15 Aug 2022


Classical and Operant Conditioning: What's the Difference?

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Academic level: College

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Classical Conditioning 

Classical conditioning is an effective learning method that involves the process of associating environmental stimulus wit naturally occurring stimulus in the process of changing behavior. It is best if the child is made to believe that inappropriate crossing of a busy street would be associating with negative consequences. For instance, a loud blow horn made when the child is about to cross the street would prevent her from crossing it and instead keep off the road. Some of the involved factors include: 

Unconditioned stimulus (US) – the street 

Conditioned Stimulus (CS) – the blow horn sound 

Unconditioned Response (UR) – an attempt to cross the street 

Conditioned Response (CR) – not crossing the street 

In the above scenario, it would take similar techniques of unlearning behavior to ensure the preschool child enjoys playing with the neighbor’s friendly dog. However, the primary aim in this case would be to ensure the child experiences an environmental stimulus that elicits positive feelings when interacting with the dog. The child may be given a treat in the form of candy whenever he plays with the dog making it the CS. The CR would be the enjoyment gained from playing with the dog while the UR and US are the fear of dogs and the dog itself respectively. The neutral stimulus would be the association of the dog with fear. 

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Operant Conditioning 

In Mr. Bryne’s case, it is evident that the children are unable to learn new behavior from scolding and instead require rewards or punishments for the presenting behavior. B. F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning is based on the law of effect whereby behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated while that which is followed by an unpleasant outcome is less likely to occur. The new term introduced in this theory is reinforcement which is the primary factor that ensures desirable behavior is repeated while that which is unwanted tends to die-out. To reduce disruptive behavior, Mr. Bryne can associate the behavior with significant punishment where the child is required to provide $5 for each time. The cooperative behaviors can be reinforced by the reverse where the teacher provides the $5 into a fund which would then result in taking up a class trip. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Classical and Operant Conditioning: What's the Difference?.


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