Behavioral Learning Theories

Learning is the most important factor into what makes us human. It helps us to respond and react to different changes, big or small, quickly and effectively. By definition, learning is the change that occurs in human behavior or knowledge due to some event or experience. Learning is a process of memory since one cannot learn anything without having the ability to remember.

Behavior learning theory concerns with observable results and assumes that learning is the response to an external event. There are three main types of behavioral learning theory:

1. Operant Conditioning- B.F Skinner

2.  Classical Conditioning- Ivan Pavlov

3. Observational Learning- Albert Bandura

Let us look at these theories individually.

Operant Conditioning-Learning through consequences

Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning revolves around two main aspects; reinforcements and punishment. He believed that external factors-stimuli are a main drive to what forces us to change our behavior-response. Moreover, actions that followed reinforcements would be strengthening that action and its likeness to occur again, like if a joke you told receives a good reaction, you feel good and will likely tell that joke again somewhere else. Whereas, actions that followed punishment, would automatically decrease and occur less likely due to the result. For example if nobody laughed on the joke you made, you will less likely tell it again. There are 4 main types of operant conditioning:

Positive Reinforcement: addition of pleasant stimulus to increase desired behavior. For example, a parent rewards his/her child for getting good grades.

Negative Reinforcement: removing a negative stimulus to enhance behavior. For example, a child starts homework himself so that his parents won’t scold him.

Positive Punishment: addition of a negative stimulus to decrease undesired behavior. For example, a mother takes away pocket money from child because he was lying.

Negative Punishment: removing a pleasant stimulus to increase desired behavior. For example, due to incomplete homework, the child’s playing time was halved.

Similar to this: Psychosocial Stages Of Development

Classical Conditioning- Learning through association

Classical conditioning is the learning that is achieved through paring of two stimuli, one natural and one unconditioned, to create a new response. Pavlov experimented this on his dog when he noticed how his dog started salvation when his food would arrive. He started using a bell with the food, several times after the bell was used alone and as predicted, Pavlov’s dog started salivating although there was no food present. He had associated the sound of the bell with its salivation creating a new response.

In this it can be said that the dog food was the Unconditioned Stimulus that triggered salivation, an UnConditioned Response. By adding the bell, a Conditioned Stimulus, the dog salivated only on the sound later on, a Conditioned Response.   

Behavioral Learning

Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS): one that naturally triggers a response.

Unconditioned Response (UCR): an automatic or unlearned response to the unconditioned stimulus.

Smell of food (Unconditioned stimulus) makes us feel hungry (Unconditioned Response.)

Conditioned Stimulus (CS): a neutral stimulus combined or paired with the unconditioned one.

Conditioned Response (CR): a learned response due to pairing of stimuli.

A whistle is added every time we smell food. After some time, just a whistle (Conditioned stimulus) will make us feel hungry (Conditioned Response).

Observational Learning-Learning through observation

Observation learning, just by the name, is a process through which we observe our surrounding and learn from it. Just how children are, they learn many things just by looking at their parents. A society is filled with influential people from whom many children tend to learn, they can be icons, actors, cartoons, peers relatives or teachers at school.

This is one of the main and the simplest process through which every single person learns. Even as adults, we tend to look around our surroundings in order to learn from it and try our best to not make the same mistakes.

Learning is an important factor in our human lives; it helps us become a better version of ourselves. Without learning we can never advance, even in daily tasks which shows just how important the idea of learning and memory is for us humans,

To learn more about memory, read Memory