Uploaded by Rexell-an Cacamo


Educational Psychology
Define and contrast the three types of
behavioral learning theories (contiguity,
classical conditioning, and operant
conditioning), giving examples of how each
can be used in the classroom.
Developed by W. Huitt & J. Hummel (1999)
Behavioral Learning Theory
According to the behaviorists, learning can
be defined as “the relatively permanent
change in behavior brought about as a
result of experience or practice.”
Behaviorists recognize that learning is an
internal event. However, it is not
recognized as learning until it is displayed
by overt behavior.
Behavioral Learning Theory
• The term "learning theory" is often
associated with the behavioral view.
• The focus of the behavioral approach is on
how the environment impacts overt
• Remember that biological maturation or
genetics is an alternative explanation for
relatively permanent change.
Behavioral Learning Theory
The behavioral learning theory is
represented as an S-R paradigm. The
organism is treated as a “black box.” We
only know what is going on inside the box
by the organism’s overt behavior.
Behavioral Learning Theory
The feedback loop that connects overt
behavior to stimuli that activate the senses
has been studied extensively from this
Behavioral Learning Theory
Notice that the behaviorists are only
interested in that aspect of feedback that
connects directly to overt behavior.
Behaviorists are not interested in the
conscious decision of the individual to
disrupt, modify, or go against the
conditioning process.
Behavioral Learning Theory
There are three types of behavioral
learning theories:
• Contiguity theory
• Classical or respondent conditioning
• Operant or instrumental conditioning
Contiguity Theory
Contiguity theory is based on the work of
E. R. Guthrie.
It proposes that any stimulus and
response connected in time and/or space
will tend to be associated.
Contiguity Theory
• A baseball player wearing a certain pair
of socks on the day he hits three home
runs associates wearing the socks and
hitting home runs.
• A student making a good grade on a
test after trying a new study technique
makes an association between the
stimulus of studying and the response of
getting a good grade.
Contiguity Theory
Guthrie’s contiguity theory is one
foundation for the more cognitivelyoriented learning theory of neural
Classical Conditioning Theory
Classical conditioning was the first type of
learning to be discovered and studied within
the behaviorist tradition (hence the name
The major theorist in the development of
classical conditioning is Ivan Pavlov, a
Russian scientist trained in biology and
medicine (as was his German contemporary,
Sigmund Freud).
Classical Conditioning Theory
Pavlov was studying the digestive system of dogs
and became intrigued with his observation that
dogs deprived of food began to salivate when one of
his assistants walked into the room.
He began to investigate this phenomena and
established the laws of classical conditioning.
Skinner renamed this type of learning
"respondent conditioning” since in this type of
learning, one is responding to an environmental
Classical Conditioning Theory
• General model: Stimulus (S) elicits
>Response (R)
• Classical conditioning starts with a reflex (R):
an innate, involuntary behavior.
• This involuntary behavior is elicited or caused
by an antecedent environmental event.
• For example, if air is blown into your eye,
you blink. You have no voluntary or conscious
control over whether the blink occurs or not.
Classical Conditioning Theory
The specific model for classical conditioning
• A stimulus will naturally (without learning)
elicit or bring about a reflexive response
• Unconditioned Stimulus (US) elicits >
Unconditioned Response (UR)
Classical Conditioning Theory
The specific model for classical conditioning
• Neutral Stimulus (NS) --- does not elicit
the response of interest
• This stimulus (sometimes called an
orienting stimulus as it elicits an
orienting response) is a neutral stimulus
since it does not elicit the Unconditioned
(or reflexive) Response.
Classical Conditioning Theory
The Neutral/Orientiing Stimulus (NS) is
repeatedly paired with the
Unconditioned/Natural Stimulus (US).
Classical Conditioning Theory
• The Neutral Stimulus (NS) is transformed
into a Conditioned Stimulus (CS).
• That is, when the CS is presented by itself, it
elicits or causes the CR (which is the same
involuntary response as the UR.
• The name changes because it is elicited
by a different stimulus.
• This is written CS elicits > CR.
Classical Conditioning Theory
• In the area of classroom learning, classical
conditioning is seen primarily in the
conditioning of emotional behavior.
• Things that make us happy, sad, angry,
etc. become associated with neutral
stimuli that gain our attention.
Classical Conditioning Theory
• For example, the school, classroom, teacher,
or subject matter are initially neutral stimuli
that gain attention.
• Activities at school or in the classroom
automatically elicit emotional responses
and these activities are associated with
the neutral or orienting stimulus
• After repeated presentations, the
previously neutral stimulus will elicit the
emotional response
Classical Conditioning Theory
• Child is harassed at school
• Child feels bad when harassed
• Child associates being harassed
and school
• Child begins to feel bad when she
thinks of school
Classical Conditioning Theory
In order to extinguish the associated of
feeling bad and thinking of school, the
connection between school and being
harassed must be broken.
Operant Conditioning Theory
• Operant conditioning is the study of the
impact of consequences on behavior.
• With operant conditioning we are dealing
with voluntary behaviors.
• The details of operant conditioning are
presented separately.