In modern psychology, learning is an important topic. To understand learning, one must also understand the role of behavior in relation to learning. In psychology, classical conditioning, and instrumental conditioning are two types of learning that explain changes in behavior. The relationship between learning and cognition is necessary and their relationship helps to understand learning. With a definition of learning along with an understanding of behavior, the types of learning, and cognition, one can understand what learning is.
Definition of Learning
The extensiveness of learning unfortunately results in no agreed upon definition of learning. There is no definition of learning in which theorists agree that includes the phenomena they want to call learning that excludes other phenomena. The following definition is a fairly good definition: Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavioral potentiality resulting from the occurrence of reinforced practice (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). Further examination of this definition can provide more details about what learning is. This definition begins with a relatively permanent change that refers to learning as a relatively stable change in behavior occurring within an organism (Mikulas, 1977). This behavioral change is neither transitory nor fixed, and this change may occur immediately or may not; therefore it occurs at a later time.
When the definition of learning is a change in behavior potential, it pinpoints the distinction between learning and performance. Learning is always translated into measurable behavior. As for performance, this refers to the translation of this potentiality into behavior or what an organism does. The last part of the definition refers to reinforced practice. A change in behavior or behavior potentiality is the result of either an experience or practice (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). The reinforcement of an experience or practice must occur to learn a behavior, therefore, if reinforcement does not occur, learning will not occur.
The Role of Behavior in Relation to Learning
Olson and Hergenhahn (2013), “a science requires an observable, measurable subject matter, and in the science of psychology, that subject matter is behavior” (p. 2). Expression of what is of study in psychology occurs through covert or overt behavior, although, not all behavior of study is learning (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). Studying behavior occurs to make inferences in regard to the process thought to be the observable behavioral changes; This process is learning. Many learning theorists are in agreement as for the study of the learning process that may not occur directly, instead only inferences may occur as for its nature from changes in behavior (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). Taking exception to this contention was B. F. Skinner, who thought behavioral changes are indeed learning, therefore, there is no need to infer a further process. Other theorists...