Learning Principles Of Psychology


The key to human development is learning. Learning is the bridge between an unknowing, callow infant and a fully-functioning adult who fits into societal roles and norms. Everything one learns from one’s diverse life experiences is what moulds one’s persona. In the absence of the psychological process of learning, processes which are considered to be fundamental building blocks of society would cease to exist. For instance, virtues like discipline and civic sense wouldn’t be known of.  Hence, learning is in many aspects of the word, a beneficiary, without which humans would be incapable of living in civilized community.

Psychology defines learning as any relatively permanent change in behaviour or behavioural potential produced by experience. In essence, it is a spectrum of changes that take place as a result of one’s experience. It involves a complex sequence of psychological events.

Types of learning refer to the various types of activities that are learned by an individual. There are seven major kinds of learning. Motor learning is said to occur when complex processes taking place in the brain as a response to experience or practice of a certain skill result in changes within the CNS, which in turn allow for the production of a new motor skill (Eg: climbing, walking, swimming, driving, etc.). Verbal learning is that which involves language and communication devices such as signs, symbols, sounds, words, etc. When one sees a pencil and attaches the term ‘pencil’, one learns that the word “pencil” refers to a particular object. This form of learning is known as Concept Learning, and requires higher order mental processes like intelligence, thinking, and reasoning. Discrimination learning involves learning to differentiate between a variety of stimuli and showing an appropriate response to the different stimuli. An example of such a type of learning would be learning to differentiate between the voices of different people. Learning of principles is a type of learning that involves a person learning different principles in mathematics or science (formulae, laws, correlations, etc.) so as to work more efficiently and find results effectively. Problem solving requires one’s cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reasoning, generalization, observation, et cetera, to overcome the challenges one faces in everyday life. Hence, it is considered to be a higher order type of learning. One’s behaviour is determined and directed by one’s attitude. One begins to develop different attitudes about the various aspects of the world from one’s childhood. Behaviour of an individual can be positive or negative depending upon the individual’s attitude. This constitutes attitude learning.

The method of learning has been explained by various schools of Psychology. This encompasses the theories of learning. The theories of learning are concepts in Psychology which explain the various techniques that organisms (animals and human beings) adopt to learn from their environments. Kearsley (1996) summarized 50 theories of learning. However, in recent times, it has been noted that several of these theories refer to specific human learning phenomenon.

One of the most eminent theories of learning, classical conditioning stems from the behaviouristic system of Psychology. Behaviourism, as a school of thought approaches Psychology as an objective science, by condemning subjective interpretations and promoting experimentation with scientific rigour. Observability and verifiability form its core. John. B. Watson, often claimed to be the founder father of Behaviourism, defined his subject as a study of behaviour and responses to stimuli which can be measured and studied objectively. Certain principles of Behaviourism remain relevant and practical to this day.

Operant conditioning is another significant theory of learning which falls under ‘Neo Behaviourism’. Neo Behaviourism as a school of thought is a form of reinstituted behaviourism which has been specifically modified in an attempt to explain behaviour on the basis of stimulus-response conditioning. But it cannot be fully explained in terms of observable stimuli and reactions. It introduces mediating variables into the behaviourist stimulus-response scheme. Some pioneers of Neo Behaviourism are B. F. Skinner, Clark Leonard Hall and Edwin Ray Guthrie.

Social learning theory is a general theory of behaviour which claims that human beings are social animals that learn from each other via observation, modelling, and imitation. The theory forms a bridge between cognitive theories and behavioural theories. One of the most influential psychologists to have contributed massively to the field social learning is Albert Bandura.

Cognitive learning theory explains the different cognitive processes and how they are governed by external and internal factors so as to create learning in individuals. Psychologists belonging to the cognitive school of thought view learning in terms of these underlying cognitive processes such as critical

thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving, etc. It consists of insight learning and cognitive learning.

Learning principles have far reaching influence and importance because, in many ways, they determine the extent to which one’s learning potential is optimized. Hence, it is imperative to know and understand the different theories of learning in depth, so as to conceive their direct impact on one’s own life. This has been one of the key motivating factors for the articles that fall under this tab. describe each of the four aforementioned major learning theories in greater detail. The applications of these learning theories (focussing on classroom application) have been dealt with. Finally, an opinion poll was conducted and analysed to determine which learning principle is considered to be the most effective.

Done by

Aastha Wadhwa (1733220)

Anjali Sharma (1733226)

Archana Arun Pai (1733229)

Debopriya Sen (1733236)

Madhuvanthi N Bhat (1733252)

Meghna Rath (1733253)

Preeti Kodancha (1733266)









Learning Principles Of Psychology

Application of the learning principles of Psychology


Psychology plays a major and important role in all of our lives, on a day to day basis. Learning and incorporating information is influenced by Psychology to a large extent. An understanding of the various theories of learning associated with Psychology can help us in various aspects of our lives. Within the realm of Psychology, these theories help explain the ways in which people learn. By understanding these concepts, people are better able to understand and capitalize on how they acquire knowledge in schools, colleges and work environments. Thus, these principles are applied in numerous ways in everyday settings.

For example, operant conditioning has seen to be used in the motivation of employees, improvement of athletic performance, increasing the functioning of those suffering from developmental disabilities, and  helping parents successfully toilet train their children (Simek & O’Brien, 1981; Pedalino & Gamboa, 1974; Azrin & Foxx, 1974; McGlynn, 1990).  Other common examples are also noted. For classroom presentations, if a student is applauded at the end of it, he/she is more likely to be encouraged for further presentations in the future. On the contrary, if the student is criticized, he/she might not feel encouraged to deliver future presentations.  In adult life, the paycheck at the end of every month is what motivates an average person to go to work. Here, the paycheck is a positive reinforcer.  An employee getting criticized in front of the whole office by his boss as a consequence of bad behaviour and his privileges being taken away might motivate him to work sincerely. These are some examples where operant conditioning is seen in everyday life.

The classical conditioning phenomenon is prevalent in our surroundings. Classical conditioning has long been used for the purpose of marketing and advertising. An advertisement that has positive features is created. The enjoyable ad serves as the unconditioned stimulus (US), and the enjoyment is the unconditioned response (UR). Because the product being advertised is mentioned in the ad, it becomes associated with the US, and then becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS). In the end, if everything has gone well, seeing the product online or in the store will then create a positive response in the buyer, leading him or her to be more likely to purchase the product. Other examples observed are, students ragged in colleges often fear the thought of going to college.  Students are also seen to dislike a subject if they have been humiliated or punished by the particular teacher of the subject. Some other examples are seen in the military, where cadets are trained in order to respond to specific sounds and situations.

The main idea behind social learning is that our behaviour is influenced based on the surroundings. A few examples we observe are an infant learning to make and understand facial expressions. We learn to locate where the cream and sugar in a coffee shop are kept by observing others. A student learns not to cheat when another student is punished for cheating on a test.

Cognitive learning occurs when the solution of a problem suddenly becomes clear. It is associated with how the brain perceives the environment, develops problem solving skills and stores memories. It helps us in improving our learning on the conscious side of things. For instance, some students learn better by writing, some by watching, some by reading and some by doing. Also, most students break their heads over a question, and after a while, the answer becomes clear. This is an example of cognitive learning. Thus, we see that different learning theories have been used to change behaviour in everyday life.




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Learning Principles Of Psychology

Pavlov, does that ring a bell?


At the time of birth we are equipped with only limited number of responses. As we grow old we start developing responses through various learning principles like classical, operant, social and cognitive.

Classical conditioning is a learning procedure which comes under the school of behaviourism. It involves pairing of a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus to elicit a response that is similar to the one elicited by unconditioned stimulus. Usually, the neutral stimulus is the conditioned stimulus. The unconditioned response to unconditioned stimulus is an unlearned reflex. After pairing for a long time the organism exhibits conditioned response to conditions stimulus.

Classical conditioning was first studied by Ivan Pavlov through an experiment with dogs. During his research on physiology of digestion, he observed that the dogs started salivating as soon as they saw an empty plate. Salivation in response to food is an unlearned reflex. He performed a surgery redirecting the dog’s saliva into a measuring glass. He then presented a stimulus, a bell, and provided food for the dog. After a few repetitions, the dog started salivating in response to the bell. He concluded that any stimulus paired with the food resulted in salivation of the dog. In this experiment, the food is the unconditioned stimulus which elicits salivation, unconditioned response. After conditioning, bell, the neutral stimulus becomes conditions stimulus which also results in salivation, conditioned response. Pavlov reported that the learning concept is more rapid when the time interval between conditioned stimulus and appearance of unconditioned stimulus was relatively short. The learning situation in classical conditioning is S-S learning in which one stimulus signifies the possible occurrence of another stimulus. It is often thought that the conditioned response is similar to unconditioned response, but Pavlov noted that the composition of saliva was different in both cases.

shutterstock_123759853 [Converted]


The classical conditioning procedures are of four types based on time relation between the onset of conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. The first type is forward conditioning where conditioned stimulus precedes unconditioned stimulus. The two types under forward conditioning is delayed and trace conditioning. In delayed conditioning, the onset of conditioned stimulus precedes the onset of unconditioned stimulus. The conditioned stimulus ends before the end of unconditioned stimulus. In trace conditioning, the onset and end of conditioned stimulus precedes the onset of unconditioned stimulus with some time gap between the two. The third type is simultaneous conditioning where the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus are presented together. The fourth type is backward conditioning where unconditioned stimulus precedes conditioned stimulus. It is proved that delayed conditioning is the most effective way producing conditioned response when compared to the other three types. The learning of conditioned response also depends on type of unconditioned response and intensity of conditioned stimuli.

The other important types of conditioning is second order conditioning which is a twostep procedure. First the neutral stimulus is paired with unconditioned stimulus to elicit conditioned response. Then a second neutral stimulus is paired with the first neutral stimulus to elicit its own conditioned response. Temporal conditioning is another type where unconditioned stimulus is presented at regular intervals while in extinction conditioned stimulus is presented at regular intervals in the absence of unconditioned stimulus.



Various phenomena are observed during classical conditioning. Extinction is presenting the conditioned stimulus at regular intervals in the absence of unconditioned stimulus. When this process is repeated continuously conditioned stimulus will stop eliciting conditioned response. Several procedures lead to the recovery of extinction like reacquisition, spontaneous recovery, disinhibition, reinstatement and renewal. Stimulus generalization occurs if a particular conditioned response elicits conditioned response then another stimulus also elicits the same response. Stimulus discrimination can be observed when one stimulus elicits a particular response while another stimulus either elicits another response or no response at all.

Classical conditioning has many applications in a classroom. If a teacher repeatedly claps and asks the students to maintain silence, the students get conditioned to remain silent with the sound of the claps. This way if the teacher is repetitive and consistent with these stimuli, eventually the students will come to behave properly. This method is very useful in early years of schooling which aims at reforming the behaviour of the students. It might also have negative effects as in stress during exams. If a student was subjected to a pressured timed exam in his/her early days, the students might continue to fear the concept of exams.



Classical condition gives answers to many situations in our life. From getting scared of balloons to salivating at an empty plate, classical conditioning answers all the mysterious behaviour since our childhood.






Learning Principles Of Psychology

We’re All Lab Rats, Don’t You Think?


After Pavlov and the dog, the most known experiment in the history of psychology is that of Skinner and his lab rats. Right from increased time on our laptops on a successful completion of the task to confiscation of our phones on coming home later than the curfew time, operant conditioning has been a part of our lives in many often small and almost invisible ways. But what is operant conditioning and are we all unknowingly a prey of it?

Operant conditioning (also known as instrumental conditioning) is a process by which humans and animals learn to behave in such a way as to obtain rewards and avoid punishments. It is also the name for the paradigm in experimental psychology by which such learning and action selection processes are studied. Operant conditioning was first studied by Thorndike and it is the type of conditioning learning process in which behavior is affected or controlled by its consequences is called operant conditioning.

B.F. Skinner is often known as the father of operant conditioning. To implement his empirical approach, Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber, or “Skinner Box”, in which subjects such as pigeons and rats were isolated and could be exposed to carefully controlled stimuli. This arrangement allowed the subject to make one or two simple, repeatable responses, and the rate of such responses became Skinner’s primary behavioral measure. In his experiment, a hungry rat is left inside the box. The rat exhibits random activities while exploring the box. Accidentally the rat presses the lever and a pellet of food is delivered. The first time it happens, the rat does not learn the connection between the response of lever pressing and food pellets. Sooner or later, the rat learns that the consequence of lever pressing is positive; lever pressing brings food.

Thorndike, a renowned psychologist, theorized operant conditioning in his law of effect, which states that behaviors followed by satisfying consequences tend to be repeated and those that produce unpleasant consequences are less likely to be repeated. Some consequences strengthen behavior and some consequences weaken behavior.


The distinction between Pavlovian and operant conditioning therefore rests on whether the subject only observes the relationships between events in the world (in Pavlovian conditioning), or whether it also has some control over their occurrence (in operant conditioning).

The term reinforce means to strengthen, and is used in psychology to refer to anything stimulus which strengthens or increases the probability of a specific response.

We all apply reinforcers every day, most of the time without even realizing we are doing it. You may tell your child “good job” after he or she cleans their room; perhaps you tell your partner how good he or she look when they dress up; or maybe you got a raise at work after doing a great job on a project. All of these things increase the probability that the same response will be repeated.

Reinforcement in Operant Conditioning

Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of reinforcers:

Positive reinforcers are favorable events or outcomes that are presented after the behavior. In situations that reflect positive reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by the addition of something, such as praise or a direct reward. For example, if you do a good job at work and your manager gives you a bonus.

Negative reinforcers involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior. In these situations, a response is strengthened by the removal of something considered unpleasant. For example, if your child starts to scream in the middle of the grocery store, but stops once you hand him a treat, you will be more likely to hand him a treat the next time he starts to scream. Your action led to the removal of the unpleasant condition (the child screaming), negatively reinforcing your behavior.

In both of these cases of reinforcement, the behavior increases.

Punishment in Operant Conditioning

Punishment is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of punishment:

Positive punishment sometimes referred to as punishment by application, presents an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows. Spanking for misbehavior is an example of punishment by application.

Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when a favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs. Taking away a child’s video game following misbehavior is an example of negative punishment.

In both of these cases of punishment, the behavior decreases.

reinforcement and punishment 2

Research has found positive reinforcement is the most powerful of any of these. Adding a positive to increase a response not only works better, but allows both parties to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Punishment, when applied immediately following the negative behavior can be effective, but results in extinction when it is not applied consistently. Punishment can also invoke other negative responses such as anger and resentment.

Reinforcement Schedules

Skinner also found that when and how often behaviors were reinforced played a role in the speed and strength of acquisition. He identified several different schedules of reinforcement:

Continuous reinforcement involves delivery a reinforcement every time a response occurs. Learning tends to occur relatively quickly, yet the response rate is quite low. Extinction also occurs very quickly once reinforcement is halted.

Fixed-ratio schedules are a type of partial reinforcement. Responses are reinforced only after a specific number of responses have occurred. This typically leads to a fairly steady response rate.

Fixed-interval schedules are another form of partial reinforcement. Reinforcement occurs only after a certain interval of time has elapsed. Response rates remain fairly steady and start to increase as the reinforcement time draws near, but slow immediately after the reinforcement has been delivered.

Variable-ratio schedules are also a type of partial reinforcement that involve reinforcing behavior after a varied number of responses. This leads to both a high response rate and slow extinction rates.

Variable-interval schedules are the final form of partial reinforcement Skinner described. This schedule involves delivering reinforcement after a variable amount of time has elapsed. This also tends to lead to a fast response rate and slow extinction rate.

meme 1

The best way to understand operant conditioning is to analytically understand an episode from the popular comedy hit The Big Bang Theory. The character Sheldon uses chocolate to provide positive reinforcement to correct Penny’s behaviour. He uses the technique to make her act and behave the way he likes.


An example to distinguish between classical and operant conditioning:

Classical Conditioning:  Imagine you pick up your dog’s leash and he starts doing the happy dance. A strap of cloth or leather has no intrinsic value to a dog, so why does he respond so excitedly?  Here’s the answer. He’s excited because he has learned through repetition that when you pick up the leash, you are going for a walk. This creates an association.

Operant Conditioning: 

Training your dog to sit and become calm before putting the leash on to go for a walk and offering him treats for an action make the dog realize that if he complies, he is rewarded. This is a trained or learned behavior where an operation or series of operations will yield either wanted or unwanted results.

Here’s a video we took of our beloved dog, Ralphie demonstrating the workings of classical and operant conditioning.


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Learning Principles Of Psychology

Cognitive Learning


Cognitive Learning Theory is a broad theory that explains thinking and differing mental processes and how they are influenced by internal and external factors in order to produce learning in individuals. When cognitive processes are working normally then acquisition and storage of knowledge works well, but when these cognitive processes are ineffective, learning delays and difficulties can be seen.

These cognitive processes are: observing, categorizing, and forming generalizations about our environment. A disruption in these natural cognitive processes can cause behavioral problems in individuals and the key to treating these problems lies in changing the disrupted process. For example, a person with an eating disorder genuinely believes that they are extremely overweight. Some of this is due to a cognitive disruption in which their perception of their own weight is skewed. A therapist will try to change their constant pattern of thinking that they are overweight in order to decrease the unhealthy behaviors that are a result of it.

Insight learning

In the 1920s, German psychologist Wolfgang Kohler was studying the behavior of apes. He designed some simple experiments that led to the development of one of the first cognitive theories of learning, which he called insight learning.

Insight learning is the abrupt realization of a problem’s solution. Insight learning is not the result of trial and error, responding to an environmental stimulus, or the result of observing someone else attempting the problem. It is a completely cognitive experience that requires the ability to visualize the problem and the solution internally – in the mind’s eye, so to speak – before initiating a behavioral response.


In the experiment, Kohler hung a piece of fruit just out of reach of each chimp. He then provided the chimps with either two sticks or three boxes, then waited and watched. Kohler noticed that after the chimps realized they could not simply reach or jump up to retrieve the fruit, they stopped, had a seat, and thought about how they might solve the problem. Then after a few moments, the chimps stood up and proceeded to solve the problem.

In the first scenario, the problem was solved by placing the smaller sticks into the longer stick to create one very long stick that could be used to knock down the hanging fruit. In the second scenario, the chimps would solve the problem by stacking the boxes on top of each other, which allowed them to climb up to the top of the stack of boxes and reach the fruit.

Learning occurs in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is the result of direct observation; other times, it is the result of experience through personal interactions with the environment. Kohler called this newly observed type of learning insight learning. Based on these observations, Kohler’s theory of insight learning became an early argument for the involvement of cognition, or thinking, in the process of learning.

A few examples of insight learning:-

  • A dog is in a room with a baby gate keeping him in the room. He learned to push a tall box towards the baby gate to boost himself up over the baby gate to get into the hallway.
  • When you need to get a picture up high on the wall, you pull a chair over to where you want it, and reach for the picture to take it down.
  • When you’re moving furniture and you can’t get it around a corner, you turn it in different directions to make it fit.
  • When you’re playing a video game and you’re stuck at a certain part, you keep on working on it until you figure it out.
  • Using your knowledge of simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve a more complex math problem
  • When you’re driving somewhere and a road is blocked off or there’s too much traffic, you turn around and take another route
  • When you’re at the beach and it starts raining you use your towel to shield yourself from the rain since you don’t have an umbrella


Latent Learning

Latent learning is a form of learning that is not immediately expressed in an overt response; it occurs without any obvious reinforcement of the behavior or associations that are learned.[1] Interest in latent learning arose largely because the phenomenon seemed to conflict with the widely held view that reinforcement was necessary for learning to occur.

When we think about the learning process, we often focus only on learning that is immediately obvious. We teach a rat to run through a maze by offering rewards for correct responses. We train a student to raise his hand in class by offering praise for the appropriate behaviors.

But not all learning is immediately apparent. Sometimes learning only becomes evident when we need to utilize it. According to psychologists, this “hidden” learning that only manifests itself when reinforcement is offered is known as latent learning.


In Tolman’s Rats experiment, Edward Tolman put rats into a maze with different paths to get through to the cheese. He would block off all of the paths and the rat would have to find the right one. Each trial, he would switch up which paths he would block. Instead of trial and error (supported by behaviorists) the rats would act as if they already had a mental representation of the maze. In order to support his theory even more that learning was mental instead of behavioral, after the rats had learned the maze, he flooded it with water to show the rats could still maneuver through the maze. They were able to roam the maze for several hours with absolutely no reinforcement. However, later his rats were able to navigate the maze for food much more quickly than rats that had never seen the maze before.


Consider, for example, your knowledge of various routes in your hometown. Every day you travel a variety of routes and learn the locations of different businesses in your town. However, this learning is latent because you are not using it most of the time. It is only when you need to find a specific location such as the nearest coffee shop or bus stop that you are required to draw on and demonstrate what you have learned.

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Learning Principles Of Psychology

Imitating Others: An Introduction to Social Learning


How often have you seen a child mimicking his folks or elders? Many times, I would guess. It is a truly delighting sight to see young girls endeavouring to spruce up like their mothers, with a big bindi on her brow and putting lipstick on her delicate, little lips. Or, on the other side a young boy, who has seen his dad shave, applying shaving cream on his delicate cheeks, and then proceeding to shave the beardless face, until his mother comes to stops him.

The activities mentioned above are examples of social learning. Social learning is a phenomenon where an individual learns behaviours by observing and imitating others. The theory of social learning takes the stance that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context through observation, even in the absence of any direct reinforcement or punishment.

Social learning essentially states that individuals gain from each other, by means of perception, impersonation, and demonstrating. This hypothesis has regularly been known as an extension amongst behaviourist and subjective learning speculations as it envelops consideration, memory, and inspiration.



Social learning had been an interesting field of study in psychology. Various famous psychologists like B.F. Skinner, Clark Lewis Hull, Julian B Rotter, and Albert Bandura had contributed to this field in some way or other, but Bandura’s work remains the most exemplary. Bandura was impacted by behaviourism while he was at the University of Iowa contemplating for his PhD in the mid 1950s. There he built up his own speculations called reciprocal determinism. He trusted that not only does the environment impact conduct, but also the conduct impacts the environment, or to place it in his own words ‘the world and a person’s behaviour cause each other’. Therefore Bandura is often considered as ‘father’ of the cognitive movement; he looked at personality as three things that interact, the environment, behaviour and the person’s psychological processes. With the help of series of experiments he concluded that individuals learn through watching others’ conduct, demeanours, and results of those practices. “Most human behaviour is learned observationally through displaying: from watching others, one structures a thought of how new practices are performed, and on later events this coded data fills in as a guide for activity.” (Bandura). Social learning hypothesis clarifies human conduct as far as ceaseless proportional collaboration between intellectual, behavioural, and environmental impacts.


Bandura’s Experiment:-

Bandura (1961) conducted a study to investigate if social behaviours (i.e. aggression) can be acquired by observation and imitation. His experiment is famously known as ‘The Bobo Doll Experiment’ which he conducted on a sample of 36 boys and 36 girls from the Stanford University Nursery School aged between 3 to 6 years old. The children were divided into three batches. The first stage of the experiment was modelling. In the experimental conditions children were individually shown into a room containing toys and played with some potato prints and pictures in a corner for 10 minutes. The first batch of children watched a male or female model behaving aggressively towards a toy called a ‘Bobo doll’. The second batch of children was exposed to a non-aggressive model that played in a quiet and subdued manner for 10 minutes. The final batch of children were used as a control group and not exposed to any model at all. In the second stage of the experiment, all the children were subjected to ‘mild aggression arousal’. In the results it was observed that children who observed the aggressive model made far more imitative aggressive responses than those who were in the non-aggressive or control groups.

Psychologists following Bandura have stated that social learning based on observation is a complex process that involves three stages: exposure to the responses of others; acquisition of what an individual sees; and subsequent acceptance of the modelled acts as a guide for one’s own behaviour. They suggested four steps for effective learning from a model which are attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. For example, if the teacher in classroom does not deal with a disruptive student, having learned that the teacher does not have control, others may join in. However other students may not do anything that day but in a future occasion, they may act out because of what they observed and learned the previous day.

One can observe the effects of social learning everyday and everywhere. The most obvious example is acquiring a language. The first language a child learns is the one he/she hears the most. And as mentioned at first, depending heavily on modelling done by other people, individuals tend to acquire most of their behaviour. Living examples such as parents and teachers unknowingly motivates a child to imitate their behaviour. So it is important for parents and teachers to know how they should behave in front of the child.

Social learning is extremely vast and it has many applications. Some of the applications are criminology, developmental psychology, management, psychotherapy, and school psychology. Video and audio in e-learning are powerful methods for recreating the experience of social learning. Virtual classroom technology takes this one step further by allowing real-time teacher presentation, commenting and collaboration and hence allowing the process of learning to take place efficiently.











Learning Principles Of Psychology

Opinion Survey on Preference of Learning Principles

Following is the results of the opinion survey conducted by our group –




An opinion survey was conducted among 73 students who experience classroom learning regularly. A questionnaire was used to record opinions regarding four learning principles of the Behaviourist school of thought which are applicable in their environments.


The survey aimed to analyse opinions of the students regarding which learning principle seemed more efficient to them. The survey was not conducted to establish the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of any of the learning theories.


A questionnaire consisting of 16 questions was prepared to include only close-ended (YES/NO) responses. The questions described situations which are likely to be experienced by students daily. The response to the question clearly indicated whether the individual found the given learning principle effective or not. Out of the four selected learning principles (Classical conditioning, operant conditioning, cognitive learning, social learning), each principle was represented by four questions.

The questionnaire distributed 75 (selected) subjects through an online platform (Google Forms). The subjects, ranging from ages 17 to 20 years, were all students who study in an urban classroom setup. Of the 75 subjects who were selected, 73 responses were recorded and analysed.

The marking scale for the survey was framed as follows:




Question Learning Principle Represented Response
Yes No
1 I would buy a product if my favourite celebrity was advertising it. Classical Conditioning +1 0
2 I believe that being punished for my poor academic performance will make me perform better in the future. Operant Conditioning +1 0
3 I think that I have inevitably inherited a lot of my parents’ habits. Social Learning +1 0
4 I have had instances where the solution to my problem suddenly becomes clear without much mental effort. Cognitive Learning +1 0
5 I think that children who have been breast fed during infancy have a stronger emotional bond with their mothers. Classical Conditioning +1 0
6 I believe all students work for rewards. Operant Conditioning +1 0
7 I avoid using my phone during class if a classmate’s phone gets confiscated. Social Learning +1 0
8 I can remember my way to a destination even after travelling just once. Cognitive Learning +1 0
9 I would get scared if I heard gun firing because I associate the sound to injuries/death. Classical Conditioning +1 0
10 If a student who disturbs the class is made to leave, I would not disturb the class myself. Operant Conditioning +1 0
11 I tend to imitate the behaviour of my role models. Social Learning +1 0
12 I find it easy to learn activities such as driving, swimming, etc. Cognitive Learning +1 0
13 If I like my subject teacher, I will perform better in that subject. Classical Conditioning +1 0
14 If the ‘like’ button on Instagram is disabled, I will stop posting pictures on Instagram or post less frequently. Operant Conditioning +1 0
15 Watching shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ makes an individual act more aggressive. Social Learning +1 0
16 I tend to forget the faces I rarely see. Cognitive Learning 0 +1





The responses in favour for each category (learning theory) were added for each subject that took the survey. A “response in favour” refers to (+1) score on any question. The total number of “ideal responses” refers to an ideal situation where all subjects score (+1) on the given questions.

The responses were recorded as follows.

  01 13 73
05 41 73
09 47 73
13 63 73
Total responses in favour 164 292
  02 14 73
06 32 73
10 46 73
14 28 73
Total responses in favour 120 292
  03 58 73
07 48 73
11 50 73
15 19 73
Total responses in favour 175 292
04 57 73
08 34 73
12 55 73
16 41 73
Total responses in favour 187 292


The formula used to calculate percentage of responses in favour of preferred theory of learning is

Where,        α is the calculated percentage
∑rf is the sum of total responses in favour
∑ri is the sum of total number of ideal responses

The percentage found indicates the ratio of subjects who favour a given learning principle to the overall number of subjects. Following is the analysis of the data:

Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning  × 100
 × 100
41 %
Social Learning  × 100
 × 100
59 %
Cognitive Learning  × 100
 × 100



The analysis of the data throws light on the opinions of the subjects on the effectiveness of the learning principles. 56% of the subjects hold an opinion that classical conditioning is the most effective learning principle, while 41% of individuals believe that operant conditioning is the most effective. Cognitive learning is believed to be the most productive by 64% of the subjects. 59% of the people who answered the survey hold an opinion that social learning is effective.

This clearly shows that a majority of the individuals are of the opinion that cognitive learning is the most effective form of learning for them. However, social learning and classical conditioning are also considered effective by many individuals. According to the opinion of the subjects, operant conditioning is the considered the least effective.


The opinions of the subjects about the most effective learning principle were effectively recorded and analysed. The survey provided insight to the subjects on the various learning principles. Another assumed implication of this survey would be that the introspection of the subjects about the different learning principles and their applications in everyday life would lead to optimising their learning experiences.


No comments will be made on the validity and/or credibility of the opinions of the subjects. The results may vary with the sample as the responses are individual opinions. Hence, the result of the survey is not absolute.


We conducted a small scale survey on the learning principles of psychology and analyzed the results obtained.  Looking at the first question, it is a typical example of classical conditioning. We tend to associate the product with our favourite celebrity, which makes the product a conditioned stimulus, ultimately making us purchase it.  Similar is the case of the emotional bond between a mother and a baby. The behavioural theory of attachment stated that the child becomes attached to the mother because she fed the infant. The third case is of gun firing or any startling noises. We tend to associate loud noises with violence and hence also fear the loud noises itself. Also if we peek inside the classroom, we can see that students tend to perform better if they have a liking for the subject teacher.

The second question shows operant conditioning. By punishing the children through physical abuse, we are providing positive punishment by adding a negative consequence to prevent an undesired behaviour.  Similarly, the sixth question shows positive reinforcement in action.  Positive reinforcement works well for pets and children. It encourages and establishes a pattern of behaviour by offering reward when the behaviour is exhibited. Likewise, operant conditioning is also exhibited in the question which asks a disturbing child to leave in order to focus on the class better, a proper example of negative reinforcement. The last example under operant conditioning, throws light on the vicious cycle of social media. By posting pictures and tweets, and receiving likes on them, it activates the reward cycle of the brain. It boosts a person’s self esteem and provides them with the validation they were seeking for.

The third learning principle is of social learning. The practical message suggested in the third question is that children learn behaviours from adults.  In the seventh question, an individual learns through observation and tries to avoid the consequences faced by others who displayed an undesirable behaviour.  We can also see that individuals imitate and copy the desired behaviours displayed by their role models in order to acquire the bulk of their knowledge, ideas and skills by copying from others, rather than through individual trial-and-error. However, far more attention is paid to the habits and behaviours demonstrated by famous people than those demonstrated by ordinary members of our community. Also, TV shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Counter Strike are used to represent the influence of media on individuals, and certain aspects of media influence is highly debatable.

The 4th, 8th, 12th and the 16th question are all examples of cognitive learning. Cognitive learning is learning that is concerned with acquisition of problem solving abilities with intelligence and conscious thought. Cognitive learning occurs when the solution of a problem suddenly becomes clear. Face recognition, learning of directions, higher order complex problem solving, and learning various activities such as driving, swimming etc are all part of cognitive learning.