Difference Between Associative and Non-Associative Learning

Key Difference – Associative vs Non-Associative Learning
 

Associative and Non-Associative learning are two types of learning between which a key difference can be identified. Associative learning refers to a variety of learning in which ideas and experiences are connected. On the other hand, Non-associative learning is another variety of learning in which an association between stimuli does not take place. The key difference is while stimuli are linked in associative learning; in non-associative learning this does not take place.

What is Associative Learning?

Associative learning refers to a variety of learning in which ideas and experiences are connected. The human brain is organized in such a way that recalling a single piece of information in isolation is often difficult. This is because it is connected to other types of information.  The theory of associative learning highlights this connection or link between ideas.

According to psychologists, associative learning takes place when we learn something with the assistance of a new stimulus. Here the theory of conditioning comes into play. Through conditioning, psychologists emphasize how human behavior can be altered or how new patterns of behavior can be created in the individual. The process of associative learning takes place through two types of conditioning. They are,

  1. Classical conditioning
  2. Operant conditioning

Classical conditioning was a technique introduced by Ivan Pavlov where he conducts an experiment using a dog. In the first phase of the experiment, he presents the dog with food and notices how it salivates. Then he introduces a bell just as the food is being presented and notices how the dog salivates. Thirdly he rings the bell without presenting the food but notices that the dog salivates. Through this, he explains how a natural response to a stimulus can be conditioned where a conditioned response can be created from a conditioned stimulus.

In Operant conditioning, B. F Skinner explains how rewards and punishments can be used to train new behavior. For instance, imagine a child is given a bar of chocolate after getting good marks at an exam. This is an example of a reward. Or else imagine a child is grounded for misbehaving. This is an example of punishment. Through associative learning, a new behavior is promoted based on a new stimulus.

Difference Between Associative and Non-Associative Learning

What is Non-Associative Learning?

Non-associative learning is another variety of learning in which an association between stimuli does not take place. To be more descriptive, in non-associative learning the behavior and stimulus are not paired or linked together. This form of learning is quite common in animals.   Mainly there are two types of non-associative learning. They are,

  1. Habituation
  2. Sensitization

Habituation is when the responsiveness of an organism to a repeatedly exposed stimulus decreases.  Simply, it is when a person or animal reacts less and less to something due to exposure. For example, imagine a child who is always being scolded. Although the child may first react to this, as he begins to experience it all the time, the child reacts less and less. Sensitization is when the responsiveness of an organism to a repeatedly exposed stimulus increases or else the person or animal reacts even more each time it is exposed to the stimulus.

 Key Difference - Associative vs Non-Associative Learning

What is the difference between Associative and Non-Associative Learning?

Definitions of Associative and Non-Associative Learning:

Associative Learning: Associative learning refers to a variety of learning in which ideas and experiences are connected.

Non-Associative Learning: Non-associative learning is another variety of learning in which an association between stimuli does not take place.

Characteristics of Associative and Non-Associative Learning:

Linking:

Associative Learning: Linking takes place between behavior and new stimulus.

Non-Associative Learning: Linking does not take place.

Types:

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

Non-Associative Learning: Habituation and Sensitization can be considered as types of non-associative learning.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dog training” by Moshe Blank – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons

2. “Aplysia californica” by Genny Anderson [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Commons