Free Essay

Compare and Constrast Classical and Operant Conditioning

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By rosita15mr
Words 730
Pages 3
Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning, their theories, terminology, famous psychologists and applications of the theory for teaching.
Classical and operant conditioning are two important concepts central to behavioral psychology. While both result in learning, the processes are quite different. In order to understand how each of these behavior modification techniques can be used, it is also essential to understand how classical conditioning and operant conditioning differ from one another. Both classical and operant learning are psychological processes that lead to learning. Here learning refers to the process by which changes in behavior, including actions, emotions, thoughts, and the responses of muscles and glands, results from experience or practice.
Classical conditioning was first described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. Classical conditioning theory involves learning a new behavior via the process of association. In simple terms two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response in a person or animal. Pavlov famous experiment was with dogs. Ivan Pavlov noticed dogs began to salivate in response to a tone after the sound had been repeatedly paired with the presentation of food. Pavlov quickly realized that this was a learned response and set out to further investigate the conditioning process. Classical conditioning involves placing a neutral stimulus before a reflex (such as the sound of a bell) with an unconditioned stimulus (the taste of food). This unconditioned stimulus naturally and automatically triggers salivating as a response to the food, which is known as the unconditioned response. After associating the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus, the sound of the bell alone will start to evoke salivating as a response. The sound of the bell is now known as the conditioned stimulus and salivating in response to the bell is known as the conditioned response.
B.F Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning uses both positive and negative reinforcements to encourage good and wanted behaviors. It focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors by applying reinforcement or punishment after a behavior. Skinner’s reinforcement experiments conducted on rats showed the principles of operant conditioning. While working with rats, Skinner would place them in a Skinner box with a lever attached to a feeding tube. After multiple trials, rats learned the connection between the lever and food, and started to spend more time in the box procuring food than performing any other action. He used positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement to produce or inhibit specific target behaviors. Therefore, if a specific behavior is reinforced then the probability of that behavior occurring again is increased. Based on Skinner’s view, this theory can be applied to learning because learning is nothing more than a change in behavior. Operant conditioning encourages positive reinforcement, which can be applied in the classroom environment to get the good behavior you want and need from students. One of the ways of reinforcing a student’s behavior is through praise. Also teachers can build operant conditioning techniques into their lesson plans to teach children possible skills as well as good behaviors. For example: to give a smiley face, or motivational stamps to encourage children to perform correctly and encourage them to repeat such action again.
One of the simplest ways to remember the differences between classical and operant conditioning is to focus on whether the behavior is involuntary or voluntary. Classical conditioning involves making an association between an involuntary response and a stimulus, while operant conditioning is about making an association between a voluntary behavior and a consequence. In operant conditioning, the learner is also rewarded with incentives, while classical conditioning involves no rewards. Also remember that classical conditioning is passive on the part of the learner, while operant conditioning requires the learner to actively participate and perform some type of action in order to be rewarded or punished. Today, both classical and operant conditioning are utilized for a variety of purposes by teachers, parents, psychologists, animal trainers and many others. In animal training, a trainer might utilize classical conditioning by repeatedly pairing the sound of a clicker with the taste of food. Eventually, the sound of the clicker alone will begin to produce the same response that the taste of food would. In a classroom setting, a teacher might utilize operant conditioning by offering tokens as rewards for good behavior. Students can then turn in these tokens to receive some type of reward such as treat or extra play time.

Similar Documents