Psychological models of learning

modelos aprendizaje

The psychological theories of the learning studied the origin of the knowledge and the logical and psychological processes in relation to the learning. These theories gave place to new educational models, strategies and pedagogical technicians that favoured the process of learning. The learning was considered like the result of the processes involved in the changes
conductuales that produced  in the individuals and put  of self-evident three models like the most influential inside the Psychology of the Learning:

  1. Conditioning models.
  2. Biological models.
  3. Cognitive models.

Conditioning Models of Learning

The learning inside this model was considered like a relatively permanent change in the behaviour that reflected the acquisition of knowledges or skills through the experience. Inside this model were characterised distinct processes to explain the learning: condicionamiento classical, learning asociativo or by contigüidad, condicionamiento operante and observational learning and imitation.

Classical conditioning

Iván Pavlov (1849-1936), showed that some types of behaviours, to which called reflections, were answers to external stimuli. The reflections incondicionados were natural answers to specific stimuli and called reflections conditioned to those that learnt  associating a neutral stimulus with a stimulus incondicionado. The traditional models of the learning asociativo between stimuli, categorizaron this type of learning like the association between a change produced in the half and the consequent change comportamental produced by the exhibition repeated in front of this stimulus.

Associative Learning 

Edwin Guthrie (1886-1959), developed a theory of the learning around the principle of association by contigüidad temporary between stimuli and answers. If two feelings were produced at the same time and of form repeated, would finish associating so that if it produced  only one of the feelings (stimulus), also would be evoked the another feeling (answer).
According to this model, the Psychology of the Learning had like aim the research of environmental factors that incidiesen of the same form in the behaviour of the individuals, but when it increased  the difficulty of the tasks checked  that a theory based in the contigüidad temporary, resulted insufficient to give a new answer to the effects that were producing , factor that caused the postulación of new explanatory models.

Operant conditioning

Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) and B. Frederic Skinner (1904-1990), posed the  operant conditioning, also known like condicionamiento instrumental, like the process by which could strengthen  a behaviour that was followed of a favourable result (reinforcement), increased of this form the probability that this behaviour went back to repeat. This type of condicionamiento defended that it could learn  all that that was reinforced.

Condicionamiento Classical and operante used stimuli and answers to explain the process of learning. The condicionamiento classical highlighted the importance of the stimulus that gave place to an answer whereas the Condicionamiento Operante stood out the importance of the consequence that followed to a determinate type of answer and the effect that this would cause in front of the possibility to issue another answer in the future.

Observational learning and imitation

Albert Bandura, posited this learning like the form to purchase knowledges through the imitation. A learning in which they participated at least two people. One that acted like
model and another that observed and imitated the behaviour observed. This type of learning supposed the enlargement of the limits of the theories of the learning and opened way to a new type of social learning, of development of the personality and of development of the social values.

>> Article related: Types and phases of observation of the behaviour

The psychological theories of the learning assumed that the behaviour was purchased through the previous experience of the individual, by means of processes of condicionamiento classical or instrumental.  From then it began  to consider the capacity of observational learning, that allowed to expand the process of learning through the observation of other individuals and of the consequences of his performance.

The modelamiento or observational learning, has been considered like one of the fundamental means of learning for the transmission of values, attitudes and patterns of thought and
new behaviours. This learning turned into a big tool to establish new behaviours in the individual but once purchased, the processes that would determine his frequency of apparition in the behaviour would be the processes of condicionamiento instrumental.

2. Biological models of the learning

The theorists of this characteristic model of the Psychology of the Learning, established like aim prioritario the study of the biological changes interns that produced  in the individuals. For this model the technicians of the condicionamiento only would allow the study of the biological processes involved, by what the study of the learning would have to base in the nature of said biological processes happening from unicellular organisms until arriving to the man.

3. Cognitive models of the learning

The aim of study of the Psychology of the Learning put of self-evident the knowledge of the nature of the cognitive processes interns, mainly the mechanisms that like the attention or the memory, were used for the process of learning and the contents of the learnt like factors determinants of the behaviour.

>> Article related: The classification of the cognitive styles

Difference between biological and cognitive model

The differentiation between biological and cognitive models of the learning comes give by the supposition of the cognitive nature of these processes. For these models were the changes in the cognitive structures, derived of changes in the behaviour, the main aim of study of the learning. The experiment went back to turn into  the instrument to make the study of the nature of these cognitive changes.

The biological models and the cognitive models split of similar suppositions found the difference between both, in the explanatory basic supposition of the learning. The cognitive models
considered that the learning produced cognitive changes in the individuals whereas the biological models considered that the only changes that experienced  were biological.

The Cognitive Psychology arose like answer to the limitations that presented the behavioural models. In this context of deep changes arose the program of investigation cognitivista with the approach of the processing of information more oriented to the study of patterns of representation of the information in the memory, that to the form in that they purchased  or represented said
information as we go to see to continuation.

Learning by Discovery

Bruner, presented the learning like an active process. The process of learning by discovery did reference to the mental activity to reorganise and transform the given, by
what the subject had the possibility to go further of the simply die. For Bruner the learning was a process of knowledge that produced  of form inductiva, that is to say, the subject made a learning that went of the most specific to the most general.

Considering the learning like a process inductivo, the education became considered like a process to facilitate the discovery of the relations established between the simplest concepts. Along this process the individual would involve  of active form in the learning achieving go further of the simply given as we signal previously being the professor the one who would guide to the students to the discovery.

This proposal of Bruner on the efficiency of the learning and the education by discovery finished being the centre of diverse critical and assessments, remaining considered like
a method for the conceptual education in basic levels and for the learning of procedures and resolution of problems until the adolescence.

Significant learning and assimilation cognoscitiva

The central idea of this theory is what Ausubel defines like significant learning, a process by which establish  significant links between the new information and the information that already possessed . Ausubel Presented the relation of the significant learning with the storage of information that produced  in determinate zones located of the brain. It did reference to the assimilation of the new in a mental structure constituted by psychological entities to which designated concepts inclusores, defending that the significant learning enriched the inclusores and created mental networks of concepts.

The two fundamental principles of this significant learning were the progressive differentiation and the reconciliation integradora. When it produced  the assimilation of a new content, the concept inclusor modified  and the information stored also was affected. To the transformation of the inclusores that took place in the learning, is what Ausubel designated progressive differentiation, turning into the base of his theory of the assimilation.

According to this progressive differentiation, the educator would present the material of learning with the most general ideas and of gradual form would go contributing data more specific. Of this form would achieve
elaborate a diagram, providing a method of analysis that would facilitate the process of learning to the subjects.

Another of the principles of this significant learning was the reconcialización integradora that did reference to the capacity to establish a relation between concepts that could seem

>> Article related: Theory of the cognitive development of Piaget


Woofolk, To. (2014). Educational psychology (12ª edition). Publisher Pearson Education: Mexico


Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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