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AP Psych



Unit 4

4.1 Introduction to Learning

2 min readjanuary 22, 2021

John Mohl

Dalia Savy

Three Types of Learning

The learning unit is composed of three types of learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning.

Image Courtesy of Verywell Mind.

Though they share some things in common and do impact the occurrence of the other two types, each type of learning has defining features:
  • Classical Conditioning describes a process in which the environment presents an organism with a stimulus, which in turn causes the organism to react in a certain way. Put another way, the stimulus causes a response. Responses in classical conditioning are involuntary or reflexive.
    • Example: When a puff of air is blown into one’s eyes💨 (stimulus), the person blinks (response). 
  • Operant Conditioning begins with the organism performing a behavior that is voluntary (i.e., non-reflexive) and leads to the environment reacting in a certain way (i.e., providing a consequence, which could be pleasant or unpleasant). This consequence, in turn, influences the likelihood of the organism performing the task again.
    • Example: When the student completed his homework, he received a dollar from his parents 💵 This led him to do his homework more often 💯
  • Observational Learning, as the name suggests, is learning by observing. Put another way, when a person sees another person doing that behavior, the one who is watching might try to imitate the behavior. One could model voluntary or involuntary, reflexive behaviors to another. 
    • Example: When the student saw her friends say a certain catchphrase over the course of several weeks, she found herself saying the same phrase.


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