It's a Good Fit! Operant & Classical Conditioning

ClickerExpo 2015 - Kathy Sdao - Full length -

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Some trainers rely heavily on classical conditioning, especially when trying to overcome behavioral difficulties such as fearfulness and fear-caused aggression. Techniques based on classical conditioning can include desensitization, habituation, and counter-conditioning, creating a classically conditioned association between primary reinforcers and the triggers for unwanted behavior.


Other trainers rely heavily on operant conditioning when trying to combat unwanted behaviors or emotional states. Techniques based on operant conditioning include training an incompatible behavior, bringing an unwanted behavior under stimulus control, extinction by removal of reinforcing events maintaining the unwanted behavior, and use of the LRS (“least-reinforcing stimulus”).


In fact, both classical conditioning and operant conditioning are involved in almost all learning situations. While operant conditioning may be uppermost in the trainer’s mind, classically conditioned stimuli from the environment, internal states, and previous learning may all impact the learning. The trainer working solely with classical conditioning may be unnecessarily prolonging a process that could be hastened by the addition of conditioned reinforcers as markers of desirable behavior.


Kathy Sdao discusses ways of blending both kinds of conditioning to simplify and speed up both the acquisition of new responses and the repair or modification of existing undesirable behavior or emotional states.

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