There are various factors that contribute to an individual’s behavior. Three main factors that affect a person’s behavior are classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning which is often referred to as imitation or modeling. Each factor differs in the way it teaches the individual to learn and adapt. Classical conditioning teaches individuals to associate one stimulus with another while operant conditioning teaches that a behavior provokes a certain response which may be positive or negative. Modeling is learning by seeing an action take place and then repeating the action. I have personally experienced each of these factors and they have altered my behavior permanently.
Classical conditioning is the learning process in which a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a meaningful stimulus and acquires the capacity to elicit a similar response. Classical conditioning consists of five parts which include an unconditioned stimulus, conditioned stimulus, neutral stimulus, unconditioned response and conditioned response. A prime example of classical conditioning is that I check the milk before I pour it into my cereal. As a child I would immediately pour the milk into my cereal, but one day as I poured the milk, I smelled a sour aroma. When I investigated my bowl there were bits of mold, which caused me to gag from the awful sight and smell. Ever since that day I have always checked the milk before I pour it. The neutral stimulus in this instance is the milk which turned into a conditioned stimulus because I have now changed my behavior about how I pour milk. The unconditioned stimulus was the spoiled milk which elicited the unconditioned response for me to gag at the smell. Due to the unconditioned stimulus, I now have the conditioned response to check the milk before I pour it into my cereal.
Operant conditioning, also known as instrumental conditioning, is a form of associative learning in which the consequences of a behavior change the probability of the behavior’s occurrence. Positive reinforcement is reinforcing a stimulus following a behavior so that the behavior is more likely to occur again. I have experienced positive reinforcement numerous times in my favorite hobby, fishing. When fishing, I sometimes must patiently wait hours without a single bite. I wait for hours upon hours to eventually be rewarded with a fish on the end of my line. As a result of me catching a fish, I become more complacent in waiting long periods of time to receive a bite from a fish. Negative reinforcement is when a behavior is strengthened by in order to stop, remove, or avoid a negative outcome. For example, I received a hefty ticket for doing fifty-three miles per hour when the speed limit was twenty-five miles per hour. Ever since I got the ticket, I have paid much closer attention to my speedometer in order to avoid getting another ticket. The negative consequence to my action caused me to change my behavior so that I avoid the same outcome in the future.
Observational learning, also referred to as modeling, is learning that occurs when a person observes and imitates behavior. It is the most common form of learning for children as they watch from authority figures and their peers. I learned how to properly brush my teeth by watching my mother. I can remember when I first started to brush my teeth, I would clean them for no longer than a minute and would also neglect to brush my tongue. I brushed my teeth with my mother and would notice that she would take much longer to brush her teeth and was also more thorough in cleaning her teeth and brushing her tongue. This observation led me to imitate the amount of time she took to brush her teeth as well as learning to brush all areas of my mouth including my tongue.
Overall humans learn through a variety of different ways. Classical conditioning makes a typically neutral stimulus take on a particular meaning and trigger a response. Operant conditioning teaches an individual that an action or behavior will elicit a positive or negative response. Observational learning directly shows a person how to do something and then the action is simply imitated. I have personally experienced all three methods of learning and will continue to experience them throughout my life. They have altered my behavior permanently and I believe that learning to change my behavior makes me a better person.