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Difference Between Classical and Operant conditioning

Classical vs. operant conditioning

How do you get someone to do your bidding? It must be a relief being a parent or a master because you can see how your children or dogs follow whatever you say instead of it being the other way around, right?

In Psychology, the branch of science that studies the mind and behavior of human beings, it has been shown that there are two types of conditioning that a person or animal responds to in any type of situation. The responses take root from the moment when the sentient being begins to think, to learn, or to react. These two types of conditioning are called, respectively, classical conditioning and operational conditioning.

If you want your child to grow up walking on the right path, you should inform yourself about these two types of conditioning. Same goes for the master who wants to have his dog properly trained. You should know that there are significant differences between these two types of conditioning and that your child or dog’s behavior will depend on what approach you will use on them.

Classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning, to begin with, refers to an involuntary or automatic response to a specific stimulus. It also refers to the predictable sequence of events in which a thinking being responds to the first event in anticipation of the next. Examples of these predictable relationships are a person’s reaction to a hot stove; the scent of a perfume; a certain song etc… All of these evoke a strong emotion or involuntary reaction among the affected persons or animals.

Classical conditioning was discovered by Dr. Ivan Pavlov. The breakdown of his study goes like this: Pavlov measured the salivary response of his dogs as he presented them with food. Then Pavlov rang a bell before he started presenting the food. The dogs did not salivate until the food was presented. But after a few repetitions of the bell and food together, the dogs finally started salivating every time they heard the bell ring. The dogs associated the sound of the bell with the presence of food. They began to understand that the bell ringing was an event that preceded their food being brought out. Their reaction to the bell ringing was instantaneous. They begin to salivate when they heard the sound and they couldn’t help it.

Operant conditioning, on the other hand, is another form of learning that is based on the reaction of a person or animal in a very forced situation. It is a conditioning that crops up through subsequent rewards or punishments. In short, it is a reaction to past consequences. Examples for this method of rewards based learning are: getting an A instead of an F on examinations – a person who knows the meaning of the grading system would strive to get an A instead of an F, or employees that work very hard so as to avoid getting sacked.

Examples for the punishment based method of learning are: making mistakes – if you have committed a certain mistake that has traumatized you, you aren’t as likely to repeat it again, or being reprimanded by someone in authority about something that you did, which is likely to cause you to straighten up. Note that operant conditioning could either increase behavior or decrease it through the possibility of consequences.



Classical conditioning relies on stimuli to learn, while operant conditioning relies more on consequences.

Classical conditioning is learning that does not require punishment; whereas operant conditioning has punishment so as to make the person or animal learn from it.

The reaction to classical conditioning is instantaneous (dog salivating when a bell rings); whereas with operant conditioning, the reaction is controlled (study hard to get an A instead of an F).

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  1. Everything is very open with a precise description of the challenges.

    It was definitely informative. Your site is very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing!

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