The Difference Between Operant and Classical Conditioning

Subject: Sciences
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The classical conditioned reflex is based on the association of conditional and unconditional stimuli, in contrast to operant, formed as a result of a connection between the stimulus and the result of the response.


While I.P. Pavlov studied classical conditioning, foreign laboratories conducted research in the field of instrumental conditioned reflexes, or operant. Developing a classical conditioned reflex; the sequence of events in the experiment does not depend on the behavior of the animal. It is established either by the experimenter or a particular program that corresponds to certain stimuli being turned on. It is possible to observe the formation of conditioned reactions in response to stimuli.

Operant conditioning is the learning by trial and error method. For example, a hungry animal is placed in a special box, out of which it can detect by accident. Then, the animal makes many movements throughout the inner space of the box, trying to get out of it, before pushing the mechanism that locks the door. In the following tests with the same box, the animal concentrates its behavior closer to the locking mechanism until it learns to behave purposefully, getting out of the box with minimal effort.

The main difference between operant and classical conditioning is active; that is, the arbitrary response of the animal. The behavior of animals based on operant conditioned reflexes can be enhanced through positive and negative reinforcement, as well as punishment and extinction. New motor reactions can be formed on the basis of instrumental conditioned reflexes. Knowledge of operant learning is of great importance in various aspects of human activity, in particular, for the maintenance and training of domestic animals and the taming of wild animals.