The main difference between behavioral and cognitive learning theories is that behavioral learning theory only focuses on external observable behavior while cognitive learning theory focuses on internal mental processes.
Behaviorism and cognitivism are two theories that explain the learning process of human beings. Behaviorist approach was developed by John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner in the early twentieth century while cognitive development theory was developed by Jean Piaget as a response to Behaviorism. Behavioral approach focuses on behaviors while cognitive approach focuses on cognitive processes like memory and decision making.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Behavioral Learning Theory
– Definition, Concepts, Limitations
2. What is Cognitive Learning Theory
– Definition, Characteristics
3. What is the Difference Between Behavioral and Cognitive Learning Theories
– Comparison of Key Differences
Behavioral Learning Theory, Cognitive Learning Theory
What is Behavioral Learning Theory
Behavioral learning theory is a learning theory that focuses on observable behaviors and discounts any independent mental activity. According to this theory, learning is considered to occur only when we can see the results. This is because behaviorists are interested in seeing a change in behavior. Moreover, the acquisition of new behavior based on environmental conditions.
Stimulus and response are a key concept in behaviorist learning theory. In fact, this is similar to cause and effect. Stimuli are the things that provoke reactions, while responses are the reaction to stimuli. If you give students the correct stimulus, they will give you the response they want. This gives birth to the idea of rewards and punishments. For example, if a student has completed all his homework correctly, the teacher will reward him by praising him. Likewise, if a student has not done his homework, the teacher will punish him in order to make sure that he doesn’t repeat this behavior.
Moreover, the idea of Tabular Rasa (an empty slate) is another concept is behaviorism. Behaviorists believe that children are born with no knowledge; they learn through experience and their experience (the rewards and punishments they get) shape how they behave.
Furthermore, there are two main types of behaviorism as classic conditioning and behavioral or operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is concerned with involuntary responses or natural reflexes to stimuli. A student’s irrational fears or anxieties like fear of public speaking is an example. Operant conditioning, on the other hand, occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced. Here, if a certain response to a stimulus is rewarded, that response is more likely to be repeated. If it’s punished, it’s not likely to be repeated. The following diagram explains this concept in detail.
Limitations of Behavioral Theory
- Ignores thought, motivation and cognition
- Cannot explain all forms of learning since it only focuses on the observable changes in the behavior and disregards the activities of the mind (for example, a child picking up a language)
- Ignores social dimensions of learning
What is Cognitive Learning Theory
Cognitive learning theory is a broad theory that explains how humans’ mind work while they learn. This theory focuses on how the human brain process information and how learning occurs through the internal processing of information. This theory is credited to Jean Piaget, an educational psychologist who believed that learners actively construct knowledge based on their existing cognitive structures. Moreover, this cognitive learning is based on individuals cognitively processing input to result in a behaviour. There are various elements in mental processes such as organizing, interpreting, categorizing, attention, forming generalizations, etc.
We can further categorize cognitive learning theory into two groups: Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) and Social Cognitive Theory (SCT). CBT focuses on the role of cognition in the behavioral pattern of individuals. SCT describes the influence of individual experiences, the actions of others, and environmental factors on individual behaviors. Moreover, there are three main variables in SCT: behavioral factors, environmental factors (extrinsic factors), and personal factors (intrinsic factors). These three variables interrelate with each other, causing learning to occur.
Difference Between Behavioral and Cognitive Learning Theories
Behavioral learning theory is a learning theory that focuses on observable behaviors and discounts any independent mental activity. In contrast, Cognitive learning theory is a broad learning theory that explains how humans’ mind work while they learn.
Moreover, behavioral learning theory is based on the concept of stimulus and response, while cognitive learning theory is based on mental processes.
Behavioral learning theory focuses on observable behaviors, while cognitive learning focuses on mental activities and processes.
J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner are the main contributors to behaviorist learning theory while Jean Paget is the main contributor to cognitive learning theory.
In brief, behavioral learning theory is a learning theory that focuses on observable behaviors and discounts any independent mental activity. In contrast, cognitive learning theory is a broad learning theory that explains how humans’ mind work while they learn. The main difference between behavioral and cognitive learning theory is that the former focuses on observable behaviors while the latter focuses on mental activities and processes.
1. Drew, Chris. “Behaviorism – Skinner’s Education Learning Theory (2020).” Helpful Professor, 9 Feb. 2020, Available here.
2. “Cognitive Learning Theory.” EdApp Microlearning Blog, 19 Mar. 2020, Available here.
1. “Operant conditioning diagram rev” By Box73 (recreated and converted to svg) and Curtis Neveu (source) – This file is a recreation of this diagram (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Neuronal activity DARPA” – courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital and Draper Labs – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia