Posts filed under ‘Behavioural’

How we learn #1: Operant conditioning.

Learning is something that is greatly advantageous for the survival of both humans and other animals. By learning behaviours that produce favourable outcomes, we can aid our well-being and repeat such behaviours to acquire the benefits more than once. It is described as:

“An adaptive process in which the tendency to perform a particular behaviour is changed by experience. As conditions change, we learn new behaviours and eliminate old ones.”

Martin, Carlson and Buskist, 2007.

There have been a great deal of different learning theories proposed; the main three being habituation, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Habituation is deemed the simplest form of learning; when we learn to ignore a repeated stimuli. For example, prior to reading this sentence, you will have learnt to ignore the feeling of clothes against your skin. Of course, as soon as you read that, you are instantly aware of the feeling your clothes are producing (unless you’re reading this naked, which I’d rather not assume…). Classical conditioning is learning to associate two stimuli with one another. For example, your mouth might water in response to the scent of a cooking steak (or even the thought of one!). Both these learning theories will be explored in greater detail in subsequent learning posts.

It may seem wiser to begin my learning posts with habituation, as it is the most basic form of learning. This is true, but I believe operant conditioning will be of more use to students and will prove to be more popular than a habituation post. There is much more to discuss, and it will (in my opinion) prove much more interesting to read.

So – operant conditioning. What is it?


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Continue Reading April 22, 2011 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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