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Learning Study Guide

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Psychology of learning

Brush up on your understanding of learning with this study guide. (Photo courtesy Miljan Vulovic)

Are you preparing for a big test in your psychology of learning class? Or are you just interested in a review of learning and behavioral psychology topics? This learning study guide offers a brief overview of some of major topics including behaviorism, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Explore the links below to get a grasp on some of the basics of learning psychology.

1. Introduction

  • What is Learning?
     

    Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that is the result of experience. During the first half of the twentieth century, the school of thought known as behaviorism rose to dominate psychology and sought to explain the learning process. The three major types of learning described by behavioral psychology are classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.


  • What is Behaviorism?
     

    Behaviorism was the school of thought in psychology that sought to measure only observable behaviors. Founded by John B. Watson and outlined in his seminal 1913 paper Psychology as the Behaviorist View It, the behaviorist standpoint held that psychology was an experimental and objective science and that internal mental processes should not be considered because they could not be directly observed and measured. Learn more in this brief overview of behaviorism.

2. Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a learning process in which an association is made between a previously neutral stimulus and a stimulus that naturally evokes a response. For example, in Pavlov's classic experiment, the smell of food was the naturally occurring stimulus that was paired with the previously neutral ringing of the bell. Once an association had been made between the two, the sound of the bell alone could lead to a response.

3. Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a learning process in which the probability of response occurring is increased or decreased due to reinforcement or punishment. First studied by Edward Thorndike and later by B.F. Skinner, the underlying idea behind operant conditioning is that the consequences of our actions shape voluntary behavior.

4. Observational Learning

Observational learning is a process in which learning occurs through observing and imitating others. As demonstrated in Albert Bandura's classic "Bobo Doll" experiments, people will imitate the actions of others without direct reinforcement. Four important elements are essential for effective observational learning: attention, motor skills, motivation and memory.

5. Important People

The following are some of the major figures associated with learning and the behavioral school of psychology.

6. Key Learning Terms

7. Learning and Conditioning Quiz

Test your knowledge in this brief learning and conditioning quiz.

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