Major Types of Conditioning

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Learning can be defined as “the process leading to relatively permanent behavioral change or potential behavioral change. In other words, as we learn, we alter the way we perceive our environment, the way we interpret the incoming stimuli, and therefore the way we interact, or behave”( Lieberman 2012, pg 4.3). According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. This school of thought suggests that only observable behaviors should be studied, since internal states such as cognitions, emotions and moods are too subjective. Two other assumptions of this theory are that the environment shapes behavior and that taking internal mental states such as thoughts, feelings and emotions into consideration is useless in explaining behavior. Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. One of the best known aspects of behavioral learning theory is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. Neobehaviorism, refers to human behavior learned through observation and direct or indirect observation. In some cases this learning is deliberate in other cases it is adventitious. This paper will compare and contrast the major principles associated with classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and neobehaviorism. It will also explain the contributions of the major theorists who worked to develop each theory, and describe how each theory explains how permanent change in behavior takes place and how each theory is apply into a real world learning environment. Classical conditioning was the first type of learning to be discovered. Ivan Pavlov is the major theorist in the development of this theory, it is said that he had discovered classical conditioning accidentally while doing a research on understanding the digestive patterns in dogs. During his experiments, “he would put meat power in the mouths of the dogs that had tubes inserted in to various organs to measure bodily responses. What he discovered was that the dogs began to salivate before the meat powder was presented to them. Then, the dogs began to salivate as soon as the person feeding them would enter the room” (Kendra Cherry, 2011). He soon began to gain interest in this phenomenon and abandoned his digestion research in favor of his now famous Classical Conditioning study. Many of our behaviors today are shaped by the pairing of stimuli. “It's important to note that classical conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a naturally occurring reflex, in Pavlov's classic experiment with dogs, the neutral signal was the sound of a tone and the naturally occurring reflex was salivating in response to food. By associating the neutral stimulus with the environmental stimulus the sound of the tone alone could produce the salivation response” (Kendra Cherry, 2011). Classical conditioning can help to explain the simple things in life such as our reaction to particular song, a specific day of the year or smell as well as larger emotional problems such as fear and anxiety. According to classical conditioning it's not that the smell or the song are the cause of the emotion, but rather what that smell or song has been paired with our love ones, the death of a loved one, or maybe a remarkable day in our life. We make these associations all the time and often don’t realize the power that these connections or pairings have on us. But, in fact, we have been classically conditioned” (Heffner Media Group, Inc 2011). Today...
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