Informal learning refers to the process of knowledge acquisition, which results from the interests and activities of a person (Newman & Newman, 2009). This usually takes place throughout the life of individuals because of the daily occurrences. A person can undergo informal learning independent of other people or through interpersonal relations. Some examples of informal learning include becoming afraid of heights, becoming emotional because of a smell, disliking elevators, just to mention a few. Psychologists can employ various learning perspectives, such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and cognitive-social learning to explain how informal learning takes place. This discussion will consider how classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and cognitive-social learning explains the process of becoming emotional because of a smell.
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A person may become emotional when coming near a smell because of the previous experiences regarding similar smell. Classical conditioning will appropriately explain how the informal learning of becoming emotional upon an exposure of a smell. Sanderson (2010) defines classical conditioning as the repeated pairing of a conditioned stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus to encourage the occurrence of a conditioned response. A person may become extremely sad on smelling a scent of food that has been eliciting severe allergic reactions in the body. In this scenario, food is an unconditioned stimulus, becoming sad due to allergic reactions is an unconditioned response, and the scent of the food is a conditioned stimulus. The person does not become sad upon smelling the scent before eating the new food. When the new food leads to the feeling of itching, the person will become sad because of the food’s allergic property. Later, the person will associate the food’s scent with the allergic properties of the food and become sad. Therefore, pairing of the food and its scent will make the scent elicit a conditioned response of becoming sad.
Operant conditioning is another learning perspective that can explain the scenario of becoming sad because of a food’s scent. Sanderson (2010) defines operant conditioning as the learning that involves modification of a person’s behaviors by their consequences. The behaviors may undergo absolute change in strength, form, or frequency. A person may feel happy on smelling a scent of a new food, which is naturally pleasant. Therefore, in this scenario, the behavior is to become happy due to the pleasant scent of the new food. Unfortunately, the food may induce severe allergic reactions, such as itching, in the body. The person will consider itching as the consequence of becoming happy. The allergic property of the food will reduce the strength of happiness when the person smells the food’s scent in the near future. Therefore, the allergic property of the food has a negative reinforcement which discourages the person from becoming happy upon the presentation of the food’s scent.
Cognitive-social learning can also lead to the development of sadness upon presentation of smell just like it is the case with other learning perspectives. Cognitive-social learning refers to acquisition and maintenance of behavior patterns (Newman & Newman, 2009). This usually happens through observation and vicarious reinforcement. Therefore, a person learns behavior through observing how other people portray the same behavior and the consequences of the behavior. For instance, a person will be sad on smelling the scent of food that elicits severe allergic reactions in other people. Therefore, the harmful effects of the food vicariously reinforce the observer’s behavior of becoming sad. Cognitive-social learning takes place in the presence of other individuals in the environment. This is because the learner acquires information through making observations on what other people do in the environment.
In conclusion, more than one learning perspective can explain the acquisition of behavior. For instance, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and cognitive-social learning can effectively explain how a person can learn to become sad on smelling the scent of food that induces severe allergic reactions, such as itching. The learning can take place either due to personal experience of the allergic reactions or after observing other people’s behaviors upon consuming the food. The change in behavior may last for long because of reinforcement. However, cognitive-social learning shows that a person’s behavior undergoes a vicarious reinforcement (Sanderson, 2010).
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