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Classical Conditioning vs. Operant Conditioning — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on September 26, 2023
Classical Conditioning involves associating an involuntary response with a stimulus, while Operant Conditioning involves reinforcement or punishment after a behavior.
Classical Conditioning vs. Operant Conditioning — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

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Key Differences

Classical Conditioning, pioneered by Ivan Pavlov, involves forming associations between two stimuli. This process typically results in a previously neutral stimulus eliciting a reflexive response. Operant Conditioning, introduced by B.F. Skinner, revolves around strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors using consequences like rewards or punishments.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023
In Classical Conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus produces an unconditioned response. When paired with a neutral stimulus, over time, this neutral stimulus becomes conditioned and can elicit the response on its own. Operant Conditioning, conversely, focuses on the relationship between behavior and its consequences, aiming to increase or decrease the likelihood of specific behaviors.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023
Classical Conditioning predominantly deals with reflexive, involuntary behaviors. An example is a dog salivating at the sound of a bell after associating it with food. Operant Conditioning emphasizes voluntary behaviors, such as a rat pressing a lever to receive food.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023
A key distinction between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning lies in the type of behaviors they target. While the former conditions reflexive behaviors, the latter conditions voluntary behaviors through the use of reinforcements or punishments.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023
Both Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning provide insights into the mechanisms of learning. They highlight how organisms, from dogs to humans, learn to associate stimuli with responses or understand the implications of their actions based on consequences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Behavior Type

Reflexive/involuntary
Voluntary
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Pioneering Figure

Ivan Pavlov
B.F. Skinner
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Sep 26, 2023

Learning Method

Association between stimuli
Consequences following behavior
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Examples

Dog salivating to bell sound
Rat pressing a lever for food
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Sep 26, 2023

Main Components

Unconditioned stimulus/response, conditioned stimulus/response
Behavior, reinforcement/punishment
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Classical Conditioning

A learning process where a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a reflexive response.
The dog began to salivate upon hearing the bell due to classical conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Operant Conditioning

Conditioning focusing on strengthening or weakening voluntary actions.
Operant conditioning techniques were used to teach the dolphin to perform tricks.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Classical Conditioning

Pairing an unconditioned stimulus with a neutral one to produce a conditioned response.
By presenting food with a light flash, the fish responded to the light alone through classical conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Operant Conditioning

Learning method based on rewards for desired behavior or penalties for undesired ones.
Operant conditioning helped train the monkey to use tokens in exchange for treats.
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Sep 17, 2023

Classical Conditioning

Learning where two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response.
Classical conditioning explained why the cat would hide upon hearing the vacuum's sound.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Operant Conditioning

Using consequences to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior's recurrence.
The child would clean his room regularly due to the positive reinforcement in operant conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Classical Conditioning

Conditioning in which an innate response to one stimulus becomes associated with another.
The baby began to cry at the sight of a white lab coat due to classical conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Operant Conditioning

Modifying voluntary behaviors by consequences that follow them.
Due to operant conditioning, the dog would sit whenever it wanted a treat.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Classical Conditioning

Associating involuntary behaviors with new stimuli.
Through classical conditioning, the horse began to kick when hearing a specific whistle.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Operant Conditioning

A learning process where behavior is modified using reinforcements or punishments.
The bird learned to peck the colored button for food through operant conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 17, 2023

Common Curiosities

Can Classical Conditioning be unlearned?

Yes, through processes like extinction, where the association between stimuli weakens.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

How does Operant Conditioning modify behavior?

It utilizes reinforcements or punishments following a behavior.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Who is associated with the concept of Operant Conditioning?

B.F. Skinner introduced the concept of Operant Conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

What's a famous example of Classical Conditioning?

Pavlov's experiment with dogs, where they salivated at the sound of a bell, demonstrates Classical Conditioning.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Is punishment a part of Operant Conditioning?

Yes, Operant Conditioning can involve both reinforcements and punishments.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

How do organisms discern which stimuli to associate in Classical Conditioning?

They often link stimuli that occur closely in time, a principle known as temporal contiguity.
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Sep 26, 2023

What's a conditioned response in Classical Conditioning?

It's the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus after association.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

What is the primary principle of Classical Conditioning?

It involves associating a neutral stimulus with a reflexive response.
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Sep 26, 2023

Is Classical Conditioning voluntary or involuntary?

Classical Conditioning targets involuntary or reflexive behaviors.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

What's an application of Operant Conditioning in everyday life?

Rewarding a child with candy for good behavior is an example of Operant Conditioning.
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Sep 26, 2023

Can Classical Conditioning occur without conscious awareness?

Yes, often organisms form associations without conscious realization.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Which conditioning uses positive and negative reinforcement?

Operant Conditioning employs both positive and negative reinforcement.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

In which conditioning is behavior strengthened by outcomes?

In Operant Conditioning, behaviors are strengthened or weakened by their consequences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Why is Operant Conditioning significant in behaviorism?

It explains how behaviors can be shaped and maintained by their consequences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

Which conditioning form is more about reflexes and automatic responses?

Classical Conditioning focuses on reflexive and automatic responses.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 26, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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