Two Basic Forms Of Conditioning

We learn by association, linking two events that occur close together. The process of learning association is conditioning. Two main forms of conditioning is classical and operant. Classical conditioning is learned when we link two or more stimuli and anticipate events. The basic components of classical conditioning is identifying the neutral stimulus (NS), unconditioned stimulus (UCS), unconditioned response (UCR), conditioned stimulus (CS), and conditioned response (CR). Operant conditioning is learned when we associate a response and its consequences, behavior which is strengthened if followed by a reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher.

If it is a reinforcement, there are four different schedules that affect behavior, ratio or interval, or fixed or variable. To simplify, below will be two examples for classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

While looking through a Cosmopolitan magazine, an Aussie advertisement is on page 25. In this ad, there is a women smiling big with beautiful long brown hair flowing in the wind. In the right bottom corner is a bottle of Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Deep Conditioner and to the left of that is the words, “3 minutes a day will make your hair slay” (Aussie, 2019).

In this ad the conditioner would be the NS because it does not mean anything before conditioning. The UCS would be the women because she is smiling. The UCR would be to have hair that slays. The CS is the conditioner because it was the neutral stimulus. Lastly, the CR is to have beautiful moist hair in 3 minutes. If one wanted to turn this ad around to make it un-appealing, the conditioned behavior could be un-conditioned if the women’s hair was dirty and messy.

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The second example of classical conditioning is an advertisement for Tampax. In the same magazine on page 53, there is a woman in a short romper outfit with a fringe coat and platform boots, jumping in the air, happy and care free. Going across the women you can read, “protection for your flyest looks”, below that on the right side of the ad says, “up to 100% leak and odor-free, wear what you want” and to the left side of the ad has a collection of Tampax products stacked on top of each other. The NS is the Tampax products because it does not mean anything before conditioning. The UCS is the woman because she is happy, confident and worry-free. The UCR is be like the woman, in having confidences. The CS is the Tampax products because it was the neutral stimulus. Lastly, the CR is to be comfortable and confident in anything you wear while menstruating.

If one wanted to turn this ad around to make it un-appealing, the conditioned behavior could be un-conditioned if the woman had a leak running down her leg with an upsetting look on her face.When looking for an operant conditioning example, a clip from the movie Mean Girls was found on YouTube. In this clip, a father and daughter are seated at the kitchen table discussing bad actions the daughter took part in earlier in the movie. Because of those poor action the daughter gets grounded. The conversation went like so: Let’s focus on your studies for a little while. You’re an excellent student!

Daughter: Oh yeah, I need you to sign my calculus test. Dad: Why? Daughter: I’m failing. Dad: Hm, okay. You are… What do they call it? Grounded. You’re grounded. This is a negative punishment because the father is adding being grounded to punish the daughter for bad grades in calculus. This situation does not cause for a reinforcement schedule. The second conditioning found, was in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris is a high school student wanting to skip school to have a day of fun and in doing so, he must trick his parents by faking to be sick. The conversation went as followed:

Mom: Tom. Dad (Tom): What’s the matter? Mom: It’s Ferris. Dad: What’s wrong? Mom: He doesn’t have a fever, but he is saying his stomach hurts and he is seeing spots. Feel his hands, they are cold and clammy. Ferris: I am fine! I get up! Mom & Dad: Noooo! Ferris: I have a test today. I have to take it. I wanna go to a good college, so I can have a fruitful life. Mom: Honey, you’re not going to school like this now (Hughes & Jacobson, 1986)! This is a negative reinforcement because he removed school to have a fun day. In order to get out of school, Ferris faked sick so he could get out of going. This situation would be a variable interval schedule because after an unknown time he would be reinforced.


When comparing classical conditioning and operant conditioning, both result in learning, but have very different forms of associative learning. Classical conditioning is involuntary and focuses on any event that summons up a response that is anticipated, a trained stimulus that is followed by a trained reaction. For example: one can train their pet to potty outside, by associating the words potty outside with a tasty treat, this will eventually lead the pet to potty outside for a treat. Operant conditioning is voluntary and focuses on reinforcement and punishment after a certain behavior. A behavior can be positive or negative depending on the consequences of a reinforcement or punishment.

For example: a negative punishment would be one getting a phone taken away because of being grounded, a positive punishment would a child getting a spanking to stop bad behavior, a negative reinforcement would be taking away a chore to getting good grade for a child, and positive reinforcement would be giving a child candy for cleaning their room. Inside of reinforcement there are schedules that have different patterns of frequency and timing of following desired behavior. You have partial or continuous reinforcement, which is reinforcing a behavior every time it occurs and partial is reinforcing a behavior some of the time that it occurs. Partial reinforcement has four types of schedules, fixed verse variable and ratio verse interval. Fixed – a set of time, variable – an unknown amount of time, ratio – number of times, and interval – after a certain passage of time. Whichever form of learning one takes, it is still a type of learning.


  1. Aussie. (2019, March). 3 Minutes Deep Conditioner [Advertisement]. Cosmopolitan, Vol. 266(No. 3), 25.
  2. Daria5363. (2014, October 1). Operant Conditioning Positive Punishment – “Mean Girls” 2004 [Video File].
  3. Hughes, J. (Producer), & Jacobson, T. (Director). (1986). Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [Motion Picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.
  4. Myers, D. G. & DeWall, C. N. (2016). Exploring Psychology in Modules, tenth edition. NewYork: Worth Publishers.
  5. Tampax. (2019, March). Tampax Radiant Always Collection [Advertisement]. Cosmopolitan, Vol. 266(No.3), 53.

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Two Basic Forms Of Conditioning. (2022, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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