Difference Between Associative and Cognitive Learning

Key Difference – Associative vs Cognitive Learning
 

Although associative learning and cognitive learning are both related to the process of learning, there is a key difference between these two types of learning. Associative learning can be defined as a type of learning in which a behavior is linked to a new stimulus. However, cognitive learning can be defined as the learning processes where individuals acquire and process information. This is the key difference between the two types of learning.

What is Associative Learning?

Associative learning can be defined as a type of learning in which a behavior is linked to a new stimulus. It highlights that our ideas and experiences are connected and cannot be recalled in isolation. Psychologists point out that in most situations our learning is a connected experience. According to them, associative learning can take place through two types of conditioning. They are,

  1. Classical conditioning
  2. Operant conditioning

The term conditioning came into psychology with the Behavioral perspective. Psychologists such as Pavlov, Skinner and Watson stressed that human behavior was an important feature in psychology. With the theories of conditioning, they pointed out how behavior can be altered, or new behavior can be created with the assistance of new stimuli from the surrounding environment. In associative learning, this line of thought is pursued.

Through classical conditioning, Ivan Pavlov pointed out how a completely unrelated stimulus can create a response in an organism through the use of a dog and a bell. Usually, a dog would salivate at the sight of food, but not at the hearing of a bell. Through his experiment, Pavlov highlights how a conditioned response can be created for a conditioned stimulus.

Skinner in his experiments of operant conditioning presented how rewards and punishments can be used to train new behavior. In Associative learning, this pairing of a new stimulus with behavior can thus be examined.

Difference Between Associative and Cognitive Learning

What is Cognitive Learning?

Cognitive learning can be defined as the learning processes where individuals acquire and process information. The key difference between associative learning and cognitive learning is, unlike in associative learning where the focus is on the behavior and external stimuli, in cognitive learning the focus is on the human cognition.

According to cognitive learning theories, people learn things both consciously and unconsciously. When consciously learning the individual makes an effort to learn and store new information. In the case of unconscious learning, this naturally takes place.

When speaking of cognitive theories there are mainly two types. They are,

  1. Social cognitive theory
  2. Cognitive behavioral theory

According to the social cognitive theory, personal, environmental and behavioral factors influence learning. On the other hand, in the cognitive behavioral theory of Aaron Beck, he points out how cognition determines the behavior of the individual.

Key Difference - Associative vs Cognitive Learning

What is the difference between Associative and Cognitive Learning?

Definitions of Associative and Cognitive Learning:

Associative Learning: Associative learning can be defined as a type of learning in which a behavior is linked to a new stimulus.

Cognitive Learning: Cognitive learning can be defined as the learning processes where individuals acquire and process information.

Characteristics of Associative and Cognitive Learning:

Focus:

Associative Learning: The focus is on the impact of new stimuli.

Cognitive Learning: The focus is on the mental processes.

Types:

Associative Learning: Classical conditioning and Operant conditioning can be considered as types of associative learning.

Cognitive Learning: Social cognitive theory and cognitive behavioral theory are two theories that explain cognitive learning and different variables included in the learning process.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dog clicker training” by Elf at the English language Wikipedia. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons

2. Chiropractic students learning anatomy By DJFryzy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons