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Learning Behavior

By | July 2002
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Learning Behavior
Psychologists have preformed many studies and proposed many theories regarding learning. Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior that is due to past experience.
John B. Watson was an early psychologist that didn't agree with many other psychologist's ideas about learning only relating to consciousness and thought processes. As the founder of behaviorism, Watson studied learning in a behavioral perspective, an approach that emphasizes the relationship between outwardly observable behaviors and environmental events, rather than mental processes.

Classical conditioning is a process of learning associations between stimuli used by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. In classical conditioning, a stimulus causes an existing behavior to occur. Pavlov used classical conditioning to study dog salivation. A ringing bell was used as a neutral stimulus. During the conditioning the bell is repeatedly sounded immediately before the food is placed in front of the dog producing the natural reflex of salivation, which is an unconditioned response (unlearned reflexive response). The result of the repeated ringing of the bell, placement of the food, and salivation of the mouth was a conditioned reflex. The ringing bell then stimulated the conditioned response of salivation.

B.F. Skinner, also a behaviorist, studied the effects of operant conditioning on behavior. Operant conditioning is the basic learning process that involves changing the probability of a response being repeated by manipulating the consequences of the response. Skinner believed that classical conditioning was limited to behaviors that are reflexively elicited. An operant describes behaviors that are "operate upon the environment to generate consequences." Reinforcement follows an operant and increases the likelihood of the operant being repeated.

There are two forms of reinforcement: positive and negative reinforcement. When an event...

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