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What Is Associative Learning? Find Out Here!

Let’s talk about the concept of associative learning. We will also discuss how it is used in psychology and education to help people learn new things or remember information better.

Associative Learning Defined: The definition for associative learning can be found here. It states that “associative learning occurs when a stimulus causes an association between two events.” In other words, when you are exposed to S then your brain associates A with S.

Let’s say I presented you with a picture of a cat and say “This is my dog,” you would associate the word ‘dog’ with the image because they both have similar characteristics.

In other words, you learned something about dogs by seeing one. You could use this same principle to teach someone else what a dog looks like.

Types of Associative Learning

There are three types of associative learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and respondent conditioning.

Classical Conditioning:

In classical conditioning, there is no reward involved. Instead, the person learns through repeated exposure to stimuli. For example, if you see a car driving down the street, you may start thinking about getting into the driver’s seat. If you do not get into the driver’s seat, you might think twice before doing so next time.

Furthermore, if you saw another person drive away from the scene, you might decide not to try again. In this case, you did not receive any rewards but instead just avoided punishment. Classical conditioning works best on simple associations such as these.

Respondent Conditioning:

Respondent conditioning is based on the idea that humans tend to repeat behaviors that lead them toward desirable outcomes. So, if you repeatedly eat chocolate cake, you’ll probably want more chocolate cake!

Operant Conditioning:

Operant conditioning involves rewards and punishments. When you perform some action, you receive a reward as well as punishment. So, if you want to make sure you don’t eat all of the cookies on the table, you must avoid eating them.

Respondent Conditioning:

Respondent conditioning is based upon the idea that humans tend to repeat behaviors that lead to positive outcomes.

How Does Psychology Use Associative Learning?

Psychology uses associative learning to explain why children behave differently than adults. Children often act impulsively while adults usually plan ahead.

One reason for this difference is that children are more likely to form associations between their actions and consequences.

They are less able to control themselves and therefore need to rely heavily on reinforcement from others.

Another way psychologists study associative learning is through Pavlovian conditioning.

Here, researchers expose animals to certain cues which leads to specific responses. These experiments allow scientists to understand how our brains work.

How Do Educators Use Associative Learning?

Teachers use associative learning to help students memorize facts and concepts. Students who take notes during class are using associative learning.

By taking note of important details such as names, dates, places, etc., they are forming connections between these items and making them easier to recall later.

Teachers should encourage students to write out key points instead of just listening to lectures. Writing helps students retain knowledge longer.

It is also important for teachers to give their students the opportunity to practice recalling information.

Component of Conditioning

A component of conditioning is a technique or method of training that helps improve performance. It can be done with any type of exercise, but it is most commonly associated with strength training.

Conditioned Reinforcement

When an animal performs a behavior in response to something else happening, we call this “reinforcing” the behavior.

The thing that happens after the behavior occurs is called the unconditioned stimulus. This could be food, water, sex, or anything else that makes us feel good.

In this case, we can say the behavior has been reinforced by the unconditioned stimulus because the two have become linked together.

Unconditioned Response

A conditioned response is a learned behavior that occurs without conscious awareness. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, you may have been conditioned by repeated exposure to dogs as a child. If you were bitten by a dog as a child, you may be more likely to fear them as an adult.

When people learn about psychology, they will find many ways to apply what they know to everyday life. As long as there is a connection between a person’s thoughts and feelings, then he/she will experience emotions.

People also use associative learning to remember things like phone numbers, addresses, and other pieces of information. Finally, educators use associative learning to teach students new skills and ideas.


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A Wife, a mum and a Tutor! I am the Lead Editor at TheTutor.Link & also the Head Tutor there. I love teaching seeing young minds flourish. I also love blogging and sharing my experience on the world wide web.