. In behavioral psychology, Motivating operations influence the effectiveness of any intervention that is based on the manipulation of consequences (Pearson Education Inc., 2010).

There are two types of motivating operations, unconditioned motivating operations (UMOs) and conditioned motivating operations (CMOs). UMOs are unlearned and are mostly as a result of an individual’s nature or history. For example, when an individual is feeling cold, he looks for ways to keep warm. The cold (motivating operation) increases the reinforcing value of warmth. Once the individual gets warm, then becoming warm abolishes the value of warmth as a reinforcer. CMOs on the other hand are learned or acquired. Conditioned Motivating Operations are usually neutral before they are either associated with another existing MO or a form or reinforcement or punishment. For instance, a man to change the channel on the TV but the remote doesn’t work. This increases the reinforcing value of buying batteries for the device, after which the remote works thus abolishing the need for batteries as a reinforcer (Ikkandi, 2011).

An example of motivating operations as a function of behavior can be explained by examining the case of Jimmy, a sixth grade student. Jimmy’s father has promised to buy him a new computer game if he gets good grades at the end of the school term. In this case the computer game is the motivating operation. In order to obtain what he has been promised Jimmy will definitely work harder, complete his assignments and engage in activities that will earn him extra credits in school i.e. influence his behavior.


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