Classical and operant conditioning are two important conceptscentral to behavioural psychology.
From the point of view of behaviouristics, the appropriate focus of psychology should beobservable behaviour, without reference to inner states. Behaviourism isthe theory that human and animal behaviourcan be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts orfeelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by alteringbehaviour patterns.Classical conditioningClassicalconditioning was the first type of learning to be discovered and to be studiedwithin behaviourist tradition. It was first described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russianphysiologist. Classical conditioning is the process of forming an associationbetween a naturally existing stimulus and a previously neutral one. In hisfamous experiment, Ivan Pavlov noticed that the dogs began to salivate inresponse to the tone of the bell after the sound had repeatedly been pairedwith presenting food. Ivan quickly realized that this was a learned response andhe began to further examine the conditioning process.The classical conditioning process a previously neutralstimulus (the sound of the bell) with an unconditionedstimulus (the taste of food).
This unconditioned stimulus naturally andautomatically triggers salivating as a response to the food which is known asthe unconditionedresponse. Afterassociating the neutral stimulus and the unconditionedstimulus, the sound of the bell will naturally evoke salivating as a response.The sound of the bell is known as the conditioned stimulus and salivating inresponse to the bell is conditioned response.When the dogsees food, he starts salivating. It’s an automatic involuntary process.
Thedog doesn’t need to be trained to perform this behaviour. This comes naturally to him. The food isnaturally occurring stimulus. If you rang a bell every time the food ispresented, an association will form between the bell and the food and that bellalone (the conditioned stimulus) will become the stimulus that results in thesalivation response of dog.Operant conditioningOperantconditioning was first described by B.
F Skinner, an American psychologist.Operant conditioning can be described as the process that attempts to modifybehaviour through the use of reinforcement and punishment. In operantconditioning, an individual forms an association between a particular behaviourand its consequence. In operant conditioning, learning refers to changes inbehaviour as a result of experiences that occur after a response.
B.F Skinnerproposed his theory on operant conditioning by conducting various experimentson animals. He used a special box known as “Skinner Box” for his experiment onrats.As the firststep to his experiment, he placed a hungry rat inside the Skinner box. The ratwas initially inactive inside the box, but gradually as it began to adapt tothe environment of the box, it began to explore around.
Eventually, the ratdiscovered a lever, upon pressing which; food was released inside the box. Afterit filled its hunger, it started exploring the box again, and after a while, itpressed the lever for the second time as it grew hungry again. This phenomenoncontinued for the third, fourth and the fifth time and after a while, thehungry rat immediately pressed the lever once it was placed in the box. Then theconditioning deemed to be complete. Here, the action of pressing the lever isan operant behaviour/response and the food released inside the chamber is thereward.
Example:imagine that a schoolteacher punishes a student for talking out of turn by notletting the student go outside for recess. As a result, the student forms anassociation between the behaviour (talking out of turn) and the consequence(not being able to go outside for recess). As a result, the problematic behaviourdecreases.
A number offactors can influence how quickly a response is learned and the strength of theresponse. How often the response is reinforce, known as a schedule ofreinforcement, can play an important role in how quickly the behaviour is learnedand how strong the response becomes. The type of rein forcer used can also havean impact on the response. Operantconditioning involves applying reinforcement or punishment after a behaviour.It focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviours. A behaviourresponse is followed by either reinforcement or punishment. Reinforcementas well as punishment comes in two forms: Positive and negative reinforcementand positive and negative punishment.
Positive and Negative ReinforcementPositive reinforcement refers to the addition of something positive. Examples of thiswould be offering praise or a treat when a desired behaviour is displayed. Skinner’s experimenton the rat also explains the effects of positive reinforcement.
Upon pressingthe lever, the hungry rat was served with food, which filled its hunger; hence,it’s a positive reinforcement.Negative reinforcement occurs when something undesirable is removed whenever behaviouris displayed. Examples of this would be taking aspirin to get rid of a headacheor doing the dishes to avoid a fight with your roommate. The goal inboth of these cases of reinforcement is for the behaviour to increase.
Positive and Negative PunishmentPositive punishment is theaddition of something undesirable. Examples would be a child receiving aspanking or receiving extra chores for misbehaving. Negative punishment is theremoval of something pleasing. Examples would be a child being placed intimeout or losing video game privileges for misbehaviour.The goal inboth of these cases of punishment is for the behaviour to decrease.
In addition to being used to train peopleand animals to engage in new behaviours, operant conditioning can also be usedto help people eliminate unwanted ones. Using a system of rewards andpunishments, people can learn to overcome bad habits that might have a negativeimpact on their health such as smoking or overeating. The Differences between Classical and Operant ConditioningØ Classical conditioning involvesassociating an involuntary response and a stimulus, while operant conditioningis about associating a voluntary behaviour and a consequence.
Ø In operant conditioning, the learner is also rewardedwith incentives, while classical conditioning involves no such enticements. Ø Classical conditioning is passive on the part of thelearner, while operant conditioning requires the learner to activelyparticipate and perform some type of action in order to be rewarded orpunished. Ø For operant conditioning to work, the subject must firstdisplay a behaviour which can then be either rewarded or punished. Classicalconditioning, on the other hand, involves forming an association with some sortof already naturally occurring event.
Today, both classical and operant conditioning are utilized for avariety of purposes by teachers, parents, psychologists, animal trainers andmany others. In the case of animals, a trainer might utilize classicalconditioning by repeatedly pairing the sound of a clicker with the taste offood. Eventually, the sound of the clicker alone will begin to produce the sameresponse that the taste of food would. In a classroom setting, a teacher mightutilize operant conditioning by offering tokens as rewards for good behaviour.
Students can then turn in these tokens to receive some type of reward such as atreat or extra play time. In each of these instances, the goal of conditioningis to produce some sort of change in behaviour.