What is the difference between conditioning and learning?

What is the difference between conditioning and learning?

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The more I think about the difference between learning and Pavlovian conditioning, the more I'm unable to see how they differ. Even though in theory associative learning is just a portion of learning.

Here is the classical conditioning:

What if we have an observer watching the process? I think that even when the food and the bell are not for them, the fact that they observe their effects to the dog can lead them to a condition response as well. The process is as follow:

  • Before conditioning: the observer has a belief that that food will make the dog excretes salivation, but bell alone is not. We say that the belief "food will make the dog excretes salivation" is an unconditioned belief, and "bell won't make the dog excretes salivation" a no-conditioned belief.
  • After conditioning: the observer has a new belief that "bell alone will still make the dog excretes salivation". This belief is a conditioned belief.

We have this analogy:

  • Unconditioned observation: Observe that the dog is fed
  • Conditioned observation: Observe that the dog hears the bell
  • Conditioned belief: Food will make the dog salivating
  • Unconditioned belief: Bell alone will still make the dog salivating

Am I missing something?

  1. In Pavlov experiment, the unconditioned response and conditioned response is the same (both are salivating). In the analogy, the unconditioned belief is not the same with the conditioned belief.

  2. In Pavlov experiment, the unconditioned response can only happen after the unconditioned stimulus. In the analogy, the unconditioned belief can be recalled ("activated") even though there is no unconditioned observation.

What Is the Relationship Between Learning and Cognition?

The relationship between learning and cognition is that cognition is a process that results in a learned behavior or response. As a result of this relationship, learning takes place through many forms of cognitive behavior.

While learning and cognition may appear similar, they are defined differently. Learning is defined as an activity or process that results in knowledge being gained. Cognition is defined as the act or process of knowing.

Besides the aforementioned relationship, these two items are performance-based. Learning is based on the theory that an organism is born with the neurological ability to acquire knowledge. Whether through a structured environment, such as school or work, or trial and error, some cognitive processes take place to produce knowledge. These same processes become traits of the individual and can lead to additional learning. There are different levels of cognition that vary with the species. Humans are known to have a high level that may not be present in other animals.

A major factor with learning and cognition is motivation. The greater the stimuli from a person's environment, the greater the emphasis on learning a new behavior. Through this process, the positive and negative feedback that received helps govern which processes are maintained and which are discarded.

Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a learning process first discovered by the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov in the early 1900s Operant Conditioning is the term coined by B.F. Skinner in 1938.
The theory of Classical Conditioning deals with the learning process leading us to gain a new behavior via the process of association. Operant conditioning is a form of learning which explains the relation of behaviors on certain rewards and consequences.
Internal mental thoughts and brain mechanisms play a huge role in associative learning. The study of the theory only deals with expressible behaviors and not any internal mental thoughts and brain mechanisms.
Classical Conditioning works by pairing involuntary response with stimulus. After which, unconditioned response becomes conditioned response. Operant Conditioning works by applying two major concepts, Reinforcements and Punishments, after the behavior is executed, which causes the rate of behavior to increase or decrease.
Pavlov’s dog experiment is a base for the establishment of classical conditioning theory and its concepts. Skinner’s Skinner box experiment with a rat is the base for operant conditioning theory and its concepts.

Along with the differences there are also various similarities between these two forms of conditioning learning. The major similarity lies in its application. Both these conditioning learning techniques are used to teach a new behavior to an organism. Despite different techniques, the major goal remains the same.

Both of these techniques have certain limitations when applying it in real life. These techniques are also applied unknowingly. For instance, a teacher punishing a student is an example of operant conditioning. On the other hand, we call our pets with a certain signal before we treat them with food. The dog then associates the timing of food with the signal, which is an example of classical conditioning.


Instincts and reflexes are innate behaviors—they occur naturally and do not involve learning. In contrast, learning is a change in behavior or knowledge that results from experience. There are three main types of learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning. Both classical and operant conditioning are forms of associative learning where associations are made between events that occur together. Observational learning is just as it sounds: learning by observing others.

What is the difference between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning?

In classical conditioning, the organism learns the relationship between one stimulus (bell) and the other (food). The CS and the UCS are connected together so that the animal learns to respond to the CS just as it does to the UCS. The bell by being paired consistently with food acquires the potentiality of evoking the same response (i.e., salivation) as was evoked by the food. Pavlov termed classical conditioning as Stimulus-Substitution. But in operant conditioning, the organism learns the relationship between a response (i.e., lever pressing) and a stimulus (i.e., food). While classical conditioning is S-S type of learning, the operant conditioning is S-R type learning.

The UCS (i.e., food) elicits the natural and biological response of salivation (UCR). In operant conditioning, the response has to be spontaneously emitted by the organism. Among several responses emitted, one response is followed by reinforcement. The probability for the occurrence of that response increases, and the probabilities for other responses decrease. Since the response to be given in operant conditioning is to be shown by the organism, the response is under the voluntary control of the organism. In classical conditioning, the UCS evokes a natural response so the nature of the response is involuntary. Since involuntary responses (i.e., blood pressure, pulse rate) can be brought under voluntary control, they can also be instrumentally conditioned. Biofeedback is a method of bringing involuntary responses under voluntary control.

In classical conditioning, the UCR (salivation to food) and the CR (salivation to bell) show a great deal of similarity. But in operant conditioning, the CR and the UCR are usually different, and sometimes, radically dissimilar. All the movements of the rat inside the Skinner Box (e.g., jumping, scratching, crawling etc.) in the first trial before it has received food constitute the UCR. The CR is the response of lever pressing, which is very different from the UCR.

In classical conditioning, the response comes after the reinforcement. The reinforcement is powerful to elicit a natural biological response. The arrangement in operant conditioning is such that the reinforcement is given only after the correct response is made. While in classical conditioning response follows the reinforcement, in the operant procedure, reinforcement follows the response.

The CS, in classical conditioning is a specific identifiable stimulus like the bell or the light. In the operant conditioning, the array of stimulus cues present in the box serves as the CS. The sight of all the parts of the Skinner box, and the smell form a stimulus field where the organism’s response takes place. All these serve as the CS in the instrumental procedure.

In the classical procedure, the type of reinforcers given determines the organism’s response. It has less freedom for action. Thus, the organism plays a passive role, while in operant conditioning, the organism plays an active role, it has more choices for operating on its environment, and its actions determine whether or not it will receive reinforcement.

The classical conditioning is governed by the principle of contiguity, which means that the response and the stimulus must be very close in time. When the bell (CS) is sounded, the response of salivation (UCR) elicited by food (UCS) must occur within a very short time. If the time gap is more, the conditioning will not take place. The important law for the operant/instrumental conditioning is the Law of Effect. Whether or not a response would be learned depends upon the effect of the response. If the response brings reinforcement, it will be learned if it does not, it will not be learned.

Reinforcement can be continuous or partial. How do the two procedures respond to partial reinforcement, that is when reinforcement is not given on all occasions? In classical conditioning, partial reinforcement (i.e., food is given on some trials and not given on others) reduces the rate of learning. The organism takes more trials to learn the response. The extinction of a response learned under partial reinforcement is slightly delayed. The Partial Reinforcement Effect (PRE) is different for operant conditioning. The rate of response is higher in operant conditioning under conditions of partial reinforcement. If the response is learned under partial reinforcement schedules, it takes longer to be extinguished, because organism fails to discriminate between the acquisition phase and the extinction phase. In the operant/instrumental procedure, the partial reinforcement results in greater resistance to extinction.

In Summary, the operational distinctions between the classical and the operant conditioning techniques make a reader sensitive to the subtle differences existing between the two techniques, even if it is difficult to discriminate between the presence of light and other stimulus conditions. As a consequence, it responds when the light is on, and does not respond when light is absent and other stimuli are present. This is discrimination learning. The light signal serves as a stimulus to control the behavior of the rat. In other words, rat’s behavior comes under the stimulus control of light. Teenagers show disciplined behaviors in the presence of their parents. Students study hard, when the teacher is present. Parents and teachers are discriminative stimuli. The behaviors of the teenagers and students have come under the stimulus control of their parents and teachers respectively. Discrimination learning accounts for great many life experiences representing complex human behavior.

Reinforcement learning and Instrumental conditioning

The Law of Effect describes two essential features of animal learning which mirror in RL algorithms. First, an algorithm has to be selectional, which means that it tries different actions and selects among them by comparing their outcome. Second, the algorithms has to be associative, meaning that it associates particular situations (states) with actions found during selection phase.

The Law of Effect says that it’s important not only to find the actions that give a lot of reward but also connect those actions to the states.

The most notorious example of selectional process is natural selection in evolution — the strongest lives — but it’s not associative. An example of associative method could be supervised learning but it’s not selectional as it needs direct instructions in order to change its behavior.

For a RL algorithm selectional process is the exploration and there are many ways it can be done. For example, ε-greedy policy, which states that an agent picks a random action with the probability of ε and it picks greedily (chooses the action that gives the biggest instant reward) with the probability of 1-ε. By gradually decreasing ε during training, we’re trying to solve The Exploration-Exploitation Dilemma, which says, to put simply, when one should stop exploring and start exploiting.

Another curious thing is motivation. For instrumental conditioning it is what influences the strength and the direction of behavior. In Thorndike’s experiment it was the food left outside the box. Whenever our cat breaks out of the box it gets the food and this reinforces the actions it conducted to escape.

Of course, it’s not directly corresponding to RL but the reward signal is basically what we call motivation and the whole trick then is to make the agent’s experience rewarding. And though our own motivation is very complex and highly hierarchical thing, we can get some ideas. For instance, we are more motivated to get food when we’re hungry and less motivated when we just ate, and maybe we can transfer this kind of behavior to reinforcement learning. However, there are only few works on this topic. The most recent one, at least to my knowledge, is The Cognitive Neuroscience of Motivation and Learning by Nathaniel D. Daw and Daphna Shohamy.

As you see, the abstract of instrumental conditioning is very similar to one of reinforcement learning but they are not equal statements in any way. Mapping something so complex as animals’ behavior to computational problem is like explaining the string theory with sticks and stones.

Review Questions

Which of the following is an example of a reflex that occurs at some point in the development of a human being?

  1. child riding a bike
  2. teen socializing
  3. infant sucking on a nipple
  4. toddler walking

[reveal-answer q=�″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
[hidden-answer a=�″]C[/hidden-answer]

Learning is best defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior that ________.

  1. is innate
  2. occurs as a result of experience
  3. is found only in humans
  4. occurs by observing others

[reveal-answer q=�″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
[hidden-answer a=�″]B[/hidden-answer]

Two forms of associative learning are ________ and ________.

  1. classical conditioning operant conditioning
  2. classical conditioning Pavlovian conditioning
  3. operant conditioning observational learning
  4. operant conditioning learning conditioning

[reveal-answer q=�″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
[hidden-answer a=�″]A[/hidden-answer]

In ________ the stimulus or experience occurs before the behavior and then gets paired with the behavior.

  1. associative learning
  2. observational learning
  3. operant conditioning
  4. classical conditioning

[reveal-answer q=�″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
[hidden-answer a=�″]D[/hidden-answer]

Comparison between Classical and Operant Conditioning | Learning

Learn about the comparison between classical and operant conditioning.

Comparison # Classical Conditioning:

1. It was formulated by a Russian psychologist namely Pavlov.

2. Pavlov conducted experiments on dogs.

3. It is called Pavlovian or type-1 learning (respondent).

4. In classical conditioning, the occurrence of conditioned response is forced reflectively by unconditioned stimulus.

5. The unconditioned stimulus occurs irrespective of subject’s behaviour.

6. Classical conditioning is preparatory or anticipatory response. It is also called signal learning.

7. The law of contiguity is the basis of association between stimulus- response (S.R.).

8. Automatic nervous system in the organism is the controlling authority.

9. There is pairing of un-conditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus.

10. Bondage between specific unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus is established.

11. Reinforcement takes the first place in the Pavlov’s experiment as food is presented first to elicit the response.

12. Conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus can be placed in different temporal sequences. Close contiguity is followed.

13. In classical conditioning, focus is on the single stimulus response bondage.

14. Regardless of the occurrence of conditioned response, we present the unconditioned stimulus.

15. Classical conditioning presents different pictures of behaviour and learning in which an arbitrary stimulus is associated with a specific elicitable response.

Comparison # Operant Conditioning:

1. It was formulated by an American psychologist Skinner.

2. Skinner conducted experiments on rats and pigeons.

3. It is called Skinnerian or type-2 learning (operant).

4. Response is more spontaneous and voluntary in operant conditioning.

5. The reward is contingent upon the occurrences of response.

6. Operant conditioning serves mainly to stress or guide the learner that already has certain responses available.

7. The law of effect is the basis of association between stimulus-response (S.R.).

8. Central nervous system in the organism is the controlling authority.

9. There is the pairing of a response and the reinforcing stimulus which follows. There is no pairing of unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus.

10. Tendency to respond in a specific manner is developed.

11. Reinforcement comes after the response is made by the organism.

12. Close contiguity is followed and response stimulus chain is formed.

13. Operant conditioning is concerned with the sequences of responses. A chain of responses is formed leading to the desired goal.

14. Stimulus is presented only if the organism makes the desired response.

15. The operant conditioning deals with the differentiation and discrimination of a sequence out of a mass behaviour emitted in response to a complex stimulus field.

Discussion: Learning

There are two types of learning: associative learning and non-associative learning. Associative learning is when you learn something new about a new kind of stimulus (that is, an extra stimulus). Non-associative learning is when you're not pairing a stimulus with a behavior. Non-associative learning can be either habituation or sensitization.

Habituation is when repeated exposure to a stimulus decreases an organism's responsiveness to the stimulus. What are some things in life that we experience over and over again and react less and less to? What's an example of habituation in real life?

Noise is a great example of something that we habituate to. Say you go to the library to do some studying, but they're doing construction and you didn't know about it. The first time you hear construction noise&mdashbam!&mdashit's a little scary the second time you hear it it's a little less scary the third and fourth and fifth time&hellipand after hours and hours of studying for your Introduction to Psychology exam in the library, you barely even notice this noise at all.

Do people live in dormitories on campus? And do people burn popcorn in these dorms, does this happen? And what happens when you burn popcorn? The fire alarm goes off. What happens the very first time the fire alarm goes off when you're in college? You panic! Oh my goodness, I'm in college, I brought everything I own and put it in this tiny little space and now it's going to burn up and be gone. Everyone runs outside in their PJs. Well, the second time the fire alarm goes off, we move a little slower, because last time it was just burnt popcorn. The third time, we move a little slower, the fourth time we move a little slower. The fifth time, we don't even get out of bed. That's habituation in real life.

Sensitization is kind of the opposite. It's learning that occurs when stimulus is repeated, and each time your response to it increases as it goes on and on. So what's an example of sensitization in real life?

Anyone have siblings? You're in the car with your sister and she pokes you in the shoulder and you're like, "Quit it." She pokes you in the shoulder and you're like, "Quit it!" She pokes you in the shoulder and you're like, "QUIT IT!" She pokes you in the shoulder and you punch her in the face. That's sensitization: you're increasing your behavioral response as the stimulus is repeated.

Habituation is an excellent way to investigate learning in those who can't report what they're learning, like animals or babies, because as you present a stimulus over and over again, the organism cares less and less about it. You can measure this through looking time&mdasha method used when studying babies. Habituation is also a great way to find out whether an organism can tell the difference between two kinds of stimuli. When studying an animal, if a stimulus is played over and over and over again and the animal gets very bored with it, looking time will decrease. When faced with a new, or novel, stimulus (and the animal can tell that it's new), looking time will increase. But if it can't tell the difference, it will remain habituated.

Classical conditioning is a type of associative learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus becomes paired with a stimulus that causes a behavior. After a while, the neutral stimulus can produce the behavior all by itself. Psychologists have come up with all kinds of complicated names for these things, and it will be worth knowing what they are and how they apply to different examples.

In the case of Pavlov's dog, food is the unconditioned stimulus. Unconditioned stimulus is natural. No learning had to be involved. What is the unconditioned response? It's the drooling, the dog's natural response. The neutral stimulus is what the dog just does not care about it has no particular response to this sound. But if you do this repeated pairing, playing the neutral stimulus and presenting the unconditioned stimulus, what will happen eventually? The dog will salivate in response to the sound. This makes the sound the conditioned stimulus.

Remember that the unconditioned response and the conditioned response are essentially the same thing: getting excited about the food. It's just how they're brought about that's different.

So we can think about the temporal order that these occur in. We can think about forward conditioning, in which the conditioned stimulus occurs before the unconditioned stimulus (bell and then food) backward pairing, in which the unconditioned stimulus comes first (food and then bell) or simultaneous conditioning, when they occur together. And what do you think is the most effective way to train somebody up on this? Which of these will help you learn the bell and the food best of all?

Forward conditioning: when you have the conditioned stimulus before the unconditioned stimulus, it gives the animal time to figure out that the bell means something, so that they can form an association and have it proven correct. Classical conditioning is all about prediction. When you get the food first, other stuff may happen at the same time, or a little later, but it's not that important to you.

A second type of associative learning is operant, or instrumental, conditioning. This is the process by which a behavior becomes associated with its consequences. The big difference is that there isn't an unconditioned stimulus initially. The animal does something, something positive happens, and so the behavior is repeated. And this comes about by the law of effect: actions that lead to a more satisfying state of affairs are more likely to be repeated.

Operant conditioning can be brought about by a variety of reinforcement schedules and reward types. We can think of reinforcement as a reward&mdashwhat you do to promote good behavior&mdashand punishment as, well, punishment&mdashwhat you do to punish bad behavior. And we're going to get into some terms that are a little bit counterintuitive, so let's think about why they're called what they are.

You can have positive reinforcement, which is where something good is given. Reinforcement because it's a reward, and positive because something is introduced.

Positive punishment is when something bad is introduced in order to shape behavior in the opposite direction, and negative punishment is when something good is taken away.

As you grapple with these somewhat confusing terms, try to add your own examples to the chart:

Differences between Behaviourism and Social Learning Theory

There are five essential differences between Social Learning Theory and Behaviourism.

(1) Social Learning Theory recognises that the learner plays an active role in their learning

They choose who to attend to, choose which behaviour to remember, choose when and where to reproduce the behaviours and finally choose how to respond to the consequences of their behaviour. In contrast, Behaviourism assumes that the learner simply responds passively to its environment.

(2) Social Learning Theory recognises a difference between acquisition and performance of behaviour.

It is possible to observe a behaviour, remember and add it to your repertoire, but never produce it. In contrast, Behaviourism argues that performance and learning are the same thing and a behaviour has only been learned if it is used.

(3) Social Learning Theory recognises that behaviours can become fixed

Bandura calls these fixed behaviours ‘internalised’ - if they have been imitated and reinforced enough. In contrast, if Behaviourism were correct, our behaviour would constantly change in response to new reinforcement.

(4) Social Learning Theory recognises that reinforcement is an indirect process

This is most obvious in vicarious reinforcement where the learner is motivated by reinforcement of their models as if they were being reinforced themselves, but even reinforcement they receive themselves is less direct than in Behaviourism because it is mediated by cognitive factors. What is reinforcing to one person may not be reinforcing to another.

(5) Social Learning Theory research only involves measurement of observable behaviour

The majority is done in controlled laboratory experiments, but unlike Behaviourism its participants are almost always humans and its experimental findings are supported by natural observations.

Watch the video: How to Create a Strength u0026 Conditioning Program for Athletes. Programming for Athletic Performance (June 2022).


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