Compare Behaviourist and Cognitive Explanations of Learning Using Evidence from Both Fields.

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Learning is an “Experiential process resulting in the permanent change in behaviour that cannot be explained by temporary states, maturation or innate response tendencies” (Klein 1996 p2). Cognitivists believe that learning is believed learning organised internally and they study internal constructs involving thought and cognition. On the other hand behaviourists construct a psychology that is based purely on observable events, which are objective. They consider learning to be dependant on environment. Learning is through operant, classical or instrumental conditioning. Behaviourists view instrumental and operant conditioning as having a slight difference on the constructs they observe for each of these. Cognitivists view learning as through classical conditioning, operant (instrumental) conditioning or observational learning. Ivan Pavlov a Russian psychologist studied classical conditioning, which is a valid means of learning to both groups. In his classic studies Pavlov rang a bell each time before giving his dogs food and eventually the dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard the bell in expectancy of food. Another way through which people learn is through operant conditioning, which was studied by Skinner. In his experiments Skinner put a pigeon in a ‘skinner box’, which had a key hidden in one of the walls. If the pigeon pecked on this key it would release food from the dispenser, which was outside the box. Behaviourists analyse this in terms of reinforcement – behaviours that are rewarded are continued. Reinforcement occurs when the consequence of a response increases the likelihood that the response will be repeated. Edward Tolman a cognitivist argued otherwise when he revealed that rats could develop a cognitive map of running a maze in their brains without any reinforcement. Cognitivists focus on what happens internally during learning

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