Which form of learning (classical conditioning vs. operant conditioning) has the greatest real world implications? The greatest role in your own life? To support your position, provide your own...

Which form of learning (classical conditioning vs. operant conditioning) has the greatest real world implications? The greatest role in your own life?

To support your position, provide your own example of operant conditioning and be sure to identify the primary reinforcer(and/or primary punisher), secondary reinforcer (and/ or secondary punisher), positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment.

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are numerous examples of classical conditioning that any one person, if they understand what it is, can cite as having had an impact in their lives.  For example, most of us have gotten sick after eating a particular type of food, and experience nausea or distaste for quite some time afterwards whenever that food is even mentioned or thought of.  That is an example of classical conditioning, and is just one type that many people experience.  It happens every day, all of the time.  But, on the other hand, operant conditioning also happens all of the time too.

In real life implications, operant conditioning is probably more useful to know and implement.  It is useful for managers, parents, teachers, coaches and anyone who is trying to teach anyone anything.  Research supports and backs operant conditioning as an ethical, humane and effective tool for teaching.  Classical conditioning isn't as friendly. For example, alcoholics can use classical conditioning to overcome their addiction; they can take a medication that makes them sick every time they drink.  It can be effective, but it sure isn't pleasant.  Operant conditioning can be used in more pleasant and less dangerous ways to enhance learning.

Take a kid learning how to ride a bike, for instance. Operant conditioning principles can be applied.  The primary reinforcer is the parent's praise, and the thrill of learning to ride a bike.  A secondary reinforcer might be treats or money that the parent offers when the kid learns different aspects of the task at hand.  Positive reinforcement is encouragement from the parent, and acceptance by other peers who ride their bikes.  Negative reinforcers could be injuries while learning.  These principles can be applied to almost anything that one learns.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

krishna-agrawala | Student

Psychologists identify four different ways in which we learn to behave the way we do. These are (1) classical conditioning, (2) instrumental conditioning or operant learning, (3) multiple-response learning, and (4) insight learning.

Classical conditional takes place when we begin to respond in a particular way to a stimulus because of association of that stimulus with some other stimulus. For example, sight of food will stimulate flow of saliva in a hungry person. If a person is offered a food regularly accompanied by sounding of bell, the sound of bell itself may stimulate flow of saliva.

Instrument conditioning or operant learning takes place because of the experience following a stimulus or an action. For example in a experiment, rats were trained to press a lever for food just by putting a device within their reach which will deliver if a lever was pressed. Initially the rats pressed the lever just by chance, but over a period they learn to press the lever to obtain food.

While behaviour of people is determined by all different types of learning, perhaps the greatest contributor to learning is by instrumental conditioning or operant conditioning. That is we learn to behave in certain ways because of our previous experience of the consequences of our action.