Operant Conditioning vs. Classic Conditioning: Differences and Examples
Classical conditioning and operant conditioning can be seen as two types of associative learning between which there is a significant difference . These two forms of learning have their roots in Behavioral Psychology, or Behaviorism. This school of psychology was concerned with the external behavior of individuals, when observable. In this logical position, they rejected the idea of studying scientifically what could not be observed. This branch was also involved in scientific research and stressed the importance of empiricism.
→ Learn more: The differences between Behaviorism and Functionalism
Classical conditioning and operant conditioning can be considered as two of the greatest contributions of behaviorism to psychology that explain two different dimensions of learning. Through this article, we will examine the differences between classical and operant conditioning in gaining a better understanding of individual theories.
Mouse: “It’s time for food. I have to press the lever. ” Dog: “I can hear the noise of the bell. It’s time for food. ”
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What is classic conditioning?
Classical conditioning was a theory introduced by Ivan Pavlov . He explains that some forms of learning can be involuntary, emotional and physiological responses . At the time that Pavlov introduced classical conditioning, he was working on other research. He noticed that the dog he used for the experiment started to salivate, not only when food was given, but even when he heard his footsteps. It is this incident that influenced Pavlov to study the concept of learning. He conducted an experiment with the intention of understanding this concept. Each time the dog was given food or even with the simple sight or smell of the food, the dog began to salivate. This can be understood as follows.
Unconditioned stimulus (food) → unconditioned response (salivation)
Then he would ring a bell to see if the dog would salivate, but it didn’t.
Neutral stimulus (bell) → No response (no salivation)
Then he rang the bell and offered the food, which made the dog salivate.
Unconditioned stimulus (food) + neutral stimulus (bell) → unconditioned response (salivation)
After performing this procedure for a while, he noticed that the dog salivated every time the bell rang, even if the food was not presented.
Conditioned stimulus (bell) → conditioned response (salivation)
Through experience, Pavlov pointed out that neutral stimuli can be transformed into conditioned stimuli, producing a conditioned response.
Even in day-to-day life, classic conditioning is apparent in all of us. Imagine a situation where a friend or boyfriend says’ we need to talk. ” Upon hearing the words, we feel worried and anxious. There are many other cases where classic conditioning applies to real life, such as the school bell, fire alarms, etc. This is also used for therapies such as aversive therapy used for alcoholics, flooding and systematic desensitization used for phobias, etc.
What is operant conditioning?
It was the American psychologist B. F Skinner who discovered operant conditioning. He believed that behavior is underpinned by reinforcements and rewards, not free will . He used Skinner’s famous box for his experiments. This conditioning involves voluntary and controllable behavior, and not automatic physiological responses, as in the case of classical conditioning. In operant conditioning, action is associated with consequences for the body. Actions that are strengthened become strengthened while actions that are punished are being weakened. He introduced two types of reinforcements; positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
In positive reinforcement , the individual is presented with pleasant stimuli that result in increased behavior. Giving chocolate to a student for good behavior can be taken as an example. The negative reinforcement is the absence of unpleasant stimuli. For example, finishing a quick schoolwork, instead of at the last minute, removes the tension the student feels. In both cases, reinforcement works to increase a particular behavior that is considered to be good.