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Operant Conditioning

The central purpose of education is to help students to learn. The basic processes that produce learning have been investigated in the laboratory under the heading of conditioning. The technical term conditioning is used to distinguish between behavioral changes that are conditional upon—that is, dependent upon—individual experience and those that are largely independent of experience, such as salivating when a sweet substance stimulates the tongue or blinking when an object rapidly approaches the eye. This entry describes the two factors that laboratory research has identified as essential for conditioning. The entry then explores some of the implications of what is known about basic conditioning processes for learning outside the laboratory. The carefully controlled methods of the laboratory most often use nonhuman animals, but they are ...

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