Changing Behaviors with Experience

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a type of learning where you link two or more stimuli and anticipate events. Kind of like when you hear thunder, so you know there's going to be lightning.

Ivan Pavlov is the father of classical conditioning. (AKA, this guy).

In his experiments, Pavlov conditioned dogs to react to a tone by associating the tone with food. It's broken down easily by this chart.

So, here's the gist: the dogs learned that the bell meant food, so they began to drool at the very sound of the bell.

From Pavlov, we learned that any organism can learn, even Dwight Shrute from The Office.

Pavlov's ideas influenced this guy, John B. Watson, with his work.

Watson experimented with Little Albert and his intense fear of white rabbits.

It can probably smell fear.

So, Watson thought that Little Albert would slowly get habituated to the rabbit by gradually exposing him to it. Habituation is when someone gets used to a stimulus, so they no longer react to it.

Unfortunately, these guys weren't super into the brain or any of its cognitive processes. So, to explain the brain's influence, the brain himself.

Thank you, brain.

So, though Pavlov and Watson gave us a great understanding of behavior, we do need to remember cognitive processing in our study of classical conditioning.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is learning associations between behavior and resulting events. Your  behavior operates on your environment to produce a reward or punishment, which affects your later behavior.

Edward Thorndike's "cat in a puzzle box" experiment supported his Law of Effect.

Behavior (the cat working itself out of the box) that's rewarded (with food outside the gate) is likely to recur.

Skinner expanded this understanding to tell us that punished behaviors are less likely to recur, and developed a behavior technology to reveal the principles of behavior control.

Types of reinforcements and punishments.
BF Skinner trained/controlled pigeons with rewards and punishments.
It's only slightly terrifying.

Shaping is gradually guiding behavior toward a desired behavior using reinforcers. The method of successive approximations rewards behavior that gets closer and closer to the desired behavior.

Researcher requires dog to get closer to jumping each time before his treat.
There are different ways to deliver rewards or punishments to shape behavior.
This graph shows which are most effective over time.


Modeling, which is also called observational learning, involves the demonstration of a particular behavior, thought, or attitude that a person may acquire or imitate.

Albert Bandura is the pioneering researcher of observational learning, who came up with his own Social Cognitive Theory which emphasizes how cognitive, behavioral, personal, and environmental factors interact to determine motivation and behavior.

This is the man himself, Albert Bandura.
These are the 3 different factors of Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory.

In the famous Bobo Doll Experiment run by Albert Bandura, he demonstrated that children learn and imitate behaviors they have observed in other people. The children in Bandura’s studies observed an adult acting violently toward a Bobo doll. When the children were later allowed to play in a room with the Bobo doll, they began to imitate the aggressive actions they had previously observed.


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