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Classical and Operant learning and Observational learning

Can you tell the difference between operant & classical conditioning & observational learning? Read the information below and answer the questions that follow. If it is classical conditioning, name the NS, UCS, UCR, CS, and CR. If it is operant conditioning, note whether or not it is positive or negative reinforcement of punishment. What is the target behavior? What is reinforcing or punishing it?

  1. Fido has a bad habit of chewing on the couch. Whenever you catch him chewing on the couch, you shoot him with the water gun. You have noticed that Fido chews on the couch less now, but he also appears afraid and runs when he sees the water gun.
  2. Susie is playing quietly alone in her room. She goes into the living room where her mom is watching TV. Susie begins to fiddle with the TV controls. Her mom comes over and says, "I guess you're tired of playing alone. Let's go for a walk." The next day, Susie comes out of her room and begins fiddling with the TV controls again.
  3. Five-year-old Michael watches his mom rake the yard every Sunday. One Sunday, Michael brings his toy rake out into the yard and begins to rake along with his mom. His mom said, "Wow! What a helpful boy you are! Thank you so much for helping me, Michael. You are so nice." The next Sunday, Michael goes to help his mom rake again.
  4. You are in the park eating a hot dog when you are held up at gunpoint. From now on, you get nervous every time you have a hot dog.
  5. You've got a problem with dogs getting into your garbage. To remedy this problem, you sit out and shoot your pellet gun at all dogs that come near your garbage. You notice that the dogs don't come and get into your garbage anymore.
  6. Every time Billy hits Juan on the head with his toy truck, you take the toy truck away. Over time, Billy stops hitting Juan with the truck.


  1. This has elements of both O.C. & C.C. Let's start with the operant first:
    1. The target behavior is couch chewing. The consequence for the behavior is being shot with the water gun. So if Fido chews on the couch, he gets shot with the water gun. Over the course of time, you notice that Fido chews less on the couch. Because Fido's couch chewing behavior is decreasing, this is punishment. Because you applied something, or added something in (the squirt), it is positive. So it is positive punishment.
    2. Classical conditioning is the reason why Fido is afraid of the water gun. Originally, the water gun was the NS -> it is not biologically significant, Fido won't respond to it. But the water gun has been consistently paired with a squirt. The squirt is biologically significant. Most animals don't respond too well to being squirt with water guns. They run - it's scary.

    Water gun (NS) + Water Squirt (UCS) -------------> Ouch! Run! (UCR)

    Water gun (CS) ------------------------> Run!!! (CR)

  2. This is operant conditioning. The target behavior (Susie's fiddling with the TV controls) increased after her mom came over and said "Let's go for a walk." The target behavior increased, so this is reinforcement. It increased because Mom gave Susie attention. Giving attention is adding something into the situation, so this is positive. This is positive reinforcement.
  3. This is observational learning & operating learning at work.
    1. Observational learning: Michael watched his mother rake the yard for many weeks. He then got out his own toy rake and imitated his mother. Observational learning involves imitating the behavior of a model.
    2. Operant conditioning.
      1. Michael's mom praised his raking behavior.
      2. The raking behavior then increased.
      3. Behavior + adding in praise = behavior increase.
        1. This is positive reinforcement.
  4. Classical conditioning. Before being held up at gunpoint, you had no reason to fear hot dogs. But now hot dogs have been paired/associated with a very fearful situation --> being held up. So the hot dog became a signal that something bad was going to happy. You have a classically conditioned fear of hot dogs.
  5. Hot Dog (NS) + Hold up (UCS) --------------> Fear (UCR)

    Hot Dog (CS) -----------------> Fear, nervous (CR)

  6. The target behavior is the getting into the trash by the dogs. The consequence is getting shot by a pellet gun. By shooting the dogs with the pellet gun whenever they get into the trash, you have noticed that they don't get into the trash as much. The target behavior (dogs getting into the trash) has been decreased. Because behavior decreased, this is punishment. You applied a gunshot, so this is positive punishment.
  7. The target behavior - the one that is changing - is Billy's hitting poor little Juan on the head. When Billy does this, you remove the toy. Billy slowly stops hitting Juan. The target behavior decreased - Billy doesn't hit Juan anymore. A decrease in behavior means punishment. What did you do to decrease the behavior? You removed the toy. Removal of a stimulus is negative. Therefore, this is negative punishment.


Remember, this isn't meant to take the place of your notes from class or the information presented in the book!