A broader definition of learning states, that learning is is a process through which individuals assimilate new knowledge and skills that result in relatively permanent behavior changes. A more narrow definition says, that learning is consistent with education – takes place at school, college.

For any learning to occur, certain basic elements must be present: Motivation , cues , response as well as reinforcement.

Some learning may be based on a simple stimulus-response model . A stimulus can be for example an advert, a response can be therefore the purchase. If the stimulus is sensed (perception) we can then observe if there is a response e.g. special offers in a supermarket

Theories of Learning[edit | edit source]

Learning theories can be generally divided into three groups: behaviorist theories , cognitive theories and social learning theories . Behaviorist theories indicates that learning is a function of experience (classical & operant conditioning). Cognitive theories emphasize on the significance of the role of experience, the development of meaning and the use of problem solving as well as the insight as the sources of learning central to the individual. Social learning theories say that individuals do not learn just by doing, but also by watching others and repeating their actions.

Behavioral Learning[edit | edit source]
  • Classical conditioning: Conditioned learning occurs when a stimulus that is paired with another stimulus that elicits a known response serves to produce the same response when used alone (demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov)
  • Instrumental conditioning: Learning occurs in a controlled environment in which individuals are rewarded for choosing appropriate behavior (demonstrated by B.F. Skinner)
Cognitive learning[edit | edit source]

Cognitive learning is based on mental activity (problem solving). It involves complex mental processing of information. Cognitive learning can be subdivided in Insight learning (by Kohler) and latent learning (by Tolman). Due to Insight learning , solutions to problems can be arrived at by looking at the bigger picture. It can be applied to the human problem solving. Latent learning says, that we all have a hidden ability to solve problems.

The memory plays an important part in cognitive learning. At the beginning of memory is the sensory store . Our senses(eyes, ears,...) receive information and transfer it to the brain. Then, the information is synchronized and perceived as a single image, in a single moment in time. It is difficult to make a lasting impression unless the receiver chooses to process more information. This information can be then stored in the short term store or the long term store . In the short term store the information is held and processed for a brief period. For this information to be remembered it must be rehearsed and encoded and then it is transferred to the long term store. Rehearsal requires, that information is held in short term storage for encoding to take place. Encoding means selecting a word or image and using it to represent an object. The long term store is the "filling system" in the brain whereby we can remember large amounts of information. All of the information is organized in files and it will be recognized and deleted as more information is processed. In general, an information may be stored episodically or semantically . An episodic storage is in the order in which it happened e.g. watching a film (beginning-middle-ending). The semantic storage is around a concept e.g. the plot of the film (suspense, mystery). Of course, forgetting is also part of the memory. This can happen because an information is no longer relevant, because of overload or because of interference (e.g. competitors ads).

Learning can be also improved . By rehearsal (regular rehearsal is important, otherwise large amounts are quickly forgotten), Mneumonics (short hand devices such as the 4 Ps or the 3 Cs) or depend learning (i.e. in the situation where the learning occurred).

Observational Learning[edit | edit source]

Observational learning occurs when people watch the actions of others and the reinforcements they receive for their behaviors. This type of learning can be a complex process as people store these observations in their memory and use it at a later date to guide their own behavior.