Learning is any relatively permanent change in
behaviour that occurs as a result of experience.
“Learning is the process that involves changes in
behaviour, practicing new behaviour and
establishing permanency in change.”
2. Nature of Learning
1) It involves change in behaviour.
2) The change must be relatively permanent.
3) Learning should be reflected in behaviour.
4) The change must be based on experience, practice
4. I. Classical Conditioning / Associative Learning
It is the association of one event with another
desired event, resulting in a behaviour.
The most well-known experiments in classical
conditioning were conducted by a Russian
physiologist Ivan Pavlov, in the early 1900s and won
the Nobel prize for these experiments.
He considered learning as the association of
stimulus and response ( S-R connection).
Pavlov conducted experiments on dogs and tried to
relate the dogs salivation with the ringing of a bell
inorder to establish the ‘stimulus-response’
5. Pavlov conducted the experiment in four stages
Stage 1 – Pavlov presented a piece of meat to the
dog. He noted a great deal of salivation.
Stage 2 – He merely rang a bell. The dog had no
Stage 3 – He rang the bell at the same time the
meat was presented. The dog salivated. He
continued this process several times.
Stage 4 – Pavlov rang the bell alone without
presenting the meat. The dog salivated as soon as
the bell rang.
Salivation in response to food is a natural, unlearned response
which is referred to as reflex or reflexive behaviour. This
response is called unconditioned response.
The food, because it elicited the unconditioned response
automatically was called unconditioned stimulus.
The bell, that did not elicit a response initially is called a
When bell (neutral stimulus), was paired with meat
(unconditioned stimulus), it eventually produced a response.
Here Pavlov tried to establish a relationship between the two
stimuli – the bell and the meat, in the mind of dog.
By continuing this process, the ringing of bell alone was
sufficient to elicit the response of salivating, even when no
meat was presented. Thus the bell became a conditioned
stimulus, resulting in a conditioned or learned response.
Classical conditioning (S-R model) can be defined as a process
in which a formerly neutral stimulus when paired with an
unconditioned stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that
elicits a conditioned response which is diagrammatically
7. Classical Conditioning
8. II. Operant Conditioning / Instrumental Learning
The term operant conditioning is used in context of voluntary
behaviours which are called operants, for they have some
influence on the environment.
It is also called as instrumental learning because the response
is instrumental in achieving a certain outcome.
According to operant conditioning, consequences determine the
behaviour that results in learning. Behaviour is likely to be
repeated if the consequences are favourable. Behaviour is not
likely to be repeated if the consequences are unfavourable.
Thus the relationship between behaviour and consequences is
the essence of operant conditioning.The reward (stimulus) is
given only when the organism gives the correct response. This
requires the organism to operate on the environment to receive
a reward (R-S connection).
9. The person associated with this learning theory is
He was a Harvard psychologist who opined that people
learn to behave in a particular manner inorder to obtain
something they want or to avoid something they do not
Individuals emit responses that are rewarded and will not
emit responses that are either not rewarded or are
Skinner designed an apparatus for his experiment called
‘Operant Chamber’ or the ‘Skinner Box’, to understand
learned behaviour in animals. The Skinner Box has a
lever, which on pressing, drops a pellet of food.
A hungry pigeon was placed in the box. Soon, it started
roaming around and accidentally pressed the lever and
received a pellet of food.
10. The pigeon soon learned to associate pressing of the
lever with the reward of food. This reward acted as a
reinforcing factor.( A reinforcer is any event that
increases the probability of a preceding response.)
Behavior from the view point of operant conditioning,
is based on the ‘Law of Effect’ .
The Law of Effect states that responses followed by
pleasant consequences are more likely to be
repeated, while responses followed by unpleasant
consequences are less likely to be repeated.
Thus Skinner argued that frequency of specific forms
of behaviour could be increased or modified by
making changes in the results or consequences of
11. III. Social Learning Theory
The social learning theory, also called observational
learning, stresses upon the ability of an individual to
learn by observing or watching the behaviour of
others and observing its consequences for them.
According to this theory, individuals can also learn
by observing what happens to other people as well
as by direct experiences. Much of the learning
comes from observing and imitating models-parents,
teachers, peers, superiors, film stars etc.
Four processes determine the influence that a model
will have on an individual.It is diagrammatically
12. Attention Process
Extend to which one focuses
on other’s actions
Extend to which one remembers
Ability of the individual to perform
the modeled activities
Extend to which one repeats
the modeled behaviour
Factors in Social Learning
The individual acquires
behaviors of models
Reinforcement refers to consequences of behaviour.
Reinforcement can be defined as anything that
increases the strength of the response and tends to
induce repetitions of behaviour that preceded the
There are four basic types of reinforcements in
organizations :- positive reinforcement, negative
reinforcement, punishment and extinction.
14. Positive Reinforcement
It is a reward for a desired behavior. It strengthens and
increases the frequency of behavior by the presentation of
It is a means for increasing the frequency of desirable behavior
due to the fear of unpleasant consequences. It is also known
as ‘Avoidance Learning’ or ‘Escape Conditioning’ as it takes
place when individuals learn to avoid or escape from
It involves delivering an unpleasant consequence on the
occurrence of undesirable behaviour. It is anything that
weakens behaviour or decreases the frequency of undesirable
Eliminating any reinforcement that is maintaining a behavior is
called extinction. The main aim is that if rewards are withdrawn
for behaviours that were previously reinforced, the behaviour
will probably become less frequent and eventually die out.