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DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLASSICAL AND OPERANT CONDITIONING Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning 1.   The learner is not independent in this type of learning. 2.   Classical conditioning is restricted to animal learning only. 3.   Stimulus oriented. 4.  Learning through stimulus substitution.             5.   Behaviour is elicited. 6.   Reinforcement comes before the act. 7.   Response is forced. 8.   Developed by Russian (Pavlov) experiment. 1.   The learner is independent in this type of learning. 2.   Operant conditioning may be useful for the purpose of human learning also. 3.   Response oriented. 4.   Learning through response modification. 5.   Behaviour is emitted. 6.   Reinforcement comes after the act. 7.   Response is voluntary. 8.   Developed by American (Skinner) experiment   ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Classical Conditioning Theory | Pavlov | Dog experiment | Phases | classical

Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936), the Russian physiologist developed the concept of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a type of learning in which an organism learns to connect or associate stimuli. 

Pavlov conducted his famous experiment upon a pet dog. A hungry dog tied on the experimental table. A tube is connected with the dog’s salivary glands spelled out. When the experiment started, a bell was rung at the moment when the dog was given food. Initially, it observed that saliva naturally began to flow as soon as the dog saw the food. Every time when the food was given before the dog, the bell was ringing. After sometimes the bell was rung but food was withdrawn i.e. not given. However, it was found that this time also the saliva secreted from the salivary gland of the dog.


There are three phases in the Classical Conditioning. They are
1. Pre-conditioning Phase / before conditioning

            Bell Tone (CS) – No Salivation (CR)
            Food (US) – Salivation (UR)

2. Conditioning Phase / during conditioning:

Bell Tone (CS) + Food (US) – Salivation (UR)

3. After Conditioning:

Bell Tone (CS) – Salivation (CR)
  1. Unconditioned Stimulus (US) - Food
  2. Unconditioned Response (UR) - Salivation
  3. Conditioned Response (CR) and Conditioned Stimulus ( CS)

1.      Law of Causation

      Repetition of controlled stimulus (Bell Tone) followed by the uncontrolled stimulus (Food) leads to response.

2.      Law of Extinction

If the controlled stimulus (Bell Tone) is not followed by the uncontrolled stimulus (Food) the controlled response may gradually disappear. Gradual weakening and disappearance of a learned response that occurs because of the conditioned stimulus is no longer paired with the unconditioned stimulus or the response is no longer reinforced.

3.      Law of Reinforcement

      Food which has a reinforcement effect strengthens the bond between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response

4.      Law of Generalization

      A selective controlled response can be established by selective reinforcement.

5.      Law of Discrimination

Once the controlled response is established, it may be elicited by any stimulus.


The day-to-day learning at home and school consists of plenty of examples where the child learns through conditioning.

1.      Development of Attitude
    We develop many of our attitudes, prejudices, fears as well as perceptual meaning through conditioning. A child who has received painful injection may develop fear of any doctor.

2.      Teaching:
     Some academic learning like knowledge on multiplication of tables, historic dates, spelling is probably explained in terms of conditional response.

3.      Emotional stability
    It provides a cure for children suffering from mental ill-heath and also provides emotional stability. 

4.      Cognitive Process: 
      Modern views of classical conditioning emphasize the important role of cognitive process. It is useful in the acquisition of speech, language development, forming good habits, knowing names of various articles, temperament and study habits.

5.  Basic principles of classical conditioning can be used to increase our understanding of phobias and drugs overdoses.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Notes By

Dr. A. Michael J Leo
Psychology Professor
St. Xavier's College of Education