Classical conditioning focuses on learning associations and refers to the conditioning reflexes. For example how animals learn to associate new-presented stimuli with bodily functions e.g. Pavlov dog learnt through association that the noise of the bell meant food so when hearing it made it salivate. These principles of classical conditioning were first outlined by Pavlov and then taken on by Watson. Pavlov believed judging by his experiments that dogs had learnt to associate new external stimuli (sound of the bell), with the first presented stimuli (food) that caused the salivation as a reflex. On the other hand, operant conditioning involves learning through the consequences of behavioural responses. The principles of operant conditioning were investigated by Thorn dike and were taken on by Skinner which he developed. Thorndike studied cats, and the way they would learn to escape from his puzzle box by trial and error
Classical and operant conditioning share many of the same basic principles and procedures. For example, it has been pointed out that the basic principles of acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery and stimulus generalization are common to both types of learning. In both classical and operant conditioning associations between responses and consequences have to be made in a small amount of time close together for learning to occur. There are several differences, however, between classical and operant conditioning. Although a basic feature of operant conditioning is reinforcement, classical conditioning relies more on the association between stimuli and responses. A second distinction is that much of operant conditioning is based on voluntary behaviour, while classical conditioning often involves involuntary reflexive behaviour.
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As important as classical conditioning is, it must be recognized that it only deals with how new stimuli come to control existing involuntary responses. While reflexes and the ‘ gut-level ‘ responses associated with emotions play a role in our everyday experience, most of our behaviour is self-generated, or voluntary. Behaviours are not elicited by conditioned stimuli. Instead, they are emitted – that is, generated by the individual as a way of influencing the surrounding environment. In order to understand such complex behaviour, we need to use a different method of approach. This approach is operant conditioning, which is an approach that deals with how voluntary responses change over time as a function of their consequences. For example, a starved cat by pushing on a door handle (response) finds food (consequence), there is a great possibility that it will do this again. Reinforcement is any stimulus that if given immediately after operant response -as a reward- will strengthen the likelihood of repetition of operant response.
Thus as far as reinforcement in classical conditioning is concerned the learning link will last as long as the U.C.S. (food) is occasionally re-presented with C.S (bell). It is the reflex-based U.C.S that acts as the reinforcer and strengthens the learning link. In operant conditioning, reinforcement is divided into parts: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and secondary reinforcement. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of a response by providing pleasant consequences for it, e.g food. Negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of a response that removes or provides an escape from unpleasant consequences, e.g stopping an electric shock. Punishment increases the likelihood of a response being repeated if it is followed by inescapable negative or unpleasant consequences, e.g an electric shock and last secondary reinforcers are with those that are associated with naturally occurring primary reinforcers (e.g food, water, warmth, etc), for example, money, tokens, or parents.
Extinction exists when the unconditioned stimulus is not presented for several consecutive trials then the animal stops responding. On the other hand in classical conditioning if the C.S (bell) is continually presented without the U.C.S (food), then the C.R (salivation) will gradually die out or extinguish. In addition, in operant conditioning, if the response is not reinforced, it will gradually extinguish. Nevertheless, in classical conditioning the animals that take place are “passive receivers” they simply stand in a position waiting for the experiment to finish (e.g Pavlov’s dog) whereas in operant conditioning the whole experiment is based on the actions of the animals (e.g Skinner’s mouse).
- Classical Conditioning
- Operant Conditioning
- Spontaneous recovery
- Spontaneous recovery
- Stimulus generalization
- Stimulus generalization
- Association between stimuli and responses
- Based on involuntary reflexive behaviour
- Based on voluntary behaviour