How do you learn best?

By Kendall Hay

Many people do not know the difference between conditioning, social learning theory and information processing theory. While classical conditioning involved the response given with the exposure to a new stimuli, the social learning theory involves learning new information from watching others. With information processing theory, there are three main types that are more associated with it. They are, sensory, working and long-term memory.

What is learning?

Learning is when someone experiences something which causes a change in the person’s knowledge or changes the behavior of the person. Webster’s dictionary describes learning as, “the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). Not all learning is done consciously most learning is done unconsciously. We are constantly learning everyday weather we are going to class or work, or even going on a walk down the street. Warten psychology students say, “most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us”. (The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching)

For example, a pre-schooler will end up learning more about butterflies by seeing them in person and then talking about it, than from looking at picture and hearing about them. Not all learning experiences are good ones. For example a child running with her shoes untied ends up tripping and scraping her knees. The child was hurt since both of her knees are scraped, and she then learns not to run around with her shoes untied. Learning for everyone is individualized and is perceived in different ways, but that is what makes each person unique.

Adorable 3-Year-Old Periodic Table Expert Brielle

Classical Conditioning

The classical conditioning is when you when you see, hear, or smell something and have an automatic response to it. Ivan Pavlov created the most famous classical condition experiment in the 1920’s. He was originally looking at the different levels of salivation from a dog. He noticed that the dog would start to salivate before it saw the food. Then it l the dog began salivating when he heard the footsteps of the scientist coming to his crate. Pavlov was not sure if this would work on humans, so he tried it on Little Albert. He used a white rat and a loud noise, so every time Little Albert saw the rat there would be a loud noise behind his head. Eventually after a few times Albert started to associate the loud noise with the rat and then cry when he saw the rat. After a few more experiments, Pavlov was able to put the information together to form a theory that he called it classical conditioning. There are many real life examples of classical conditioning in everyday life. One example in the SMU community is the “hot cookies” bell in the Umphrey Lee cafeteria. The lady who makes the cookies everyday rings a bell when they are fresh out of the oven. Once students hear that bell, most of us start to salivate. The reason that classical conditioning is important to our society is that it helps us to understand how human behavior works is affected by our environment.

Baby Albert Experiments

Social learning theory

The social learning is the process of learning by watching others. Albert Bandura presented this theory in 1977. He found important contrasts between learning and performance and enactive and observational learning.

Bandura was able to find a difference between enactive learning and observational learning. Enactive learning is the concept of learning while doing. For example the best way to learn how to make a cake is by making it not by watching your mom doing it. This is seen as providing information and do not strengthen or weaken behavior. Observational learning is when you learn by watching what other people do. For example, if a child sees another child jump off the top of the monkey bars and falls and hurts itself, then hopefully the observing child will learn not to do that. If people are able to learn by watching, then people are better off when making a decision.

For the contrasts between learning and performing, Bandura first came to the realization that, “we all know more than we show” (300, Woolfolk). Learning and performance can best be explained in the “Bobo” doll experiment. Three groups of children who saw a video of someone kicking the doll, but the difference was one group saw the person being rewarded for the kicking, one group the person got scolded and in the last group there was no reaction. Then all the kids in the three groups were put into the room with the doll. The result, the kids who saw the person kicking the doll and got rewarded, went up and started kicking the doll while the other kids watched. This shows that the kids learned what was right, and then proceeded to do those actions by thinking they would be rewarded in the end.

Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment

Processing Theory

Craik and Lockhart first outlined the different levels of processing theory in 1972. The reason they created them was because it was used as an alternate for long and short-term memory. They were able to determine how long different information is remembered and how much of it is retained. The three main types of processing theory are sensory, working and long-term memory.

Sensory Memory

The sensory memory is the first step in developing new sights, smells, and tastes. It is a place in the brain that holds the sensory information for a period of time, while it is being processed to develop understanding. The sensory memory is very large and can hold a lot of information, but the information is only kept there for three seconds. When the information is in the sensory memory and it is assigned a meaning it is known as perception (316, Woolfolk). That processes is called the bottom up theory, which means our body is able to recognize something based on finding details and characteristics, that form a pattern. For example, if you quickly see a sketch that looks like a penguin, then your eyes will tell your brain that you saw a penguin. This is because your mind perceived the sketches to be a penguin based on the picture you saw.

Working Memory

The working memory is the part of the brain that holds and processes challenging information, which is the information a person is focusing on at the moment. While the sensory memory has a large space to hold information, the working memory is smaller and the information is combined with previous knowledge. There are four sub-parts to a working memory; they are, central executive, phonological loop, episodic buffer, and Visuospatial

Visuospatial Sketchpad

The visuospatial sketchpad is the place the memory works an image to get the result needed. When a person's visuospatial sketchpad is working, it is the same as a person looking at the picture. For example you look at a picture of star and then are told to rotate it 180 degrees. Your visuospatial sketchpad rotates the picture inside your mind and then you are able to realize that the picture will look exactly the same.