Learning Theories

Individual and group behavior can be studied by different learning theories. Some of the remarkable theories are −

  • Classical Conditioning Theory
  • Operant Learning Theory
  • Social Learning Theory

Classical Conditioning Theory

The Classical conditioning occurs when a conditioned stimulus is coupled with an unconditioned stimulus.

Usually, the conditioned stimulus (CS) is an impartial stimulus like the sound of a tuning fork, the unconditioned stimulus (US) is biologically effective like the taste of food and the unconditioned response (UR) to the unconditioned stimulus is an unlearned reflex response like salivation or sweating.

After this coupling process is repeated (for example, some learning may already occur after a single coupling), an individual shows a conditioned response (CR) to the conditioned stimulus when the conditioned stimulus is presented alone.

The conditioned response is mostly similar to the unconditioned response, but unlike the unconditioned response, it must be acquired through experience and is nearly impermanent.

Operant Conditioning Theory

Operant conditioning theory is also known as instrumental conditioning. This theory is a learning process in which behavior is sensitive to, or controlled by its outcomes.

Let’s take an example of a child. A child may learn to open a box to get the candy inside, or learn to avoid touching a hot stove. In comparison, the classical conditioning develops a relationship between a stimulus and a behavior. The example can be further elaborated as the child may learn to salivate at the sight of candy, or to tremble at the sight of an angry parent.

In the 20th century, the study of animal learning was commanded by the analysis of these two sorts of learning, and they are still at the core of behavior analysis.

Social Learning Theory

The key assumptions of social learning theory are as follows −

  • Learning is not exactly behavioral, instead it is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context.

  • Learning can occur by observing a behavior and by observing the outcomes of the behavior (known as vicarious reinforcement).

  • Learning includes observation, extraction of information from those observations, and making decisions regarding the performance of the behavior (known as observational learning or modeling). Thus, learning can occur beyond an observable change in behavior.

  • Reinforcement plays an important role in learning but is not completely responsible for learning.

  • The learner is not a passive receiver of information. Understanding, environment, and behavior all mutually influence each other.

This theory hugely relies on the concept of modeling, or learning by observing a behavior. Three types of modeling stimuli can be outlined based on this theory −

  • Live Model − In this model, an actual person is demonstrating the expected behavior. A single person leads the group towards the goal and demonstrates them the correct way to achieve it efficiently. This is done usually by giving the group live examples or by introducing them to the current working scenario as the situation demands.

  • Verbal Instruction − In this model, an individual briefs the desired behavior in detail and directs the group in how to behave, but the person demonstrating is not involved in the process.

  • Symbolic − This occurs by means of the media, It includes movies, television, internet, literature, and radio. Stimuli is optional; it can be either real or fictional characters.