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Behavioral Learning Theory

Behavioral Learning Theory

According to the behaviorists, learning can be defined as the relatively permanent change in behavior brought about as a result of experience or practice. John B. Watson- Founder of Behaviorism

Behaviorists recognize that learning is an internal event. However, it is not recognized as learning until it is displayed by overt behavior.
The term "learning theory" is often associated with the behavioral view.

The focus of the behavioral approach is on how the environment impacts overt behavior.

The behavioral learning theory is represented as an S-R paradigm. The organism is treated as a black box. We only know what is going on inside the box by the organisms overt behavior.
Organism (O)

Stimulus (S)

Response (R)

There are three types of behavioral learning theories:

Classical or respondent conditioning theory (Ivan Pavlov) Law of Effect (EL. Thorndike)

Operant or instrumental conditioning theory (B.F. Skinner)

Classical Conditioning
Developed by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian Psychologist General model: Stimulus (S) elicits >Response (R)

Classical conditioning starts with a reflex (R): an innate, involuntary behavior.

Classical Conditioning
Main Concept: Pairing of neutral stimuli with unconditioned stimuli results in learning a conditioned response to the once-neutral conditioned stimulus
Paired with Response Producing Stimulus

Neutral Stimulus

The specific model for classical conditioning is:

A stimulus will naturally (without learning) elicit or bring about a reflexive response Unconditioned Stimulus (US) elicits > Unconditioned Response (UR)

Neutral Stimulus (NS) --- does not elicit the response of interest This stimulus (sometimes called an orienting stimulus as it elicits an orienting response) is a neutral stimulus since it does not elicit the Unconditioned (or reflexive) Response.

The Neutral/Orienting Stimulus (NS) is repeatedly paired with the Unconditioned/Natural Stimulus (US).

In the area of classroom learning, classical conditioning is seen primarily in the conditioning of emotional behavior. Things that make us happy, sad, angry, etc. become associated with neutral stimuli that gain our attention.

For example, the school, classroom, teacher, or subject matter are initially neutral stimuli that gain attention. Activities at school or in the classroom automatically elicit emotional responses and these activities are associated with the neutral or orienting stimulus After repeated presentations, the previously neutral stimulus will elicit the emotional response

Law of Effect
Developed by E.L Thorndike Main Concept: Behaviors resulting in favorable consequences are likely to be repeated, whereas those behaviors followed by unfavorable consequences are less likely to be repeated

Operant Conditioning Theory

Developed by B.F Skinner Similar to Thordikes theory, behavior that is reinforced is more likely to be repeated frequently, whereas behavior that is not rewarded (or is punished) is less likely to be repeated frequently

The term "Operant" refers to how an organism operates on the environment

It can be thought of as learning due to the natural consequences of our actions. Operant conditioning is the study of the impact of consequences on behavior.



Response increase if followed by reinforcement


Reinforcers: Reinforcement (praise or removal of an undesirable stimulus) increases the likelihood a behavior will be repeated, whether the behavior is positive (e.g., sharing) or negative (e.g., disrupting class)

4 Types of Reinforcement
1. Positive Reinforcement For example, if you want your dog to sit on command, you may give him a treat every time he sits for you. The dog will eventually come to understand that sitting when told to will result in a treat.

2. Negative Reinforcement Imagine a teenager who is nagged by his mother to take out the garbage week after week. After complaining to his friends about the nagging, he finally one day performs the task and to his amazement, the nagging stops. The elimination of this negative stimulus is reinforcing and will likely increase the chances that he will take out the garbage next week.

3. Punishment
Punishment refers to adding something aversive in order to decrease a behavior. The most common example of this is disciplining (e.g. spanking) a child for misbehaving. The reason we do this is because the child begins to associate being punished with the negative behavior. The punishment is not liked and therefore to avoid it, he or she will stop behaving in that manner.

4. Extinction
When you remove something in order to decrease a behavior, this is called extinction. You are taking something away so that a response is decreased.

Shaping: Shaping is employed to teach target behaviors by reinforcing successive approximations of the behavior in question. Instructors can skillfully reinforce student responses that approximate a desirable outcome, like creative writing, by reinforcing selectively those attempts at self-expression that emerge during writing assignments.
Schedule of reinforcement: In the initial stages of learning, desired behaviors are reinforced on a continuous schedule of reinforcement. Later, to maintain learned behaviors, reinforcement is best on a partial schedule. One such example is a pop quiz, which occurs on a variable interval schedule and maintains student preparation better than scheduled quizzes (fixed interval schedule).

Maintenance: Behavioral maintenance occurs when behaviors are reinforced on a partial schedule of reinforcement. Failure to reinforce desired behaviors leads to extinction. Partial reinforcement of undesirable behavior is counterproductive, resulting in their maintenance. Therefore, teachers must take care not to unwittingly reinforce undesirable behaviors through their own inconsistent behaviors.

Discrimination: Discrimination occurs when students learn that only specific behaviors lead to reinforcing or punishing consequences, not similar behaviors. For instance, speaking out in class is desirable, but only when called upon. Learning to speak out while allowing others an opportunity to speak is an example of stimulus discrimination.

Generalization: Stimulus generalization occurs when students generalize behaviors beyond that which is reinforced or punished. For instance, socially anxious individuals generalize a classically conditioned fear to all social interactions, rather than the interaction responsible for conditioning the fear. Teachers must help students learn to discriminate between like behaviors by their consequences.

Premack Principle: Pairing undesirable behaviors with desirable acts is employed frequently to induce students to engage in the former. An example is telling students they can go outside to play kickball, a desired outcome, after cleaning the art station, an undesirable task.

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