Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning by Pavlov

Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning by Pavlov

Learning and its nature

Learning is a key process in human behavior. It can be defined as acquisition of knowledge. Learning very simply refers to acquisition of experience. In broad sense, learning implies acquisition, retention and modification of behavior. Learning is defined as “any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of practice and experience”. This definition has three important elements:-

a. Learning is a change in behavior-better or worse.

b. It is a change that takes place through practice or experience, but changes due to growth or maturation are not learning.

c. This change in behavior must be relatively permanent and it must last a fairly long time.

Definition of Learning

According to Skinner, “Learning is a process of progressive behavior adoption”. He adds, “Learning is both acquisition and retention”.

In the words of Crow and Crow, “Learning is the acquisition of knowledge, habits and attitudes. It involves new ways of doing things and it operates in an individual’s attempts to overcome obstacles or to readjust to new situations.”

John B Watson is one amongst the first thinkers who has proven that behavioural changes occur as a result of learning. Watson is believed to be the founder of Behavioural school of thought, which gained its prominence or acceptability around the first half of the 20th century.

Gales defined Learning as the behavioural modification which occurs as a result of experience as well as training.

According to E.A, Peel, Learning can be described as a change in the individual which takes place as a result of the environmental change.

H.J. Klausmeir described Learning as a process which leads to some behavioural change as a result of some experience, training, observation, activity, etc.

Nature of Learning

1. Learning is a process and not a product.

2. It involves all those experiences of an individual right from birth which helps him to produce changes in his behaviour.

3. The behavioural changes brought about by learning may be both positive and negative.

4. Learning prepares an individual for any adjustment or adoption.

5. Learning is purposeful or goal oriented.

6. Learning is universal and continuous. Every creature that lives is learns.

7. It is a comprehensive process which covers nearly all fields- cognitive, conative, effective.

Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning by Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) propounded the theory of classical conditioning- while dealing with dogs. Pavlov found that when a bell was sounded just before a hungry dog was presented with food, after several trails, the dog would salivate simply at the sound of the bell. Pavlov identified the food as unconditioned stimulus (an example of a stimulus that produces some observable response without price learning). The bell which had no particular meaning for the dog become a conditioned stimulus because of its association or pairing with the food, which elicited a conditioned response- the salivation.

Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning by Pavlov

This kind of learning come to be called classical conditioning. A schematic representation of classical conditioning is given in the following figures-

Before Conditioning-

CS (bell) — No Response

US (food) — UR (salivation)

During Conditioning-

CS (bell)

US (food) — UR (salivation)

After Conditioning-

CS (bell) — CR (salivation)

This can be better understand by the following figure

figure of pavlov classical conditioning

Pavlov observed that when a dog was conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell, it would also salivate at other similar sounds such as that of a siren, even though the new stimuli used in training. Once a particular stimulus was associated with a response, other similar stimuli were also be able to elicit the response. He called this phenomenon “Stimulus Generalization”.

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