Classical Conditioning Vs Operant Conditioning

Learning influences your behavior to a great extent. However, the term learning does not outline a specific way of gaining knowledge. This is because learning occurs in different ways.

Therefore, some types of learning help you to acquire simple responses. Whereas, other types of learning in psychology help you to acquire complex responses.

Thus, Learning is an adaptive function. It is a process in which there are certain changes in your nervous system relating to the stimuli in your environment. Further, these changes in your nervous system lead to changes in your behavioral responses. As a result, such changes allow you to function and adapt to your environment.

Advanced Psychology

So, a response to external stimuli begins the process of learning in your nervous system. Then, the neural pathways are either strengthened, removed, initiated, or redirected. As a result, there are changes in your behavioral responses and hence this leads to learning.

Now, Conditioning is the simplest form of learning. It is a type of learning in which there must be some sort of prediction error for you to learn. That is, a chance that a conditioned stimulus would not result in the expected outcome.

Accordingly, learning involves two basic forms of conditioning. These are Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. In this article, we are going to talk about Classical Vs Operant Conditioning. Besides this, we are going to discuss the similarities between Classical and Operant Conditioning.

But before we go ahead, let us first understand the difference between learning and conditioning.

Classical Vs Operant Conditioning

Learning influences your behavior to a great extent. Furthermore, there is no single way to learn. But, two of the most common ways of learning in psychology are classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In this section, we are going to discuss classical vs operant conditioning.

  • Founders

    The Russian Psychologist Ivan Pavlov first observed Classical Conditioning in 1920. Whereas, the American Psychologist and Behaviorist B.F. Skinner first introduced the theory of operant conditioning in the 1930s.

  • Classical Conditioning Vs Operant Conditioning

    The main difference between classical and operant conditioning is in the association of events. In Classical Conditioning vs Operant Conditioning, an association is formed between a neutral stimulus and a reinforcer. Whereas, in Operant Conditioning, an association is formed between a stimulus and behavior.

    • Classical Conditioning

      In the early part of the twentieth century, Ivan Pavlov observed an unusual behavioral phenomenon while he was studying the process of digestion in dogs. He noticed that the dog began to salivate in response to a bell. This happened only after the sound of the bell was repeatedly paired with food.

      Accordingly, Pavlov observed that pairing a neutral stimulus (bell) with an unconditioned stimulus (food) resulted in an association between the stimuli. The association was such that the neutral stimulus elicited the unconditioned response (salivation) even if it was presented alone.

      In other words, the dog had learned to associate the sound of the bell with the presentation of food. Thus, the formerly neutral stimulus became a conditioned stimulus. And the previous unconditioned response became a conditioned response.

    • Operant Conditioning

      The Theory of Operant Conditioning is based on Thorndike’s Trial and Error Learning. Thus, B.F. Skinner developed a Skinner Box to study the behavior of animals in a closed environment. The box is a chamber comprising at least one bar or key that the animal could manipulate.

      Thus, Skinner placed a rat in the box. It was served with food as reinforcement the moment the rat accidentally hit the bar. Eventually, the rat started hitting the bar intentionally to obtain the food as the procedure was repeated several times. Thus, the reinforcement successfully strengthened the voluntary response.

      Subsequently, Skinner repeated the same experiment with another rat. But, he used punishment instead of reinforcement this time. The punishment involved giving an electric shock to the rat. And it was given to weaken the voluntary response.

      Now, Skinner termed the whole phenomena ‘Operant Response’ in contrast to Pavlov’s Conditioned Response. He coined the term in order to indicate that the subject operated on its environment in order to produce or reduce a particular effect.

      Furthermore, Skinner described different types of reinforcement and punishment. These were described based on whether he wanted to increase or decrease a particular behavior.

      Thus, he proved that the resulting behavior can be positive or negative. And this would depend on the fact if a stimulus is added or withdrawn. Let’s take a look at each of the punishments and reinforcements below.

      • Positive Reinforcement

        In Positive Reinforcement, a desirable stimulus is added to the environment to get the desired response. For instance, giving food so that the rat presses the bar or giving a hug to motivate your spouse.

      • Negative Reinforcement

        In Negative Reinforcement, an undesirable stimulus is removed to generate the desired response. For example, reducing the electric shock.

      • Positive Punishment

        As we know, the terms positive and negative in the context of Punishment function in an opposite manner relative to Reinforcement. In Positive Punishment, an unpleasant stimulus is added to get the desired response. For example, the rat receives an electric shock so that he should not press the bar.

      • Negative Punishment

        Negative Punishment describes the approach of taking away a pleasant stimulus to get the desired response. For example, taking the freedom away to watch television so that your child can focus on studies.

        This procedure of Reinforcement and Punishment is Shaping and is one of the important elements of Operant Conditioning. This is because shaping increases or decreases the probability that a previous behavior will occur again in the future.

      Thus, Operant Conditioning is a type of learning in which a behavior is either strengthened or weakened depending upon pleasant or unpleasant consequences.

  • Variation in Processes

    Classical and Operant Conditioning are two of the most important concepts of Behaviorism. Furthermore, each type of conditioning results in learning. However, the process to achieve the learning goal is not the same in each type of conditioning. This is one of the other points that differentiate between classical and operant conditioning.

    Classical or Pavlovian Conditioning leads an organism to associate an involuntary response (preexisting reflex) with a particular stimulus (Respondent Behavior). In the Edward Pavlov Dog Experiment, dog salivation is a preexisting or an involuntary response that the dog generates at the sight of the food. Then, the sound of the bell is made along with the presentation of food in a number of instances.

    Eventually, the dog starts salivating even when the sound of the bell is presented alone. This is because the dog associated the sound of the bell with the presentation of the food over a number of trials.

    Likewise, Operant Conditioning leads an organism to form an association between a voluntary behavior and its consequence (Operant Behavior). Take the example of the Skinner Box Experiment. The rat is first placed inside a box consisting of levers and bars.

    Then, the food is kept outside the box or the chamber. Now, the rat performs random behaviors in order to open the door of the box and access food outside. Eventually, the food is presented to the rat when it successfully hits the bar. The receipt of food acts as positive reinforcement or a stimulus for the rat to press the bar again.

Also Read: Edward Thorndike Contribution to Psychology

  • Active Vs Passive Learner

    Another difference between Classical Vs Operant Conditioning is that of Active Vs Passive Learner. In the case of Classical Conditioning, the part of the learner is passive. This means that the learner unintentionally responds to a conditioned stimulus over a period of time.

    It is because the neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with an unconditioned stimulus and eventually becomes a conditioned stimulus.

    This conditioned stimulus then unintentionally generates a conditioned response even without the presence of the unconditioned stimulus.

    However, in the case of Operant Conditioning, the learner actively participates and acts on its environment to produce punishing or reinforcing stimuli.

  • Order of Events

    The order of events is another parameter that differentiates Classical Vs Operant Conditioning. In Classical Conditioning, the response follows the stimulus. Take the example of the Ivan Pavlov Dog Experiment.

    Initially, the dog salivated (Unconditioned Response) when it was served with the food (Unconditioned Stimulus). Then, the sound of the bell (Neutral Stimulus) was used each time before serving the dog with the food (Unconditioned Stimulus). This was done innumerable times.

    Eventually, the dog started salivating (Conditioned Response) after hearing the sound of the bell (Conditioned Stimulus) without presenting food (Unconditioned Stimulus). As you can see, the response follows the stimulus in the case of Classical Conditioning.

    On the other hand, the opposite happens in the case of Operant Conditioning. In Operant Conditioning, the stimulus follows the response. Take the example of the Skinner Box Experiment. Initially, the rat performed random behaviors when it was placed inside the box. However, when the rat finally hits the bar over a number of trials, it is served with the food.

    Now, the presentation of food acts as a reinforcement (Reinforcer or Stimulus) for the rat. The next time rat is placed in the box, the rat hits the bar (Response) and gets served with the food. As we can see, in this case, the response follows the stimulus.

  • Difference in Terminology

    Both Pavlov’s and Skinner’s Theories of Classical Vs Operant Conditioning vary in terms of the terminology that they use. In Classical Conditioning, Pavlov uses the following terminology.

    • Unconditioned Stimulus – Natural Stimulus having the capacity to generate a natural response.
    • Unconditioned Response – Response or Behavior that occurs naturally when exposed to the natural stimulus.
    • Conditioned Stimulus – A Stimulus that was previously a Neutral Stimulus but eventually becomes a conditioned stimulus when associated with the natural stimulus repeatedly.
    • Conditioned Response – A Response that was previously unconditioned, now becomes conditioned as it is produced when exposed to the conditioned stimulus.

    In Operant Conditioning, Skinner used the term Operant Behavior in place of the Respondent or Conditioned behavior used in Classical Conditioning.

Classical Vs Operant Conditioning: Key Differences

S.No.AttributesClassical ConditioningOperant Conditioning
1.DefinitionClassical Conditioning happens when you associate a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus due to repetitive pairing of the two stimuli.Operant Conditioning happens when a response acts as a stimulus for future action or behavior.
2.ProcessClassical or Pavlovian Conditioning leads an organism to associate an involuntary response (preexisting reflex) with a particular stimulus (Respondent Behavior).Operant Conditioning leads an organism to form an association between a voluntary behavior and its consequence (Operant Behavior).
3.FounderThe Russian Psychologist first observed the Theory of Classical Conditioning.The American Psychologist and Behaviorist B.F. Skinner first introduced the theory of operant conditioning.
4.Differentiation in Terms UsedPavlov termed the whole phenomena ‘Conditioned Response’.Skinner termed the whole phenomena ‘Operant Response’.
5.LearnerIn Classical Conditioning, the learner unintentionally responds to a conditioned stimulus over a period of time.In Operant Conditioning, the learner actively participates and acts on its environment to produce punishing or reinforcing stimuli.
6.Sequence of EventsIn Classical Conditioning, the response follows the stimulus.In Operant Conditioning, the stimulus follows the response.

Examples of Classical and Operant Conditioning

Classical Conditioning Examples

  • Suppose during childhood days, you had certain weird experiences with dogs in your neighborhood. The dogs started barking and following you each time you passed by them. A single experience of a dog barking at you did not give you an adrenaline rush. However, repetitive experiences like these created the fear of dogs in you. So, now the moment you see a signboard proclaiming ‘Beware of Dogs’, you start feeling palpated even though there is no sight of dogs barking.
  • Now suppose you hit a Chinese restaurant and order a portion of Sushi that you had never tasted before. Unfortunately, the Sushi was not good enough and had a pungent smell. So you ended up feeling unwell. This very instance created an aversion towards Sushi for you. So, each time you even heard anyone ordering Sushi, you felt nauseated and preferred not ordering the same. This is taste aversion conditioning.
  • There are instances when you get classically conditioned towards a particular ethnic culture or community of people. The most commonly observed prejudice against a specific group of people is on the basis of color. The moment a white comes in contact with another white, there is an assumed camaraderie that exists. However, when a white gets in touch with a black, a host of negative thoughts take over a white’s brain. This leads to a change of behavior towards a black.
  • Fear Conditioning leads to a lot of anxiety disorders like phobias and panic disorders. For example, you associate fear, panic, or other emotional trauma with closed spaces.

Operant Conditioning Examples

  • In order to make your child work hard and perform well in exams, you promise your child tickets to a live soccer match if he performs well. The promise of buying tickets to live soccer matches would positively reinforce your child to work harder. Moreover, he or she would probably continue working hard in order to receive such rewards in the near future. This is an example of positive reinforcement in operant conditioning.
  • You have severe pain in your back and in order to avoid that pain, you take pain-relieving tablets. These tablets provide you relief from the pain and it is likely that you will consume take these tablets in the future as well in case you suffer from backache again. Hence, the tablets act as negative reinforcers in this case as they help you in avoiding or escaping an unpleasant or undesirable condition. This is an example of negative reinforcement in operant conditioning.
  • One of your employees comes late to the office quite frequently. You decide to cut 0.01% of his salary each day he turns up late to the office. This is the case of Positive Punishment in Operant Conditioning.
  • Your child does not study at all and hence got bad grades this time around. You take away a pleasant stimulus like the freedom to watch tv from your child. This is the case of Negative Punishment in Operant Conditioning.

Similarities Between Classical and Operant Conditioning

There are certain similarities despite having differences between Classical Vs Operant Conditioning. These similarities link the two types of behavior modification.

  • Associative Learning

    Both Classical and Operant Conditioning are forms of Associative Learning. Furthermore, both are defined as Behavioral Theories.

    Associationism refers to the process of associating two ideas. This means that we humans associate two events. Thus, when we think of one event, we automatically recall the other event.

    Historically, Aristotle proposed that the two events must be temporarily paired and similar to each other or opposite to each other for the association to develop.

    Later, the British empiricist John Locke proposed that we humans form ideas as a consequence of our experiences. He distinguished between simple ideas and complex ideas.

    Simple Ideas refer to the passive impressions that our senses receive. And complex ideas refer to the combination of simple ideas or association of ideas.

    Then then the Scottish Philosopher David Hume contemplated that three basic principles combine simple ideas into complex ideas. These include:

    • Resemblance
    • Contiguity in time or place
    • Cause and Effect

      Both Locke and Hume were philosophers. Therefore, the very need to evaluate the validity of the principle of Association was left on the later scientists.

  • Basic Phenomena of Conditioning

    You can observe further similarities between classical and operant conditioning in terms of the basic phenomena of conditioning.

    Pavlov also studied the variables that influence the strength and persistence of Classical Conditioning. In some of his studies, Pavlov presented the sound of the bell repeatedly. But, this was presented without presenting the food afterward. Acquisition, Extinction, and Spontaneous Recovery showcase what happened.

    Besides this, Pavlov even experimented with presenting new stimuli that were similar but not identical to the neutral stimulus. These experiments lead to other principles of classical conditioning like Generalization, Discrimination, and second-order conditioning.

    Now, it is important to note that the principles of Acquisition, Generalization, Discrimination, Extinction, and Spontaneous Recovery apply to Operant Conditioning as well. Lets’ try to understand all these principles.

    • Acquisition

      Both Pavlov and Skinner describe the phase of association in Classical and Operant Conditioning effectively. In the case of Classical Conditioning, a previously neutral stimulus is associated with the unconditioned stimulus. Whereas, in the case of Operant Conditioning, Skinner described the phase of associating a response with a consequence. In addition to this, he also described the strengthening of such an association.

    • Generalization

      One of the other similarities between Classical and Operant Conditioning is that both types of conditioning consist of the phenomena of Generalization.

      Generalization describes a tendency that a stimulus similar to a given stimulus elicits the same conditioned response as the conditioned one. It is important to note that Generalization is more likely to occur if there is more similarity between the stimuli.

      For instance, a honey bee stings a young boy while playing in the courtyard of his house. As a result, the boy acquires a strong conditioned fear for honeybees.

      So the boy gets scared and runs towards his house each time he spots a honey bee. Not only this, the young child gets disturbed and shows the same reaction whenever he spots any similar-looking fly or an insect.

      Now, stimulus generalization serves as an important adaptive function. But it is not always beneficial and can be very dangerous in certain cases.

      For example, young children develop strong trust in their parents or relatives when they receive gifts from them. Not only this, children tend to trust even adults who are strangers through stimulus generalization.

      Such conditioning in children can prove to be very dangerous at times.

    • Discrimination

      The phenomenon of Discrimination is one of the other similarities between Classical and Operant Conditioning. Stimulus Discrimination or simply Discrimination explains the learned ability of an organism to distinguish and differentiate between stimuli.

      For instance, an organism learns to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus in the case of Classical Conditioning. Whereas, the organism learns that certain responses are being reinforced or punished.

    • Extinction

      One of the other similarities of classical and operant conditioning is the tendency of extinction. Extinction in classical conditioning is a process via which a conditioned stimulus gradually loses its ability to generate a conditioned response. Provided the unconditioned stimulus no longer follows the conditioned stimulus.

      In other words, extinction in classical conditioning is a process that leads to a decrease in the frequency of a previously conditioned response. Furthermore, such a conditioned response eventually disappears in the case of Extinction in Classical Conditioning.

      However, extinction in Operant Conditioning occurs when the consequences do not follow a given response. These consequences may either involve Reinforcement or Punishment.

    • Spontaneous Recovery

      Another common feature between classical and operant Conditioning is the Spontaneous Recovery phenomenon. Spontaneous Recovery in classical conditioning is a process where a Conditioned Response can occur even after extinction.

      Consider the Ivan Pavlov Dog Experiment. Say, Pavlov got engaged with another project which kept him away from his laboratory as well as the dog for quite a few weeks. Once he returned, Pavlov presented the Conditioned Stimulus (the sound of the bell) again to the dog.

      This time the dog salivated but in a weakened form. Such a reappearance of a weakened conditioned response to a conditioned stimulus after an interval of time following extinction is called spontaneous recovery.

      However, salivation on hearing the sound of the bell will eventually disappear if extinction continues. That is, the sound of the bell is presented many times without the meat powder.

      Now, here is an example of Spontaneous Recovery in the case of Operant Conditioning. A parent rewards his child with a bar of chocolate the moment he comes back home from work. However, the child gradually learns not to associate chocolate with the coming back of his father from the office the father stops getting one.

      However, the father again gets chocolate for his son after a few days while returning from the office. The little boy gets excited again and starts expecting his father to get the bar of chocolate the next day.

      This means Extinction is not the same as unlearning a thing completely. In other words, a response can disappear. But that does not infer that an organism forgets it completely.

      Also Know: Father of Operant Conditioning

Difference between Pavlov and Skinner

B.F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F. Skinner) was one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century.

He was a behaviorist who believed that conditioning controlled all of the human behavior. That is, specific conditions lead to the desired outcome.

This research style of the experimental analysis of behavior was in contrast to the traditional style of research.

As per the traditional research style, the participants were exposed to certain conditions. Then, they were analyzed for the difference in their behavior.

Thus, Skinner’s behavior analysis is also called radical behaviorism. This is because Skinner emphasized that the study of psychology should focus on overt behavior. And not the internal mental states.

Ivan Pavlov

The Russian Psychologist Ivan Pavlov influenced Skinner’s work. In his autobiography, Skinner mentioned that “Bertrand Russell and John B. Watson had given me no glimpse of the experimental method, but Pavlov had. Pavlov said that control the environment and you will see the order in behavior.”

Thus, there is no doubt that Pavlov influenced Skinner’s work. As a result, Skinner insisted on the primacy of data. Further, he also pointed out the importance of studying the behavior of individual organisms rather than that of the groups.

Compare and Contrast Pavlov and Skinner

  • The Science of Behavior

    Though, Ivan Pavlov influenced Skinner’s work. However, he diverged from Pavlov’s foreground in two major ways. One theoretical and the other empirical.

    Skinner emphasized the primacy of the science of behavior. And was against the assumption of the inferred neurological processes. Furthermore, Skinner discovered methods for studying environment-behavior interactions. This was unlike Pavlovian conditioning where Pavlov studied interactions or associations between two stimuli.

    Besides this, Skinner introduced the term Operant. Operant refers to the behaviors that entered into these interactions.

    Now, Pavlov mentioned in one of the earlier works of conditioning that an investigator needs to determine how a living object maintains itself in relation to its environment.  That is, an investigator needs to determine the precise connection existing between the given natural phenomenon and the capability of the living organism to respond to such a phenomenon.

    Accordingly, the main objects of study for behaviorists like Skinner were to determine the relationship between the responses of living organisms in relation to the environment.

    Furthermore, Skinner did not oppose physiological processes. However, he did criticize the concept of using merely inferred neural systems to explain the behavior from which they were inferred.

    Thus, Skinner argued that neuroscientists need a Science of Behavior. This is because, without such a science, they would be clueless about what to look for in the nervous system. Therefore, there are high chances that they might look for things that they would never find.

  • Respondent Behavior and Operant Behavior

    Skinner called Respondent Behavior to be the kind of behavior entering into Pavlovian Conditioning. This is because the Conditioned Stimulus sets the occasion for the presentation of the Unconditioned Stimulus. As a result, the Conditioned Stimulus generates behavior that the Unconditioned Stimulus elicited earlier.

    For instance, take the case of Pavlov’s Dog Experiment. In that experiment, the dog salivated even when the bell Conditioned Stimulus) rang alone. This was because the ringing bell preceded consistently before presenting the dog with the food (Unconditioned Stimulus).

    However, the contingencies in Skinner’s Operant Behavior are different. In Operant Conditioning, discrimination means responding only to the discriminative stimulus and not to similar stimuli.

    Discriminative Stimulus refers to a stimulus that produces a particular response when presented. Here, the living organism has the capability to discriminate between a given stimulus and other similar stimuli.

    Thus, the living organism would not produce the specific response in the absence of a discriminative stimulus. The best example to illustrate this is the lever-pressing rat experiment. In this experiment, the rat pressed the lever in the presence of light. Food was served to the rat the moment it pressed the lever. However, the rat does not press the lever to obtain food in the absence of light.

  • Conditional Stimulus and Operant Stimulus

    It took Skinner a long period of time to distinguish between Pavlovian Conditional Stimulus and the Operant Discriminative Stimulus. Skinner asserted that Pavlov called all the events strengthening behavior ‘Reinforcement’. And all the resulting changes ‘Conditioning’.

    So, a reinforcer is paired with a stimulus in Pavlovian Conditioning. Whereas, the behavior is connected to a response in Operant Conditioning. This clarifies that Operant Reinforcement is a different process and hence required separate analysis.

    Accordingly, a living organism is conditioned when a reinforcer:

    • Accompanies another Stimulus
    • Follows upon a living organism’s own behavior

    This means Operant Behavior is emitted and not elicited. This means the current behavior in Operant Conditioning depends on the consequences of the behavior produced in the past. For instance, consider the rat experiment. The rat presses the lever at present because such an action produced food in the past.

    In other words, the consequences of the current responses select the responses that will occur subsequently.

Difference Between Learning and Conditioning

What is Learning in Psychology?

Learning is a relatively permanent change in your behavior or behavioral potential resulting from experience. It is an adaptive function that brings about changes in your nervous system.

These changes occur in relation to the stimuli in the external environment. Furthermore, such changes lead to changes in your behavioral responses that allow you to function in a given environment.

Now, the following are the distinctive characteristics of the psychology of learning.

  • Learning Involves Experience

    As per the definition, Learning is a relatively permanent change in your behavior or behavioral potential resulting from experience. Thus, the very first feature of learning is that it always involves some sort of experience.

    Now, you learn either through experiencing a single event or a series of events. For instance, you touched a hot pan and got your hands burnt as a child. Thus, you learned to handle hot utensils carefully in the future. And this learning happened via a single event or experience.

    Likewise, as a kid, you used to go for a prayer session in the school playground the moment the first bell rang in the morning. So, you got satisfaction going to the playground on a repeated basis. And this repeated experience of satisfaction led to the formation of a habit. Thus, in this case, you experienced an event occurring in a certain sequence.

  • Learning Involves Behavioral Changes That Are Permanent

    The changes occurring in your behavior due to experiences are relatively permanent in nature. Such behavioral changes are separate from permanent or learned changes.

    For instance, some behavioral changes occur due to fatigue, habituation, and drugs. Say, you are reading a book. After some time, you will feel tired. As a result, you stop reading. Thus, such a behavioral change is due to fatigue and hence temporary in nature. It is not learning.

  • Learning Does Not Involve Reflexes or Instincts

    Learning does not include behavioral changes occurring as a result of maturation. Further, it also does not include changes in behavior due to native response tendencies. Here, the native tendencies are your natural tendencies or abilities as a human being.

    For instance, an infant knows how to suck innately. Likewise, you automatically blink your eyes the moment the rays of bright light fall on your eyes. All such behaviors come under the category of instincts and reflexes. Hence, they cannot be attributed to learning.

  • Learning Involves A Sequence of Psychological Events

    Remember, learning involves a sequence of Psychological Events. Say, you have to learn a list of words. As a result, you first process the words, and then you store new words along with the existing ones.

    This means you acquire new knowledge after processing is complete. Finally, you recall the words after some time elapses. Therefore, this is how learning takes place.

  • Learning is an Inferred Process

    Learning is different from a performance. It is an inferred process. Say, you are a part of Romeo and Juliet’s play. You have to play Juliet’s role and deliver the dialogues on the final day of the show.

    Now, in this case, the successful delivery of dialogues on the final day is your performance. Whereas, the appreciation received from judges regarding your skill to learn the dialogues is inference.

What is Conditioning in Psychology?

Conditioning in psychology is a form of learning. It occurs in two ways. The first is Classical Conditioning and the second is Operant Conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning vs Operant Conditioning occurs when you arrange a stimulus to have a predictive relationship with the reinforcer. That is, the stimulus signifies the possible occurrence of the reinforcer. And such a relationship or association results in a change in your response to the stimulus.

Thus, classical conditioning is a process in which you learn to associate stimuli that occur together frequently. And as a result of such an association, you learn to anticipate events.

Furthermore, Classical Conditioning is also called Respondent Conditioning or Pavlovian Conditioning. A Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, discovered the Classical Learning Theory. He stated that classical conditioning is a form of learning in which a neutral stimulus does not lead to a particular response initially. But it slowly acquires the ability to generate that response when you pair a neutral stimulus with a reinforcer frequently. Thus, it means one stimulus serves as a signal for the occurrence of the second stimulus in this form of learning.

Classical Vs Operant Conditioning Dog Training

As a human, you learn skills largely through example, practice, trial and error, and feedback. Furthermore, you do not perform a task without knowing how to do it? Instead, you first learn how to perform a task and improve on your performance through feedback.

Likewise, you need to teach your dog the desired behaviors. Furthermore, you also need to be consistent in dog training and need to provide your dog with feedback. This is because it will help your dog to learn how to perform a given task.

Now, the very question “Why do animals behave the way they do” laid the foundation for the science of behaviorism in the nineteenth century.

The Psychologists tried to come up with an answer. They finally concluded that Conditioning shaped the way animals behaved.

Conditioning is a form of learning in which a living organism learns that one thing leads to another. Furthermore, this form of learning involves at least two factors. That is a stimulus and a response paired or associated with such a stimulus.

Now, Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning are the two forms of conditioning via which the dogs learn about the consequences of their behavior and environment. Therefore, understanding the difference between classical conditioning vs operant conditioning is important.

This is because it will help you to understand why your dog behaves the way he does and how to train your dog in a desirable way?

Classical Conditioning in Dog Training

As a dog trainer or an owner, you can train your dog using classical conditioning vs operant conditioning. Now, let us first recap what is classical conditioning before we discuss how is classical conditioning used in dog training?

As mentioned above, Classical Conditioning occurs when you present your dog with a previously neutral stimulus along with a reinforcer to elicit a conditioned, involuntary response. For instance, Ivan Pavlov concluded via an experiment that dogs learned to salivate when the lab technician who served them with food entered the room.

Furthermore, the dogs learned to salivate in response to the sound of the bell. This was the result of pairing the bell with food repeatedly.

Thus, in case of the Classical Conditioning, the dogs learned to associate a previously neutral stimulus with the food reward. This means that Classical Conditioning is a form of Associative Learning where the animal associates two stimuli.

Furthermore, Classical Conditioning vs Operant Conditioning modifies the involuntary or the reflexive behavior of the animal. In other words,  the dogs had no conscience control over the response to the stimulus.

So, let’s try to understand how Classical Conditioning is used to train dogs?

How Is Classical Conditioning Used in Dog Training?

You need to present the neutral stimulus or a command (CS) immediately before the biologically important stimulus (US). This is the most effective way to train your dog through classical conditioning.

Suppose, your dog misbehaves like sniffing the trash while you take your dog for a walk. And you want to train your dog to feel anxious and startled in response to the command or the word ‘No’. So, the effective way to do so is to present the command the moment your dog starts sniffing the trash can.

Thus, you give your dog the ‘No’ cue and throw the chain choke collar against the trash can. Doing so produces an unpleasant sound about half a second after the ‘No’ command.

Initially, the ‘No’ command (CS) means little to your dog and hence produces a little change in its behavior. But the throwing of the chain collar against the trash produces an unpleasant noise (US). Such a noise acts effectively as it startles your dog (UR).

This means your dog learns to associate the command ‘No’ with the unpleasant noise within few CS-US pairings. Such an association of stimuli startles your dog the moment it hears the command ‘No’ (CR).

Later, you can use the ‘No’ command when your dog sniffs the trash can again. Such a command will startle your dog. Furthermore, it will interrupt your dog to perform undesirable activities. Later, you can recall the dog and appreciate it.

As a result, your dog will learn not to perform any actions or stay away from the objects when it hears the ‘No’ command. This is a classical conditioning example in dog training.

However, it is an operant conditioning example in dog training when your dog returns to receive appreciation or praise for performing such an act.

Operant Conditioning Used in Dog Training

Operant Conditioning is a learning process where the consequences of a specific event lead to changes in your dog’s behavior. For instance, your dog would hesitate to approach the cat next time if the cat scratches your dog’s nose when it tries to sniff the cat in the first place.

Thus, your dog forms an association between a behavior and a stimulus. That is, the cat scratching your dog’s nose acts as a stimulus for your dog for future actions or behaviors.

Accordingly, instrumental conditioning of dogs comprises four elements. The first element is some sort of response on the part of your dog. Then, the second element is the consequence or the result of such a response. Next is the response rule. That is the rule that connects the dog’s response to the consequence. Finally, the fourth element is a cue or a command (discriminative stimuli).

Now, there are two main categories of consequences in instrumental conditioning. These include reinforcement and punishment.

  • Reinforcement in Dog Training

    Reinforcement is a consequence that encourages prior behavior. A pat on the head, a toy, or food all act as reinforcers for your dog to act in the desired way. On the other hand, Punishment is a consequence that discourages or weakens the prior behavior. Bumps on your dog’s nose, jerks on its collar, etc are examples of punishers.

    Now, let us take a look at how reinforcement and punishment work in Operant Conditioning in Dog Training.

    How is Reinforcement Used in Dog Training?

    You can reinforce your dog to perform a certain action or behavior in a certain way using reinforcement. Now, you can reinforce your dog both positively and negatively.

    Say, for instance, you want your dog to sit the moment you give the ‘Sit’ command to your dog. So, you serve your dog with food after it sits. Thus, the food acts as a positive reinforcer for your dog and tends to strengthen this behavior. This is because food is a pleasant stimulus for your dog.

    Hence, the consequence of receiving food after sitting strengthens the action of sitting in your dog. This process is positive reinforcement.

    However, unpleasant reinforcers can also reinforce your dog. For instance, you can avoid an unpleasant event like withholding a jerk on your dog’s leash in order to reinforce your dog. How? Well, you can give a jerk on your dog’s leash if it does not sit. But, you can withhold the jerk on your dog’s leash when it sits.

    The very act of withholding the jerk on the leash serves as a satisfying state of affairs for your dog. Though, the jerk on the collar is itself unpleasant.

    Hence, the consequence of withholding the jerk on the leash strengthens the action of sitting in your dog. This process is negative reinforcement.

  • Punishment in Dog Training

    Punishment in Operant Conditioning is a consequence that weakens the prior behavior. Jerks on your dog’s collar or bumps on its nose are examples of punishers.

    Say, for instance, your dog barks whenever someone passes by. So, you jerk your dog’s collar whenever he barks at the passersby in order to stop it from misbehaving.

    Jerk on your dog’s collar is punishing because it is unpleasant. However, these types of consequences are positive punishers. This is because it stops your dog from misbehaving.

    On the other hand, even pleasant events can act as punishers for your dog. You can take away a pleasant stimulus like praise or petting and punish your dog whenever it misbehaves.

    Say, for instance, your dog jumps on you whenever it is excited. However, you want your dog to stop doing so. Therefore, you can withhold praise or petting and punish your dog to stop it from jumping on you.

    This means your dog will not receive any praise or petting from you whenever it jumps up. Though, the praise or petting your dog is pleasant. But, their absence is an unsatisfying state of affairs for your dog.

    Such a consequence would punish your dog’s jumping up behavior. And therefore, it is negative punishment.

Inducive Training in Dogs

Inducive Training is a process in which you make use of pleasant events and stimuli to enable your dog to behave in the desired way. For instance, you can use food to lure your dog to put its feet up on the wall.

So, here the word induce means to persuade. Therefore, you make use of a reward or pleasant stimuli to encourage the desired behavior in your dog in case of inductive training.

Furthermore, inductive training also involves withholding or withdrawing pleasant stimuli to encourage your dog to stop behaving in an undesirable manner.

Compulsive Training in Dogs

The word Compulsion means coercing or forcing people or animals to perform desired actions. Thus, you can force your dog to stay within the kennel whenever the main door of your house opens.

Thus, you can shut the door sharply on your dog’s nose whenever it tries to walk out (Punishment). Or, you can poke your dog roughly on its ribs to force your dog to get down off the table. You can continue poking your dog on its ribs till the time it does not jump down to escape the poking (Negative Reinforcement).

As you may have noticed, you would always correct your dog in each of the above cases. Thus, in Compulsive Training, you depend upon the unpleasant events to compel your dog to behave in a desired manner.

This means Compulsive Training involves the use of Negative Reinforcement and Punishment.

Advanced Psychology