Learning is a relatively permanent change in the behavior or behavioral potential produced by experience or practice. It is an inferred process and differs from performance which is the observed behavior, response or action.

The main types of learning are:
classical and operant conditioning, observational learning, cognitive learning, verbal learning, concept learning and skill learning.

Pavlov Theory of Classical Conditioning:

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian Psychologist who developed a procedure for studying behavior and principle of learning that had profound effects on the field of psychology. Pavlov was involved in the study of gastric secretions in the dogs. As part of his research he placed some food powder inside the mouth of a dog and measured the resulting amount of salvation. Coincidently he noticed that after a number of such trials a dog begin to salivate to certain stimuli before the food was placed in its mouth. This salvation occurred in response to cues such as the sight of the food dish or the approach of a person who generally brought the food. In other words, stimuli which previously did not lead to this response (called natural stimuli) could now elicit the salvation response because of their association with the food powder that automatically caused the dog to salivate. The event has led Pavlov to conduct some very significant research known as classical conditioning.

The essential characteristic of classical conditioning is that a previously neutral stimulus becomes capable of eliciting a response because of its association with a stimulus that automatically produces the same or similar response. In other words, the dog salivates to the first presentation of the food powder. One need not speak of a conditioning or learning process at this point. The food can be considered as unconditioned stimulus (US) and the salvation an unconditioned response (UR). This is because the salvation is automatic, reflex response to the food. A neutral stimulus, such as bell will not lead to salvation. However, if on a number of trials the bell is sounded just before the presentation of the food powder, the sounding of the bell itself without the subsequent appearance of the food may take on the potential for eliciting the salvation response. In this case, conditioning has occurred since the presentation of the bell alone is followed by salivation. At this point the bell may be referred to as conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salvation may be considered as conditioned response (CR).
US (Food)_______________ elicit UR (salivation)
US + CS (Food + Bell)_______elicit UR (salivation)
CS (Bell)_________________elicit CR

Operant Conditioning

The term operant conditioning was coined by Burrhus F. Skinner, who has conducted extensive research on this process. Operant conditioning describes how we develop behavior that “operates upon the environment “to bring out behavioral consequences in that environment. He explained that one should focus on the external observable causes or behavior (rather than try to unpack internal thoughts and motivations).

Operant conditioning can be described as a process that attempts to modify behavior through the use of positive and negative reinforcement. Through operant conditioning an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and consequence. For example a parent rewarding a child’s excellent performance in exams with some prize or an industry recognize its employee’s regularity and punctuality by giving him incentives or promotion.

According to operant conditioning reinforcement comes in two forms: Positive and Negative reinforcement.
Positive reinforces are favorable events or outcomes that are given the individual after the desired behavior. This may come in the form of praise, reward etc. Negative reinforces typically are characterized by the removal of an undesired or unpleasant outcome after the desired behavior. A response is strengthened as something considered negative is removed. The goal in both of these cases of reinforcement is for the behavior to increase.