What is operant conditoning and classical conditioning?

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marypmc | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Classical conditioning is the type of conditioning associated with Pavlov’s work with dogs.   It describes when a stimulus triggers an involuntary response.  This stimulus, to which subjects reply without training is referred to as the unconditioned stimulus (UCS).  The involuntary response is referred to as the unconditioned response (UCR).  Stimuli that to which subjects respond only after training are referred to as conditional stimuli (CS).  Subjects begin to associate CS with the UCS.  Eventually the presentation of a CS becomes equivalent with the presentation of an UCR, and produces a conditioned response (CR) that matches the original UCR.

Operant conditioning forms an association between a behavior and the consequence that follows.  Something that increases a behavior is referred to as a reinforcer.   Reinforcement can be positive or negative, although negative reinforcement is often misunderstood or referred to inappropriately.  When something desirable is presented after a behavior is demonstrated and it leads to an increase in that behavior it is referred to as positive reinforcement.  When something unpleasant or undesirable is removed when a behavior is demonstrated and it leads to an increase in that behavior it is referred to as negative reinforcement.   Negative reinforcement is often confused with punishment, which refers to consequences that decrease behaviors or lead to them being demonstrated less frequently.  Punishments can also be positive (something undesirable being presented after a behavior is demonstrated leading to a decrease in the behavior) or negative (something desirable being removed after a behavior is demonstrated leading to a decrease in that behavior).

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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  • Classical Conditioning

We learn to associate 2 stimuli and anticipate events (expect a result)

Expect and prepare for significant event

  • Operant Conditioning

We learn to associate our own behavior (or our response) and its consequence. We therefore repeat behaviors with good results, we cut down on behaviors with bad results.

eritreanprincess's profile pic

eritreanprincess | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Classical Conditioning- Concerned with how we come to use reflex e.g. involuntary behaviours. The action (eg salivation to a bell) is the consequence of an association that has been learned (e.g. bell and food are associated).

Operant Conditoning- Concerned with voluntary behaviours. Learning occurs due to the consequences of an action. The animal/human must do something first, for which it will then be rewarded if the behaviour is to continue.

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