Difference Between Classical and Operant Conditioning

Behaviorism is one of those currents that has been used in several fields, including education, and it is that using its theories about behavior, it allows us to understand how human thought works according to the stimuli that are offered and the response that is received. .

Through the studies of scientists such as Pavlov and Skinner, the theories of classical conditioning and operant conditioning have been developed, respectively, which try to explain through the experimental and objective method, how the behavior of an individual can be modified, generating learning. , thanks to the use of stimulus, response and reinforcement.

What is Classical Conditioning?

Classical conditioning is a learning process in which an initial stimulus that provokes a natural response in the individual is associated with an element that has nothing to do with them, that is, it is neutral. Learning occurs when, by repetition, the individual generates a response to the neutral element by associating it with the initial stimulus; it is there where classical conditioning has been proven.

Pavlov did his experiment with a dog, observing that it salivated in front of food, he introduced a neutral stimulus by ringing a bell every time the food was offered to the animal. What happened then? After repeating offering the food when the bell rang, the dog associated the sound with the food, because when he heard it he began to salivate, even if this stimulus was not present.

Only through repetition is it possible to obtain the acquisition of this conditioning as a result, and it is strengthened to the extent that it continues to be reinforced. It may happen that, if the neutral stimulus is repeatedly presented but without offering what initially caused the conditioned response, it decreases or disappears. Although the same response can reappear suddenly even after being considered extinct by having the initial stimulus.

What is Operant Conditioning?

Operant or instrumental conditioning establishes that in order to modify a behavior, a reinforcement or punishment must be offered, which conditions future responses in the same situation or on similar occasions. Skinner is the author of this theory, in which he applied positive reinforcements when obtaining the desired response, but otherwise he applied a punishment in order to eradicate that behavior.

This is one of the most used theories since childhood, whether or not there is awareness of it, because through reinforcements or punishments, the behavior that we expect to obtain from children in certain situations is modeled. Similarly, psychologists use it to treat phobias and some addictions.

Difference Between Classical and Operant Conditioning

Classical conditioning Operant conditioning
The behavior is involuntary Behavior depends on the choice of the subject
stimuli are reinforced behaviors are reinforced
Learned by association with a stimulus It is learned by the consequences of a behavior
subject passivity subject action
environment on the subject subject on environment
behavior is associated with a stimulus The behavior is associated with what it receives (reinforcement – repeats / punishment – avoids)

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