The Distinction Between Classical And Instrumentaloperant Conditioning

In classical conditioning, no contingency exists between the CR and the presentation or omission of the US. In other words, it does not matter if a CR is made or not; the presentation of the US still occurs and is experienced and processed by the subject. This has been termed stimulus-contingent reinforcement or the law of contiguity. In instrumental conditioning, in contrast, a contingent relationship is arranged between the subject's response and the presentation or non-presentation of a reinforcer. In other words, instrumental conditioning involves response-contingent reinforcement or the law of effect.

The simplest forms of learning are known as nonassociative learning. Examples of nonassociative learning include habituation (a decrease in a response to repeated presentations of a stimulus) and sensitization (an increase in a response to repeated presentation of a stimulus). Associative learning is a more complex form of learning. Classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning are both examples of associative learning. In classical conditioning, an association is made between two stimuli, the CS and US. This association is manifested by the occurrence of a conditioned response. In instrumental conditioning, an association is made between a stimulus and the outcome of a response. In other words, the organism learns what responses are reinforced given a particular stimulus. Although classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning are both examples of associative learning, classical conditioning is generally viewed as the simpler form of learning. There are many reasons for considering classical condition to be a simpler form of learning. For example, classical conditioning has been demonstrated in organisms that are very low on the phylogenetic scale, such as planaria, slugs, and leeches. Second, the ability to be classically conditioned appears earlier ontogenetically than the ability to be instrumental conditioned. Successful classical conditioning has been reported for chick embryos, neonatal monkeys, goats, and dogs as well as human fetuses in utero.

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