Psychology: Learning: Reinforcement and Observational Learning

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Learning may be defined as a relatively durable change in behavior due to experience. Thus, if any change in behavior is temporary or due to instinct or maturation it is not termed as learning.

Ways of Learning

Psychologists, on basis of studies on human beings and on animal have tried to explain the process of learning. The two basic types of learning are discussed below

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning was discovered by Ivan P. Pavlov. Pavlov worked with dog and was interested in studying stimulus- response relationship. Pavlov presented to dog a series of trials in which a tone was paired with food (biologically important stimulus).

  • Before conditioning: UCS→UCR CS→ orienting response

  • During conditioning: CS+ UCS→CR

  • After conditioning: CS→CR

  • UCS= unconditioned stimulus; UCR= unconditioned response; CS= conditioned stimulus

  • CR= conditioned response

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning or instrumental conditioning can be defined as a process through which organisms learn to repeat behavior that produce positive outcome or avoid negative outcomes.

Reinforcement and Observational Learning

  • Positive reinforcement- Positive reinforcement is any stimulus that strengthens a response that precedes it (e.g., lever pressing is reinforced by food).

  • Negative reinforcement - The procedure involving application of negative stimulus in increasing the rate of response is called negative reinforcement. The type of learning involving negative reinforcement is called escape learning. (e.g., heat, electric shock).

  • Observational learning -It is the third major way of learning. Acquiring new skill by observing the behavior of others is very common. Observational learning depends on the existence of appropriate model in the environment.

Some Other Types of Learning

Types of learning

Types of Learning

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  • Verbal learning- The process of learning language is called verbal learning.

  • Concept learning- The process of developing categories of object and event is called concept learning.

  • Skill learning- The process of learning various type of skills like riding a bicycle.

Transfer of Training

Transfer of training refers to the process of using earlier learning in a new situation. It is positive if the first learning helps the second learning. Learning transforms a person in many ways and occurs throughout one’s life.