Human Learning Theories


Conditioning is the theory that there is only a stimulus and a response. In other words behavior is learned via the environment. This involves the process of association with either a good or bad experience and then a behavior is produced from this.

For example if a child gets picked on in math class every day, that child will learn that math class brings pain and will not like learning math. This explains how humans can learn certain behaviors are good and then only copy these good behaviors. The illustration below shows this explanation further using a basic example of a dog and food.

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There is also operant conditioning with is similar in principle. Behaviors are still learned with this through condition of stimulus and response. Positive behaviors are rewarded through praise and bad behaviors are ignored. For example a child din class who gets an answer right is told good job, but a child who shows up late to class is ignored. In this was the students learn that positive behaviors are noticed and rewarded and no attention is given to negative actions.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory states that learning is a cognitive process based on observation alone and not direct stimulus and response like conditioning release upon. Social learning theory is based around not only observation of rewarding good behavior but also relies on observing punishment of bad behavior.

An example is a student observes another student being praised for earning a good grade and another student being scolded for distracting others in class. The observing student then learns that doing well in class is the right thing to do and distracting others is bad.

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This diagram shows the different factors associated with social learn theory. These factors all go into determining a humans behavior and how they learn.

Information Processing Theory

This theory is different than the others in that it states humans do not merely respond to stimuli, but rather process information they receive. So rather than receiving a stimulus and merely responding to that, this theory is based around the brain receiving information and processing what response is necessary in the brain. As children mature, so does their processing ability. This growth is not only based on age and maturity but also on past experiences. Memories that have been processed and stored into long term memory are used to process events that arise in the future.

For example if a child sees another child cheat on a test and is reprimanded. Then in the future if there is an opportunity to cheat his mind will process and remember this is a bad behavior and that they shouldn't do it.

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This image shows the relationships of the different memories in information processing theory. As information is given to the brain it goes along the different steps in the diagram until it is stored in long term memory. It can then be retrieved into the working memory where it has been processed and the brain already knows how to respond because it has been processed and stored in the past.