Category: Analysis

Introduction

It is impossible to imagine modern psychology without such influential concepts as classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Each of them has its own characteristics and takes its rightful place among various psychological methods of research, in particular, of human response and behavior. The problem of learning is central. Learning is a process and the result of the acquisition of individual experience, knowledge, and skills. It is considered as the occurrence of certain behaviors under the influence of specific stimuli. In this paper, the differences between classical and operant conditioning are examined, as well as their interpretations of the concepts of phobias, addictions, and extinction are provided.

The Main Meaning of Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning was developed by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (Cherry, n. d.). It is based on the use of various incentives in order to receive conditioned reflexes. Conditioned reflexes differ from unconditional ones by the following main features. Unconditioned reflexes are mostly innate and they appear in response to the stimulus without preconditions. In turn, conditioned reflexes are always acquired as they are produced under certain conditions. A typical example is the development of the conditioned reflex of salivation. The presentation of food is an unconditioned stimulus, which always causes salivation in a hungry animal or a human. If the presentation of food is preceded by switching on a bulb for several times, then after a number of repeats, in response to switching on a bulb, salivation will appear.

The Main Meaning of Operant Conditioning

The theory of instrumental or operant conditioning is associated with the name of Burrhus Frederic Skinner. The notion of operant conditioning means that the reaction of the body, which is formed by trial and error, is instrumental in receiving stimulation and involves manipulation of the environment, resulting in behavior. Behavior is controlled by its results and consequences. The modification of behavior is carried out through the influence on its results and consequences.

In accordance with the scheme of operant conditioning, the experimenter observing the behavior of a certain person fixes the occasional manifestations of a desired and “correct” response and immediately reinforces it. Thus, the incentive should be after the behavioral response. The direct reinforcement is performed through encouragement and punishment. The result is operant learning, or an operant. In this case, not a stimulus, but the reaction of the body is reinforced.

The Differences between Classical and Operant Conditioning

Classical conditioning is based on the connection between an involuntary response and a stimulus, while in operant conditioning, the central role is given to the connection between a voluntary behavior and its consequence.

In operant conditioning, the learner is rewarded with incentives, while classical conditioning does not involve such enticements. Classical conditioning includes passive participation of the learner. In turn, operant conditioning needs “the learner to actively participate and perform some type of action in order to be rewarded or punished” (Cherry, n. d.).

Furthermore, the main feature of classical conditioning is that it can provoke various phobias, while operant conditioning may result in addictions. A phobia is a symptom, the essence of which is an irrational and uncontrollable fear or a sustainable experience of excessive anxiety in certain situations and in the presence of a certain object (Antczak, 2011). An example of this might be the following situation. A man hears a signal of a car and then sees a terrible accident on the road. Subsequently, the man may experience the fear of hearing signals of any car on the road.

As to addictions, they “are dependencies on substances or activities, which results when one lacks the ability to limit or stop a certain activity” (Phobias and Addictions, 2012). In operant conditioning, addiction might occur if the behavior results in pleasure or joy. Addictions appear because of the repeated actions or behaviors that cause a particular effect, which is continually required. The continual need leads one to use a particular substance again or repeat an activity. As a result, an addiction occurs. For example, there is a sexual addiction. For some people, sex can cause incredibly pleasant sensations that will provide the desire to have sex more often. The excessive desire to have frequent sex is likely to lead to a sexual addiction. Therefore, such dependence will affect the person’s life making them seek sexual pleasure all the time. Addiction is considered to be a disease which requires treatment.

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Finally, the difference between classical and operant conditioning lies in extinction, which “refers to the gradual weakening of a conditioned response that results in the behavior decreasing or disappearing” (Cherry, n. d.). In classical conditioning, it happens when a conditioned stimulus (a bulb) is no longer accompanied by an unconditioned stimulus (food). In turn, in operant conditioning, extinction might occur if a certain behavior is no longer reinforced or if the reinforcement used is no longer rewarding.

Conclusion

The concepts of classical and operant conditioning are of great interest to modern psychology as their use allows one to solve various important problems. In particular, through operant conditioning, it is possible to provoke reactions of animals required for a specific task. As to operant conditioning, its scope of use has to do with correcting the behavior of people using the system of incentives/penalties. However, the use of these approaches requires special experience and knowledge, taking into account possible consequences such as the development of phobias in classical conditioning and addictions in operant conditioning.

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