When we talk of learning we usually think of something related to the classroom, such as English or Maths. However, Psychologists refer to learning as a relatively permanent change in behaviour as a result of experience'. Learning is a fundamental process in all animals and the higher up the evolutionary scale the animal, the more important is the ability to learn. All animals need to adapt their behaviour in order to fit in with the environment and to adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive.
Much of our behaviour consists of learned responses to simple signals. Can all behaviour be analysed in the same way? Some psychologists believe that behaviour is the sum of many simple stimulus-response connections. However there are other psychologists who think that stimulus-response is too simplistic and that even simple responses to stimuli require the processing of a vast amount of information.
The Behaviourists are a group of psychologists who focus on these stimulus-response connections, the two most famous being Watson and Skinner. Behaviourism arose because there was dissatisfaction with approaches in psychology that involved 'unscientific, techniques such as introspection and dealt with unmeasurable aspects of behaviour such as the role of the unconscious mind. Behaviourists try to explain the causes of behaviour by studying only those behaviours that can be observed and measured. They leave focused their efforts on two types of learning processes known as classical conditioning and operant conditioning.
This is learning by association. A Russian physiologist called Ivan Pavlov, studied salivation in dogs as part of his research programme. Normally, dogs will salivate at the when food is presented, but Pavlov was interested why the dogs had started to salivate when the saw the people that usually fed them (they also responded to the sound of the dishes being used for their meals). Pavlov set up an