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In this paper I will discuss my learning experiences and analyze them with the perspective of learning theories. I will analyze my learning experiences with regards to classical conditioning, operant conditioning and cognitive- social learning theory.
First of all, I would begin by describing my experience of learning to fear lizards with regards to classical conditioning. To give some context to the situation, I was raised in India where lizards, usually in large numbers, are often found on walls particularly during the summer months. I strongly believe that my fear of lizards can be explained using Pavlov’s “classical conditioning”. Classical conditioning is the type of learning that occurs via making associations. In other words, Classical conditioning is a type of learning by which a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a meaningful stimulus and acquires the capacity to elicit a similar response (Feist, 2008, p. 449). In addition, Clark (2004) in his article,” The Classical Origins of Pavlov’s Conditioning” gives a detailed insight at the origin of classical conditioning and the reasoning behind the change of Pavlov conditioning to classical conditioning (Clark, 2004).
With regards to classical conditioning, I believe my fear of lizards can be traced back to my younger years. When I was in my childhood years, I heard my older sister always screaming every time she saw a lizard; the scream infusing a fear in me. The conditioning happened as follows: Initially when I saw the lizard, I always tried to stay away from them because I thought they were disgusting. But when I heard my sister screaming every time she saw the lizard, it scared me and eventually, I developed the fear of lizard. So, after hearing my sister screaming at the lizard multiple times, I realized that I myself have developed a fear of lizard. Since then, I had learned to associate loud scream with lizard and hence developed a fear of lizard. Therefore, I believe I have been conditioned to fear lizards. I believe the unconditioned stimulus is the lizard, the unconditioned response (fear), the conditioned stimulus (scream), and the conditioned response (fear of lizard).
Also, I believe I have acquired behaviors through operant learning. My desire to accomplish good grades and as a result, make my parents proud of my accomplishments can be traced back to my younger years. I strongly believe that my desire to get good grades and to make my parents proud can be explained by a learning called “operant conditioning”. Operant conditioning is a type of learning that occur when the reinforcement follows a particular behavior; hence increasing the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. In my case, when I was growing up I was always known to be a good student amongst my teachers and my family. Every time I had exams, I always did well and my parents always told me that if I get above a certain level grade, for instance being in the best three students in class, I will get a reward.
The reward (reinforcement) meant that my parents threw a party as a result of being proud of my accomplishments. So, consequently I learned that every time I perform well in class, I got a reward (parents’ happiness). This in turn made my family proud of me and it reinforced me to do better next time; hence it increased the probability that the behavior would occur again. This is not to say that the reward caused me to behave in a certain way, instead the reward just increased the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. I believe my family approval acted as the positive reinforcement, as it strengthened my behavior. Interestingly, Research shows that operant conditioning can also be used in the treatment of chronic aphasia ( Sigurðardóttir, 2006).
Furthermore, I have also acquired learning experiences by using observation. In other words, I have learnt behaviors by observing what others do in a particular situation and then learned to perform the same behavior in that particular situation. For instance, when I first moved to Canada, I was not aware of how the supermarkets work in terms of the entire process of taking your own shopping cart to packing your own groceries. Also, I was not aware that most of the grocery stores require customers to bag their own groceries.
But when I first experienced the western grocery market environment, I wasn’t sure how everything was supposed to work, so I observed how other people performed the task. When I went to the checkout I saw people unloading their groceries and afterwards, packing it as well. Therefore, I realized how the process worked and I found myself performing the task just as I saw other customers performing. In the end, I recognized that I have acquired this task by looking at how other people are behaving and hence by observing them, I learnt to perform in the same manner.
I strongly believe that media plays an important part in the learning process. As younger kids spend plenty of time in front of their TV’s and computers ( internet, video games), they are more likely to experience adult material such as foul language, violence, kissing amongst other things sooner than their parents generation. Also, if they encounter these adult material sooner in their lives, it also has implications on their social behavior, desensitization of violence, rape, shootings and so on. Moreover, prejudice also plays an important role in learning. For instance, teenagers are stereotyped as misbehaving, violent, and arrogant group and if the society sees them stereotypically, the teenagers are going to learn that such an egotistical behavior is probably how they should be, even if they are not. Hence they would learn to behave in such arrogant ways so that they can fit into the stereotypical picture that has been made by the media and the society.
In conclusion, classical conditioning is a type of learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus (NS) becomes paired (associated) with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to elicit a conditioned response (CR) ( Feist, 2008, 449).This type of conditioning was introduced by Ivan Pavlov and hence also called Pavlovian conditioning. Some of the main components of Classical conditioning are: neutral stimulus (NS), unconditioned stimulus (UCS), unconditioned response (UCR), conditioned stimulus (CS), and conditioned response (CR).Operant Conditioning, on the other hand, is a type of learning in which voluntary responses are controlled by their consequences. If a behavior is reinforced, it increases the probability that the behavior will occur again.
Some of the basic principles of operant conditioning are: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Shaping, Positive Punishment, and Negative Punishment. Interestingly, Research shows that human infants are also capable of learning “operant discrimination” (Simmons, 1964). Lastly, Cognitive-Social learning theory emphasizes the roles of thinking and social learning in behavior (Carpenter, 2008). There are different types of learning that takes place: insight learning, latent learning, and observational Learning. A perspective that emphasizes the roles of thinking and social learning is behavior. Therefore, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and cognitive social learning are all forms of learning’ hence called learning theories. Also, Classical and operant conditioning share many of the same basic principles and procedures. Some of those basic principles are: acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery, and stimulus generalization.
Carpenter, S. & Huffman, K. (2008). Visualizing Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Clark, R. (2004). The Classical Origins of Pavlov’s conditioning. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, Oct-Dec2004, Vol. 39 Issue 4, p279-294. Retrieved on April 2, 2009 from EBSCO host database.
Feist, J., & Feist, G. J. (2008) Theories of Personality (7th edition). New York: McGraw-HillSigurðardóttir, G; Sighvatsson, B (2006). Operant conditioning and errorless learning procedures in the treatment of chronic aphasia. International Journal of Psychology, Vol. 41 Issue 6, p527-540, 14p.Retrieved on April 2, 2009 from EBSCO host database.
Simmons, W (1964). Operant Discrimination Learning in Human Infants, Child Development Vol. 35 Issue 3, p737. Retrieved on April 2, 2009 from EBSCO host database