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Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning.

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KONTEAS BENNY 10/5/2003 Psychology Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning focuses on learning associations, and refers to the conditioning reflexes. For example how animals learn to associate new-presented stimuli with bodily functions e.g. Pavlov dog learnt through association that the noise of the bell meant food so when hearing it made it salivate. These principles of classical conditioning were first outlined by Pavlov and then taken on by Watson. Pavlov believed jugging by his experiments that dogs had learnt to associate new external stimuli (sound of the bell), with the first presented stimuli (food) that caused the salivation as a reflex. On the other hand operant conditioning involves learning through the consequences of behavioral responses. The principles of operant conditioning were investigated by Thorn dike, and where taken on by Skinner which he developed. ...read more.


As important as classical conditioning is, it must be recognized that it only deals with how new stimuli come to control existing involuntary responses. While reflexes and the 'gut-level' responses associated with emotions play a role in our everyday experience, most of our behaviour is self-generated, or voluntary. Behaviours are not elicited by conditioned stimuli. Instead, they are emitted - that is, generated by the individual as a way of influencing the surrounding environment. In order to understand such complex behaviour we need to use a different method of approach. This approach is operant conditioning, which is an approach that deals with how voluntary responses change over time as a function of their consequences. For example a starved cat by pushing on a door handle (response) ...read more.


Extinction exists when the unconditioned stimulus is not presented for several consecutive trials then the animal stops responding. On the other hand in classical conditioning if the C.S (bell) is continually presented without the U.C.S (food), then the C.R (salivation) will gradually die out or extinguish. In addition, in operant conditioning if the response is not reinforced, it will gradually extinguish. Nevertheless, in classical conditioning the animals that take place are "passive receivers" they simply stand in a position waiting for the experiment to finish (e.g Pavlov's dog) whereas in operant conditioning the whole experiment is based on the actions of the animals (e.g Skinner's mouse). Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning Acquisition Acquisition Extinction Extinction Spontaneous recovery Spontaneous recovery Stimulus generalization Stimulus generalization Association between stimuli and responses Reinforcement Based on involuntary reflexive behavior Based on voluntary behavior ...read more.

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