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can you give me some particular advantages and disadvantages when it comes to studying learning through the theories of classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory? i'm doing an HND this year and we've been mucked about rotton with new tutors coming in and staff off sick etc and i'm having difficulty getting anything which feels relevant.

thanks! joanna

-- joanna jones (joannabanana82453@hotmail.com), April 06, 2004


I'd read entries on each of these approaches in an encyclopedia of psychology or an introductory learning theory textbook.

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (hendrika@earthlink.net), April 07, 2004.

Hi Joanna, A learning text or a learning chapter in an introductory psychology text may be useful. There is still debate in psychology over how many types of learning exist and just how independent these different types learning are from each other (e.g., classical versus operant conditioning). Some of our learning types may imply more uniqueness than really exists. To make things more complicated, it seems two or more types of learning often go on simultaneously. However, many of these types of learning have still been quite useful theoretically and practically. Some people are optimistic that future physiological data will help us better understand how many types of learning exist and more about the mechanisms involved. The three types of learning you mention are some of the most useful. A more simplified approach is to look at some common examples of the learning types you mentioned. While my following associations are not meant to be definitive or comprehensive, they may be helpful to you. When I think of classical conditioning, I think of learning new stimuli that become associated with some of the organisms already existant basic behavior patterns (e.g., orientation, approach, withdrawal) and basic emotional activity (e.g., fear, anger, sadness, pleasure). In addition, some of Pavlov's most famous classical conditioning dealt with conditioning salivation and a number of later studies dealt with classically conditioning eyeblinking. When I think of operant conditioning, I think of modification of goal- directed behavior (e.g., learning what we want or do not want, what stimuli may signal it's availability, and how to get or avoid something). The person being conditioned, may or may not be that aware of the conditioning going on. When I think of social learning theory, I think of a theory that emphasizes how much of our learning is based on implicitly or explicitly imitating activities that we observe other people doing. As you see there is a complicated and a simple way to answer your question, either of which may be appropriate, depending on you goal. Hope this helps. Paul

-- Paul Kleinginna (pkleinginna@georgiasouthern.edu), April 13, 2004.

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