The Relevance of Reward-based Conditioning in Children’s Education

The relevance of reward-based conditioning in children’s education


In the 20th century, a new type of learning called “operant conditioning” was formulized based on the work of two psychologists: B.F. Skinner and Edward L. Thorndike. This new type of learning proposed that reinforcements and punishments could be used to influence one’s behavior patterns. Ever since, operant conditioning gained popularity thanks to its being rapidly effective. Yet, the pedagogical effectiveness of operant conditioning is questionable given its negative effects on children’s intrinsical motivation and their ability to judge which course of action to take. Moreover, the use of reinforcements, or rewards, can result in a deconceptualisation of success and reduce it to a concrete measurement of rewards received, possibly causing psychological distress.


Introducing external rewards for good conduct can in long term lead to a dependence on external approval. In such a case, one’s motivation to act is fueled by the existence of an external reward, conditioning it to an external motivating factor. Likewise, an individual depending solely on extrinsical motivation would not have a reason to act in the absence of those. This clearly undermines a major purpose of the education which is to bring up individuals who can stand on their own feet.

In addition, a child depending on rewards or punishments as a means to determine righteousness would have no instrument to judge a course of action he has not taken before, since no prior point of reference exists. If the child’s entire judgment is based on external stimuli, then the lack of those also means the lack of judgment. Surely the child can reason from his past experiences, but those deductions would ultimately need to be approved by the others to be considered true.

Moreover, operant conditioning can also introduce psychological challenges especially in a standardized education system. Children who get less rewards, or lower grades, than others start after a point to believe that they are worth less than them. Their loss of self-esteem provokes further loss of motivation and self-confidence. Needless to say, these children would be less productive than otherwise and thus contribute less to the society.


Conclusively, operant conditioning is not regarded highly in children’s education anymore given its contradicting the development of intrinsical devices which help children to determine what is right and to act accordingly by themselves. However, the standard education system in most countries is modeled upon operant conditioning. In that regard, there is an emergent need for a comprehensive education reform.



How do GPS Work?

The way that the GPS works

To precisely determine one’s location is a technical challenge that was not overcome until very recently. In 1983 a navigation system developed by the US Department of Defense called the Global Positioning System (GPS) was introduced to the civilian use for addressing this need. Like most complex devices, the GPS is the result of a thorough R&D process. It consists of 3 main components: a constellation of satellites incessantly transmitting signals, ground control bases that ensure the proper functioning of the system and GPS receivers which receive the signals coming from the satellites and process them.

24 satellites in mid-earth orbit comprise the transmitting end of the GPS. These satellites are placed in a precise manner to ensure full global coverage at any time. Each satellite continually sends a sequence of pulse signals called the Pseudo-Random Code (PRC) that serve as its identity information. Alongside the PRC, the satellites transmit a navigation message. It contains the necessary positioning data: the current time (Time of Transmission) and status of the satellite and the orbital position of the satellites.

Since the system is built on strict temporal precision, atomic clocks are used in the satellites. However, because of Einstein’s Special Relativity, time flows differently for the satellites in orbit and the receivers on earth. In order to synchronize the two components, ground control bases calculate this deviation and update the satellites periodically. In that regard, Ground control bases serve as the corrective arm of the GPS.

The wider end of the GPS is the receiving one. Each GPS receiver processes data coming from the satellites to triangulate its position on the geocentric plane. To be able to achieve that, the receiver compares the Time of Transmission of at least four satellites to its own time and date to find the Time of Flight of each signal. Using their TOF and their speed of propagation (corrected by the ground control bases) the receiver is able to determine its distance from the satellites from which the signals originate. Finally, using a mathematical formula, the receiver can triangulate its location.