Contrasting Principles of Classical and Operant Conditioning Essay

Contrasting Principles of Classical and Operant Conditioning Essay

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Learning is a very important part of Psychology and it has been
defined as ‘any relatively permanent change in behaviour, or behaviour
potential, produced by experience’ (Baron, p.169). Learning is a key
process in human behaviour; it can play an important role in most of
the activities we do.

Even though the effects of learning are extremely diverse, most
psychologists believe that learning occurs in several basic forms:
conditioning – classical and operant and observational learning.

Myers defined conditioning as ‘the process of learning associations’.

Classical conditioning is where the stimulus serves as a signal for
the occurrence of a second stimulus. (Learning to associate two
stimuli’s together). In classical conditioning we are able to acquire
information about the relations between various stimuli and not just
simple associations between them.

The most famous research for classical conditioning comes from Ivan
Pavlov in 1927.

During Pavlov’s research into salivary secretion in dogs he noticed
that when he put food into a dog’s mouth it would salivate. He then
found that if he worked repeatedly with the same dog it would salivate
to stimuli associated with food such as the sight of food, the food
dish or the presence of the person who brought the food.

Because of what Pavlov found he then chose to study learning, which he
hoped might enable him to better understand what was happening.

Pavlov and his assistants began work by pairing various neutral
stimuli such as sound when food was present in the dog’s mouth to see
if the dog would eventually learn to salivate to the just the sound on
it’s own.


... middle of paper ...

...viour due to a reinforcer and
are only likely to show the desired behaviour if it’s reinforced and
so this behaviour is unlikely to be a permanent change compared to
classical conditioning which has much high chances of remaining.


Carlson, N. R., Buskist, W., & Martin, G. N. (2000). Psychology: The
Science of Behaviour. London: Allyn & Bacon.

Myers, D.G. (2003) Psychology. (Seventh Edition). Michigan: Worth

Ferguson, K. E., O’Donohue, W. (2001). The Psychology of B.F Skinner.
London: Sage publications.

Bjork, D.W. (1997) Skinner- A Life. London. American Psychological

Hall, G. (1983). Behaviour – An introduction to Psychology as a
Biological science. London: Academic Press inc.

Baron, R. A. (1998) Psychology. (Fourth Edition). London: Allyn &

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