Classical vs. Operant Conditioning Comparison

Topic: Cognitive Psychology
Words: 653 Pages: 2

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a type of conditioning that allows individuals to develop a response to certain kinds of stimuli, often unconsciously. First described by Pavlov, this type of conditioning relies on combining a stimulus with a pre-existing response with an unknown one, allowing the individual to react to both stimuli (Shrestha, 2017). Further, another famous experiment on classical conditioning, The Little Albert Experiment, was carried out on a nine-month-old child to experiment on how phobias could be developed using classical conditioning. ”John Watson endeavored to repeat classical conditioning on a young, emotionally stable child, with the objective of inducing phobias in the child. He was interested in trying to understand how children become afraid of animals” (Burgemeester, 2019). The experiment results demonstrated that phobias could be created using classical conditioning.

One daily-life example of classical conditioning represented by Waude (2016) is about the balloon and a pin close to it. Like in the case of Pavlov’s dog, which is anticipated to be fed after hearing a bell, we expect the balloon to burst up after seeing the balloon and pin approaching the balloon (Waude, 2016).

One example of classical conditioning applies to me, and it is connected with food. My family often fed me a special family salad in my youth. However, I did not like how the salad tasted and did not enjoy having to eat it. One of the ingredients of this dish is eggs, which I neither like nor dislike. As a result of having been exposed to the family salad, however, my perception shifted. Whenever I hear the smell of eggs, I think of the salad and feel disgusted. In this example, an unconditioned stimulus (disgust at the salad) became paired with the neutral stimulus (the smell of eggs), causing me to associate eggs with feelings of disgust.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a type of conditioning that depends on positive and negative reinforcement of certain behaviors. In applying this form of conditioning, practitioners reward desired outcomes and discourage the ones that deviate from the goal (McLeod, 2007).

Frequently, however, negative behaviors continue to be reinforced. Examples of this include cheating, lying in politics, and child misbehavior. If individuals cheat in an educational setting, they are often not caught or not punished appropriately. As a result, cheating behaviors persist. Secondly, because of politicians’ power and standing, other entities can find it hard to keep them in check. By lying, politicians can get support and career advancement without considerable detriment. Lastly, childhood misbehavior often goes unaddressed as well. Children throwing temper tantrums or being moody in public spaces get toys and candy when their parents try to calm them down. Because of this, tantrums become an easy way to earn rewards.

Similarly, certain positive behaviors often fail without reinforcement. One example is personal environmental responsibility and recycling. Few communities or governments incentivize people to work on sustainable living. Another desirable response is charity. For most people, the goal of helping others is the main focus. Still, some certainly find it difficult to spend time and energy on this thankless task. The third positive human behavior that is rarely reinforced is creativity. People often hear about the value and importance of being creative. However, most children are taught to act within a narrow standard of “normal and acceptable” behaviors, stifling their creativity.

There are certain traits I would like to acquire by using operant conditioning. First, I want to be on time more often. I would reinforce this behavior by allowing myself treats when I manage not to run late. Second, I want to control my tone of speech and volume more stably. I can do so by asking the people around me to notice and reprimand this behavior. The third behavior I want to change is my tendency to forget important things. Like the first consideration, I would allow myself rewards or snacks when I remember important events.


Burgemeester, A. (2019). The little Albert experiment. Psychologized.

McLeod, S. (2007). What is operant conditioning and how does it work? Simply Psychology.

Shrestha, P. (2017). Classical conditioning examples. Psychestudy.

Waude, A. (2016). Pavlov’s dogs: How classical conditioning informs our behavior. Psychologist World | Psychology News, Tests, Theories and Guides.

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