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Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories

2. Classical Conditioning

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In this lecture, we think about classical conditioning, focusing in particular on: (i) the origin of the classical conditioning theories in Ivan Pavlov’s research; (ii) the features of classical conditioning being the unconditioned stimulus (e.g., a loud noise naturally causing a fear response) and a conditioned stimulus, which could be conditioned to create the same response as the unconditioned stimulus, through repeated association; (iii) the work of John Watson publicising Pavlov’s work in English and considering its applicability to human behaviour; (iv) an example of how classical conditioning could create a conditioned stimulus in a real world scenario; (v) the unlearning of certain associations through systematic desensitisation; (vi) the process of cognitive behavioural therapy relabelling potential fear responses to reduce or eliminated the negative associations.


In this course, Dr Cathal O’Siochru (Liverpool Hope University) explores behaviourist learning theories in the context of growth and development. In the first lecture, we think about what learning and development is and how it relates to behaviourism. In the second lecture, we think about classical conditioning as the original behaviourist theory. In the third lecture, we think about operant conditioning, which was the focus of much of B. F. Skinner’s research. Next, we think about learning through observation, with a specific note toward Bandura’s ‘bobo doll experiments’ in the 1960’s. In the fifth and final lecture, we think about self-efficacy and the role it plays in all forms of behavioural reproduction.


Dr Cathal O’Siochru is a senior lecturer in education studies at Liverpool Hope University and has a background in psychology, research methods and education. Dr O’Siochru’s research interests include the psychology of education, epistemological and pedagogical beliefs, and assessment practices. Some of Dr O’Siochru’s recent publications include 'Action learning: how can it contribute to a collaborative process of pedagogical action research?' (2020) and 'Academic perspectives of metrics: Procedural justice as a key factor in evaluations of fairness' (2019).

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O'Siochru, C. (2022, April 20). Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories - Classical Conditioning [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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O'Siochru, C. "Cognition and Development – Behaviourist Learning Theories – Classical Conditioning." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 20 Apr 2022,

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