Escape Learning: Meaning And Significance

This is learning when the mind functions to create such a response in order to put an end to the aversive (negative) stimulus. This model of understanding is reinforced by the reduction in drive causing it. Naturally, an aversive spur arouses a primal pain drive in an organism, which gives rise to a high level of activity inside the body and mind of an individual. Suppose the activity produced by the organism to produce a retort helps in averting the stimulus and reducing drive, which leads to reinforcement of response. Now, this process of ending the inducement can be achieved in two ways one is 'escape,' and the other is 'avoidance.' Subsequently, these two approaches to reaction lead to the process of grasping. Hence, they also are known as escape learning and avoidance learning.

What is Escape Learning?

Learning is a process of considerable change in someone's behavior occurring because of the daily new experiences a person encounters. If this behavior change is reflected for a short period, then it is not considered learning. For this behavior change to be considered as learning, it has to be gradual or not, but necessary to be a long-lasting change. Survival of an individual is dependent on the types of experiences that they have because this experience helps them to evolve in their behavior. Otherwise, their existence will end if the process of change is stopped. This is not a process that always requires constant attention to happen. Conclusively, it is a forever-going process that happens continually, even if one is attentive or conscious of the surroundings. Thus, it is directly related to the survival aspects of the organism.

Regarding education, it is also very important to learn about avoiding and stopping toxic situations from occurring as they will lead to the deterioration of the organism physically and mentally. To understand the response, it is important to get an overview of reinforcements. These actions increase the response rate, and they are broad of four types.

Positive Reinforcement Negative Reinforcement
Delayed Augmentation Omission of Reinforcement
  • Positive Reinforcement − They produce stimuli that have pleasant consequences. They maintain retaliation which is the cause of their occurrence.

  • Negative Reinforcement − They involve the production of negative stimuli and maintain reactions that allow an organism to avoid or elude this supplementing.

  • Delayed Augmentation − It is delayed whenever there is a time between the stimuli and the response produced by the reinforcer. For example, an employee is waiting for their salary to buy a car.

  • Omission of Reinforcement − In this, something pleasurable is omitted to form the behavior to reduce the possibility of that behavior repeating itself. For example, for not meeting the deadline, a company can withdraw the contracts made with an employee.

A brief overview of these four types of reinforcements is sufficient to understand the concept of escape learning.

Escape vs. Avoidance Learning

As already discussed, the gateway approach allows the creation of such responses to leak the aversive drives. Now, if we create such situations in which a simple signal can be provided to the test subject for it to evade the upcoming drive, then this extension of escape learning is known as avoidance learning. It should be understood that discharge and rudeness are not separate functioning of the system; instead, they are closely related to one another. One can achieve this by repeating the aversive stimuli on the subject repeatedly.

An example to clearly illustrate the topics consider a monkey being caged in a steel box. This box has two compartments, and a passage is given between them to allow movement. At some random times, the current is passed through one compartment that acts as a shock for the monkey, and as an obvious reaction monkey moves to the other compartment to discharge the shock. This is an escape concept. Now, take the same example to understand the avoidance concept. As already explained, the same is the extension of the first one. So, before passing the current, a buzzer is sounded as a warning sign. After some rounds of testing, the monkey automatically shifts the compartment when the buzzer is sounded to evade shock. This modification in the behavior is an example of escape learning.

Once this behavior is generated, it becomes recurrent and gets indulged in the subject's subconscious. These types of learning are often regarded as the instincts developed when the question is of the survival of an individual and so are considered to be one of the deeply inherited responses in a person's mind. Some generally effective ways are listed below to escape the daily negativity in day-to-day life.

Ways to Escape

  • Reading a book can prove to be very beneficial.

  • Watching a movie will help to deviate from stress.

  • Long drives out of town, relax the stressful schedule.

  • Nature documentaries provide soothing and important information about nature.

  • Pets are a great way of diversion of thoughts.

  • Indulging in activities like drawing and cooking.

  • Yoga and sports can be very helpful.

  • Taking a long hot-shower bath.

These are some ways that any person can access to avoid or escape the stressful reality. However, obviously, for a short period, it can help generate some useful retorts for better functioning.


Individuals encounter several situations daily in their life, sometimes they are pleasurable, and others are very depressing or aversive. Uncomfortable situations are inevitable in our lives, and with time development of responses to avert these conditions is naturally achieved and in the best possible way. Due to an aversive environment, the retreat process becomes very involuntary and thus involves less learning. Nevertheless, some situations also evolve where one must consciously analyze the situation. In that, these learning concepts play a vital role in our daily life.

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022


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