What is Learning? its History and different theories of learning

What Is Learning
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Learning is the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge, modifying our behaviour, and adapting to change. And Learning can take place in a variety of ways: by doing something for ourselves, by watching others do it or by reading about it.

Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, values, preferences, or understanding, and may involve synthesizing different types of information. It can happen through various forms such as education, training, research, or simply through experience. It can also refer to a change in behavior or neural connections resulting from this process.

How learned behaviors are different from instincts and reflexes

Instincts and reflexes are automatic behaviors that are triggered by stimuli, while learned behaviors are behaviors that are learned through experience.

Example: Instincts and reflexes happen automatically when we see a stimulus. The first time we see a snake, for example, our instinct is to run away from it. Learned behaviors, on the other hand, require some sort of experience in order to be triggered. We might learn to like a certain food because someone else introduced it to us.

Types of Behavioral Learning

Behavioural learning comes in three different categories.

Classical Conditioning theory.

Classical conditioning is a form of learning that results in the association of a previously neutral stimulus with a powerful one.

In classical conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus (US) produces an unconditioned response (UR). The neutral stimulus (NS) produces no response. The conditioned stimulus (CS) is initially neutral, but after pairing with the US it produces a conditioned response (CR).

The CR becomes more pronounced each time it’s elicited by the CS until it replaces the UR.

Classical conditioning theory was first proposed in 1890 by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. He discovered that dogs salivated when they were fed, but also when they saw food or heard related sounds. Pavlov called this process “conditioning,” and he found that he could produce this same effect with other stimuli like ringing bells or whistles.

For example, if you hear the sound of ice cream truck music and then soon after feel a chilly wind, you may come to associate the two together and shiver when you hear the music.

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Related: How Classical Conditioning Works.

Operant Conditioning theory

Operant conditioning is a type of learning that occurs when an individual’s behavior is reinforced by the environment.

It’s also called reward-based learning and it’s one of the three major types of learning. It involves an individual receiving a stimulus from their environment, which causes them to change their behavior in response. A reward or punishment is given to the individual, which increases or decreases the likelihood that they will repeat this behavior in the future.

B.F. Skinner is widely regarded as the pioneer of operant conditioning and Edward Thorndike is considered one of his predecessors.

The core idea behind operant conditioning states that the consequences of our actions shape voluntary behavior.

In 1916, psychologist B.F. Skinner published the results of an experiment in which he had a rat learn to push a lever to receive food pellets in its cage whenever he wanted it to do so (reinforcement). He used a similar system where rather than giving food when the rat was successful (reinforcement), water would be given when the rat performed one of a series of random actions.

In the experiment, the rat would push a lever in order to get food, and would eventually learn to push another lever in order to get water. The rat would then continue on this system, pushing whichever lever they wanted based on their preferences without any need for reinforcing. Skinner concluded that the rat had learned that pushing a lever was rewarding and associated it with pleasure rather than pain.

He also found it’s best to use reinforcement during the learning process. In order to strengthen a behavior, you should schedule the reinforcement a while after the behavior took place. Most reinforcement schedules are classed as either fixed or variable. The timing and rate of reinforcement are known as schedules of reinforcement.

For example, you could use a reward system to prompt your child to complete their homework. This might work because it is a reward for making an effort and one of the consolations for not getting the desired grade might be that they also get some chocolate.

How Operant Conditioning Works

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Observational Learning theory

Observational learning is the process in which someone learns through observing others and imitating them. Social learning theory has shown that this isn’t the only way people learn- they can also be shaped by reward or punishment.

People imitate actions that they see others do without direct reinforcement. There are 4 elements that are required for effective observational learning: attention, motor skills, motivation, and memory.

This theory has been used in many different fields and can be applied to a variety of situations. It is often used to describe how people learn from each other, but it also applies to learning from media such as television or movies.

  • This theory is the reason why children are often seen watching their parents, and then copying what they do.
  • The idea is that by watching an expert do something, a person can learn how to do it too.
  • This theory has been applied to many different areas, including education and business.
  • In education, observational learning has been used to teach students about new things in the world by showing them examples of what it looks like in real life.
  • In business, this theory helps managers learn from others in the industry who have succeeded or failed in specific situations.

A good example of this is a teen getting their ticket for speeding by their older sibling and then not speeding themselves when they get their own license because of the consequences.

How Observational Learning Works

History of the Psychology of Learning

John B. Watson was one of the first psychologists to study how learning influences people’s behaviour, who suggested in his famous paper that all behaviors are the result of some kind of learning process. Basically, they want psychology to be a scientific study on observable & measurable behavior. John B. Watson had done a lot of work with animals, including the famous experiment in which he persuaded a small boy to fear a white rat.

Behaviorism dominated psychology in the early 20th century. However, with the emergence of humanistic approaches and biological techniques, Behaviorism’s role eventually diminished. Today, it is important to have a balanced approach that incorporates all three approaches; behavioral, humanistic and cognitive.

The pioneers in the psychology of learning are Edward Thorndike, Ivan Pavlov, and B.F. Skinner. Albert Bandura is also an important figure in this field of study as he helped develop social-learning theory that explores how people observe or model the behavior of others.