Basic Organization of Operant Behavior
Little is known about the basic functional organization of operant conditioning despite its popularity among the students of Cognitive Psychology. An organism is said to behave operantly if it is modifying its behavior in response to the comparison between its own behavioral output and its experience. In contrast to classical conditioning, where the organism experiences (and eventually memorizes) contingencies in its environment, an operantly behaving organism is constantly exploring the consequences of its own actions.
The Drosophila Flight Simulator, where the sensory input can be precisely controlled and the motor-output can be surveilled in great detail, is a valuable tool for investigating possible links between the two modalities:
Thus, a conceptual framework of operant behavior can be proposed:
This concept enables one to distinguish between operant activity (1-4) and operant conditioning (1-5).
Originally published as: Wolf R, Heisenberg M (1991): Basic organization of operant behavior as revealed in Drosophila flight orientation. J Comp Physiol (A) 169:699-705.