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Functions of Behavior

All behavior occurs for a reason. Although responding may at times seem to be unpredictable and even random, a lawful set of behavioral processes determines why people do what they do. Over the last 100 years, researchers such as Ivan I. Pavlov, Edward L. Thorndike, B. F. Skinner, and Richard J. Herrnstein have led research efforts to understand the causes of human behavior. The work of these researchers and their colleagues has resulted in an extensive and well-documented knowledge base describing behavioral processes that guide our everyday actions.

The three broad classes of behavioral functions are (a) nonassociative learning, (b) respondent conditioning, and (c) operant conditioning. Nonassociative learning can be defined as behavior that is a reaction to a biologically relevant stimulus. Examples include ...

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