Escape Learning Vs. Avoidance Learning

We must differentiate between escape and avoidance responses when defining negative responses. The appearance of an escape activity results in the cessation of exposure to unpleasant stimuli. Thus, the dog's alternative response, which it uses to avoid the motivation, is reinforced. When an avoidant response occurs, it blocks the introduction of a potentially unpleasant motivation. To put it another way, the dog will do some other action to avoid the unpleasant one. Negative thinking takes many forms; for example, when an unpleasant stimulation is interrupted or averted, the action that did so is reinforced.

What are Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning?

As a kind of learning, "escape conditioning" teaches an individual to avoid a negative experience. That is to say, and the creature learns to act in a way that causes the removal of unpleasant stimuli. The term "aversive motivation" describes anything disagreeable or uncomfortable. This is known as escape training when an unpleasant motivation is introduced, and the animal reacts by attempting to avoid or flee from it. In the first of two procedures, an organism is programmed to ignore unpleasant stimuli by a classical conditioning procedure known as avoidance conditioning. An unconditioned motivation is used alongside an unpleasant one in this training. Subjects learn how to avoid the unpleasant motivation by reacting to the unconditioned stimuli that come after it in the sequence.

Examples of Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning

Escape − A shuttle box is useful for demonstrating escape training in a controlled environment. In housing animals, a "shuttle box" refers to a partitioned cage or box with two connected but independent parts. Applying a shock to a dog's feet in a shuttle box, for instance, would cause the animal to leap to the other side of the box. The same holds for the dog if the scientist were to apply the jolt again; it would just go forward to the next segment. The negative reinforcement, in this case, is an electric shock. That the dog reacts by attempting to avoid the unpleasant stimuli is evidence of escape training. The idea of escape training is transferable to the actual world.

Avoidance − If a kid finds going to school a negative experience, they may choose not to attend. That is an application of "escape conditioning," by the way. Pretend a buzzer goes off, for instance, then give the patient a shock. After being repeatedly shocked, the subject learns to respond immediately when it hears the bell so it may prevent more shocks. If we use this approach to teach a dog to leap over a fence, the dog will immediately leap over the barrier at the sound of the buzzer to avoid being shocked.

Differentiating Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning

The given table illustrates the major differences between escape learning and avoidance learning:

Avoidance Escape

There will be always a warning signal.

There will not be any warning signal.

Reacting in an avoidant manner is defined as a mouse going to the adjacent compartments after the CS is shown to avoid receiving the shock.

When a rodent does not react to the CS but does react to the US via fleeing to the other chamber, this is called an "escape."

Traditional conceptions of avoidance training focus on the development of active social withdrawal. It has been hypothesized that avoidance learning in mice involves conventional and evolutionarily adaptive conditioning procedures due to the variety of connections that may be created throughout the procedure.

The phrase "escape conditioning" refers to the process by which a creature learns to undertake an operant activity to end a negative experience or motivation. What happens when a mouse figures out how to get out of a trying to start.

Illustration of Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning

It includes


While both avoidance and escape strategies can keep anxiety disorders alive, only avoidance prevents the individual from ever having to experience the feared situation again. This study evaluated the use of defensive strategies in anticipation of an aversive event, whether the event might be prevented entirely or when it could be evaded after first exposure and investigated the effect of anxiety symptoms on defensive tactics used in the context of coping. Cues indicated that bringing to life would prevent further publicity to aversive stimuli or that it might have no effect; the acoustic startle stress response was evaluated during every predictive intermission to index defensive engagement; as well as the magnitude of blinks was compared between people with low, modest, and strong levels of anxiety. All subjects showed an increase in startle response to an unavoidable unpleasant motivation and a decrease in startle response to an avoidable aversive motivation. On the other hand, participants' startle potentiation increased when their anxiety levels rose during escape attempts. We conclude that defensive involvement is lower in avoidance scenarios than in exposing contexts but that trait anxiety promotes defensive involvement when unpleasant exposure is both predictable and controllable.


A rat's aversion learning is shown by placing it in an enclosed area with an energized floor, a standard laboratory procedure. After a warning tone, the floor is jolted by an electrical current. The rat will need to find a way out of the electric field, like a pole to mount or a barricade to leap over, to avoid getting shocked. The rat first only reacts when the shock starts, but after repeated exposure, it knows to escape the jolt by reacting to the danger sign. People who hear a screaming dog in the neighborhood may learn to avoid the area around the house where the dog lives. Those who have experienced a dog attack are more likely to retain this information than others.


In summary, negative punishment might be in the shape of escape training or aversion conditioning. The key distinction between escape and aversion conditioning is whether or not a caution signal precedes the aversive motivation in the former case and whether or not such a message is present in the latter.

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022

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