Differences between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning are two types of learning that have to do with the development of new behaviors. However, both types of learning differ from each other for many reasons, which will be exposed in this article with the purpose of making known the fundamental and defining characteristics of each one of them.

Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning was first described by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, indicating that it involves behaviors that are formed by combining two stimuli. Thus, it describes an automatic or involuntary response when a specific stimulus is presented. From another point of view, classical conditioning is a process of stimulus substitution, in which behavior is modified based on preceding events.

On the other hand, classical conditioning follows the principle of contiguity, which means that the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus are contiguous. In classical conditioning, the subject or learner intervenes passively, that is, he emits a passive response to a stimulus. Therefore, learning in classical conditioning occurs in a responding way.

Finally, for this type of learning to occur, the environment acts on the subject and they emit an involuntary response, meaning that they learn through the association of stimuli. Furthermore, the mechanisms of classical conditioning are the reinforcement of stimuli.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning was first described by the American psychologist BF Skinner and consists of applying reinforcement or punishment after a behavior, focusing on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors. Operant conditioning is based on reinforcement and uses behavior modification where the subject emits an active response to a given stimulus.

On the other hand, operant conditioning makes use of any reinforcement or punishment to increase or decrease a behavior. Thus, through this process, an association is formed between the behavior and its consequences.

That said, this type of learning requires the learner to participate and take some kind of action, in order to be actively rewarded or punished. Therefore, her behavior is said to be operant. In this way, for this type of learning to occur, the subject acts on the environment and emits a spontaneous response based on the following events, that is, it is learned by the consequence that causes the behavior. Finally, the mechanisms of operant conditioning are the use of rewards and punishments.

Having presented the main features of classical conditioning and operant conditioning, the following differences can be summarized:

Classical conditioning Operant conditioning
It focuses on the substitution of stimuli. It focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors.
The subject makes an automatic or involuntary response. The subject makes a spontaneous response.
The subject or learner intervenes passively. The subject or learner actively intervenes.
The environment acts on the subject. The subject acts on the environment.
responsive behavior. operant behavior.
The mechanisms of classical conditioning is the reinforcement of stimuli. The mechanisms of operant conditioning are the use of rewards and punishments.

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