classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational
This chapter discussed several different types of learning, including classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational. Briefly define each of these types of learning. Discuss an experience in which you learned new information through one of these types of learning. For your specific experience, describe how the learning concept you selected applies to your experience.
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In chapter 7 of the textbook, the principles of learning are discussed. These principles help to explain how learning occurs and even provides insight into how we can apply those principles to teach others and motivate ourselves to learn. In particular, there are three major categories of learning.
The first is Operant Conditioning, where reinforcement and punishments, or the consequences of an organism’s action, help to shape behaviors (Schacter, Gilbert, Nock, & Wegner, 2017). Positive reinforcement and punishment involve experiencing something pleasant or something unpleasant, respectively, to help shape behaviors. Negative reinforcement occurs when the consequence of a response is the removal of something aversive, subsequently resulting in an increased likelihood of that behavior, like taking an aspirin tablet to stop your headache. Negative punishment is the removal of something desirable to decrease a target behavior. If a parent makes a child stand in the corner as the consequence for doing something naughty, this hopefully stops the child from emitting that behavior in the future, because standing in the corner takes away the child’s ability to play.
The second type of learning is Classical Conditioning, when a neutral stimulus is repeatedly associated with an unconditioned stimulus, which elicits an unconditioned response. This pairing eventually produces a conditioned response, so that the originally neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus, itself causing the unconditioned response (Schacter et al., 2017). Lastly, observational learning occurs by simply watching another perform an action, and we copy them, like when people show us how to line dance (Schacter et al., 2017).
There is a Bernese mountain dog that I see occasionally whose name is Lio. He is a gentle giant, but he can also be a pest, since he loves my petting and affection a little too much. Whenever I pet him and stop briefly, he immediately starts grunting and squealing furiously. He also head-butts or pushes me with his paws. In response, I resume scratching him, and the head butting and noises stop. Initially I did not recognize that Lio was using Operant Conditioning on me, with head butting as a form of positive punishment. If I resumed scratching him, Lio stopped the obnoxious pushing. To avoid the pushing, I would resume petting and scratching him.
As it turns out, most of the dogs I work with end up conditioning me, rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, knowing the principles of learning helps me to not only recognize when I am being conditioned by the dogs, but also recognize how I can actually teach them too.
Schacter, D.L., Gilbert, D.T., Nock, M.K., & Wegner, D.M. (2017). Introduction to
Psychology. New York, NY: Worth.
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