Give an account of the contribution made by both Pavlov and Skinner towards learning theory.
In the last hundred years, several theorists have carried out studies of learning that focuses on observable behaviour. They believed that learning can only happen if certain actions are the results from it and if no behaviour is recorded then no learning can be assumed (Cole, 1995). Huczynski and Buchanan (2007) argued that these psychologists are considered as behaviourists and they study the so called behaviourist psychology which is referred to as ‘stimulus-response psychology’. Furthermore, they argued that associations between stimuli and responses are developed in two different ways, which are known as Pavlovian conditioning and Skinnerian conditioning.
Pavlovian conditioning was developed by the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) and it is also known as classical conditioning. According to Cole (1995), Pavlov performed experiments on dogs to see their responses to a neutral stimulus, if presented in the same time as the main stimulus. One of his studies concerned dogs salivating at the sight of food. He demonstrated that the food could be associated with a new completely different stimulus – the sound of a bell – which was rang at the time when the food was brought to the animals. After teaching the dogs to associate the bell with food, he then looked to see what would happened if he sounded the bell, but brought no food. The result was that the dogs salivate at the sound only. In other words, the initial neutral stimulus (the bell) had become what is known as a conditioned stimulus and then provoked a conditioned response (salivation).
Pavlov’s classical conditioning becomes one of the most important discoveries in the psychology’s history, which form the basis of behavioural psychology. Today the conditioning process is used for behavioural modification as well as mental health treatment (Cherry, 2010)