Human Learning

McKenzie Shea

Conditioning, Social Learning Theory, and Information Processing Theory

Conditioning

There are two different types of conditioning. These two types, classical and operant explain where learning derived from. Aristotle believed that our ability to "remember things together were 1) when they are similar, 2) when they contrast, and 3) when they are contiguous" which just means when two or more things happen frequently, those things become associated with one another (Woolfolk 255). One of the learning processes is called Classical Conditioning which is best explained when one of two events are associated with the other creating a sort of cause and effect action.

Classical Conditioning


  • Classical Conditioning is best explained as a human process in which one action responds to another causing a stimulus and response reaction. This then forces someone to remember that event once the stimulus is replayed over and over, associating the stimulus to whatever is to follow. This leads to human learning by understanding where our reactions (fear, sweating, salvation) come from when a certain event has triggered them. Humans can also be trained to associate a response to a stimulus that before did not effect them at all. This can be explained in the video below!
Psychology: What is Classical Conditioning?

Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning is associated to human learning because humans behave in particular situations based on the environment around them or the type of situation. Rather than just having a reaction to something (classical), operant conditioning explains how a person would "react" to a certain consequence or affirmation. A person's behavior can be dependent on what happens after they have completed their action. These are based on Reinforcements: "is any consequence that strengthens the behavior it follows" and Punishments: "involves decreasing or suppressing behavior" (Woolfolk 257-58).
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Image retrieved from: http://malinut.com/ref/write/oc/

Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory developed by Albert Bandurra argues against conditioning and towards observational learning.


  • He believes that humans can learn the behavior by observing those around them.
  • He believes that humans are learning as they are "watching, focusing their attention, remembering and analyzing, and making a decision" (Woolfolk 279).
  • Then from there, they apply it to their behaviors.


Social Learning Theory says that there is learning going on way before punishments or reinforcements are put into play. It also is based on interpretation. That humans will shape their decisions based on expectations or incentives to perform. He wants people to understand that performance and learning don't go hand and hand. That people can learn something but not perform it until there is something they want in return (incentive).


Ex: A teacher asks her students a question. A student in that classroom raises his/her hand to be called on by the teacher. The teacher tells that student they are correct and replies, "good job!". The students around observed this, and from now one will raise their hand to answer questions instead of just shout it out.

Information Processing Theory

Cognitive Learning says that knowledge and strategies are learned and changes in that knowledge is what makes behaviors change (Woolfolk 291). The Information Process theory explains how the knowledge flows through the brain once it is learned.



The steps in the Information Process System are:

1) Once knowledge enters the brain it is stored in the sensory memory.

2) Attention decides what will be used and what will be held in short term memory.

3) The short term memory then takes the new knowledge and combines it with early information to be placed in the Long Term memory.

4) Once in the long term, it can be moved in and out of short term to be used when necessary.

Side Note: The Working Memory is also there to stand as storage for those short term memories that have not yet been combined with previous knowledge.


This best explains how human learning is developed and explains once something is process in the brain, where is goes next and where it is stored to be used later. With the working memory in constant flow, keeping information at the top of our brain when we need it, this helps humans come up with on the spot responses without having to search back into our long term memory.

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Book Citation: Woolfolk, A. H. (2016). Educational Psychology (13th ed.). United States: Pearson Education.