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# Applications of operant conditioning in daily life

## Problem

Jeff has two cats, Whiskers and Tiger. Jeff wants to play with both of them using a laser pointer, but the cats respond very differently to playtime. Whiskers is an active cat and loves to chase the red dot, but he sometimes gets so excited by playtime that he becomes overly agitated and attacks Jeff. Tiger is very lazy - he loves to look out the window from his bed and lounge in the sun; he is almost never interested in playing with the laser pointer. Jeff wants both of his cats to be equally active and healthy, so he decides to use principles from behaviorism to teach his cats better play behavior. He has two goals - to increase Tiger’s playtime, and to decrease Whisker’s aggressive playtime.
He uses a variety of different strategies with his cats: he tries giving each cats treats when they play nicely, taking away Tiger’s bed to increase playtime, putting the cats in a carrier when they do not play nicely, and loudly yelling “No!” if Whiskers becomes aggressive. Jeff notices that the cats respond well to the treats, so he decides to vary when and how Whiskers and Tiger receive their treats. Table $1$ outlines the different schedules of reinforcement that Jeff tries with Whiskers and Tiger.
Table $1$
ScheduleCatStrategy
ATiger$1$ treat for every $3$ minutes of play
BTiger$1$ treat after a random amount of time of play
CWhiskers$1$ treat every time play is non-aggressive
DWhiskers$1$ treat after a random number of non-aggressive plays
One of Jeff’s friends suggests giving Whiskers a treat when he is aggressive, as a way to distract him. Could this be an effective way to teach Whiskers to behave properly during playtime?