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Old Wednesday, March 20, 2013
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Operant Conditioning vs Classical Conditioning:

Synopsis:


1. Introduction:
Learning can occur in many ways. Two of the ways of learning in psychology are classical and operant conditioning. These two conditioning techniques have some common features as well as some different features.

2. Principles Of Operant Conditioning

The main principles of operant conditioning, as defined by Skinner, are:

(I) Reinforcement
The process in which a behavior is strengthened, and thus, more likely to happen again.
o Positive Reinforcement
Making a behavior stronger by following the behavior with a pleasant stimulus. For example, a rat presses a lever and receives food.
o Negative Reinforcement
Making a behavior stronger by taking away a negative stimulus. For example, a rat presses a lever and turns off the electric shock
(II) Punishment
The process in which a behavior is weakened, and thus, less likely to happen again.
o Negative Punishment
Reducing a behavior by removing a pleasant stimulus when the behavior occurs. If the rat was previously given food for each lever press, but now receives food consistently when not pressing the lever (and not when it presses the lever), the rat will learn to stop pressing the lever.
o Positive Punishment
Reducing a behavior by presenting an unpleasant stimulus when the behavior occurs. If the rat previously pressed the lever and received food and now receives a shock, the rat will learn not to press the lever.
(III) Shaping
Technique of reinforcement used to teach new behaviors. At the beginning, people/animals are reinforced for easy tasks, and then increasingly need to perform more difficult tasks in order to receive reinforcement. For example, originally the rat is given a food pellet for one lever press, but we gradually increase the number of times it needs to press to receive food, the rat will increase the number of presses.
(IV) Extinction
The elimination of the behavior by stopping reinforcement of the behavior. For example, a rat who received food when pressing a bar, receives food no longer, will gradually decrease the amount of lever presses until the rat eventually stops lever pressing.
(V) Generalization
In generalization, a behavior may be performed in more than one situation. For example, the rat who receives food by pressing one lever, may press a second lever in the cage in hopes that it will receive food.
(VI) Discrimination
Learning that a behavior will be rewarded in one situation, but not another. For example, the rat does not receive food from the second lever and realizes that by pressing the first lever only, he will receive food.

3. Principles of Classical Conditioning:

(I) Acquisition
The acquisition phase is the consistent parings of the CS (bell) and the UCS (food) that produces a CR (salivation). In the example above, this phase occurs when the dog begins to salivate at the sound of the bell. Conditioning occurs more rapidly when the food follows the bell by a half a second.

(II) Extinction
The extinction phase is when the conditioned response no longer occurs after repeated pairings without the unconditioned stimulus. The dogís response to the bell can be extinguished by repeatedly presenting the bell (CS) without the food (UCS). The dog has not completely forgotten the association between the bell and the food. If the experimenter waits a day, the dog may have a spontaneous recovery of the conditioned response and salivate again to the bell.

(III) Generalization
Occurs when there is a small difference in the presented stimulus and the original conditioned stimulus. If Pavlovís dog heard a bell of a similar tone, the dog would still salivate.

(IV) Discrimination
The opposite of generalization, discrimination happens when a conditioned response does not occur when there is a difference between the presented stimulus and the original conditioned stimulus. If Pavlovís dog heard a bell with a different tone and was not awarded the unconditioned stimulus (food), the dog would learn not to salivate to the second tone.

4. Comparison of Operant and Classical Conditioning:

Classical Conditioning:----------------Operant Conditioning:
Acquisition-------------------------------------Acquisition
Extinction--------------------------------------Extinction
Spontaneous recovery------------------------Spontaneous recovery
Stimulus generalization----------------------Stimulus generalization
Association between stimuli ----------------Reinforcement
and responses
Based on involuntary reflexive behaviour-------Based on voluntary behaviour

5. Common Features of Operant Conditioning:

1. Both involve learning of associations.
2. Responses are under the control of stimuli in the environment.
3. Neither will last forever if not reinforced.
4. New behaviours can build on previously established ones.

6. Conclusion:
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