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•  Reflex conditioning involves forming new associations

Conditioning is a process of behaviour modification whereby desired behaviours become associated with unrelated stimuli

  • This process can be achieved via either classical (reflex) conditioning or operant (instrumental) conditioning

Reflex conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a reflex in order to create an association between the two

  • Reflex conditioning focuses on involuntary and autonomic behaviours
  • It involves associating a desired behaviour with a new stimulus

Operant conditioning involves applying reinforcement or punishment after a behaviour to increase or reduce its occurrence

  • Operant conditioning focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviours
  • It involves associating a particular behaviour with a specific consequence (either reward or punishment)

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•  Pavlov’s experiments into reflex conditioning in dogs

Reflex Conditioning

Reflex conditioning was first described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist who experimented on dogs

  • Dogs normally salivate (unconditioned response) in anticipation of being fed (unconditioned stimulus)
  • Pavlov sounded a bell (neutral stimulus) prior to feeding a dog
  • After many repetitions, the dog came to associate the bell with food and began to salivate to the bell (conditioned response)
  • Pavlov described this as a conditioned reflex – the stimulus that prompted the response had been changed

Reflex Conditioning in Dogs

reflex conditioning

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•  Operant conditioning is a form of learning that consists of trial and error experiences

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning was first described by B. F. Skinner, an American psychologist who experimented on rats

  • Rats were placed in a controlled chamber (called a Skinner box) that contained a responsive lever
  • The pushing of the lever by the rat was accidental but resulted in several possible outcomes, including:
    • The delivery of food in response to light (desirable outcome = positive reinforcement)
    • The silencing of a loud noise from a speaker (desirable outcome = negative reinforcement)
    • The activation of an electrified floor if not pressed in response to light (negative outcome = punishment)
  • By trial and error, the mice learned to press the lever in response to the different environmental contexts

Operant Conditioning in Rats

operant conditioning