Major Learning Models and Associated Theories – Adam’s Case Study

Assignment Instructions

After being in a car accident, Adam is slamming on his brakes at inappropriate times which is putting him and others in danger.

  • How could Adam’s behavior be explained using the classical conditioning learning model? Be sure to clearly state the NS, US, UR, CS, and CR. Include at least one classical conditioning theory in your response that could be used in a treatment plan.
  • How could Adam’s behavior be explained using the operant learning model? Be sure to clearly state a possible reinforcer and punisher. Include at least one operant learning theory in your response that could be used in a treatment plan.
  • How could Adam’s behavior be explained the social observational learning model? Be sure to include a possible human model and how the elements of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory could be used in a treatment plan.


Sample Answer


Learning refers to the change in possible behavior or behavior which happens due to experience. Learning happens more swiftly on a continuous reinforcement schedule. There are various theories and models invented to explain how learning takes place. Some of the most important theories include classical conditioning theory where learning is invokes new behavior which is associated to a certain conditioned stimuli, operant learning model where behavior is perceived to be controlled by its results and social observational learning where behaviors are said to be acquired through observation. The three theories of learning can be used to explain one situation different ways, providing different measures to handle the situation. This paper focuses on determining individual understanding of the three main learning models and how theory related to these models can be used to in practice. The paper employs the three above mention models to explain a case of a driver whose driving ability deteriorated after experiencing an accident. The paper also provides the most probable treatment solution for the driver based on each learning model.

Classical Conditioning Learning Model

Classical conditioning theory entails learning novel behavior through the association process. This simply means that two stimuli are connected together to create a newly learned reaction in an animal or a person. The classical conditioning is based on three main steps where responses and stimuli are provided unique scientific phrases. The first stage takes place before conditioning where, the unconditioned stimulus (US) generates an unconditional reaction (UR) in a being. For instance, in this case, Adam was used in slamming breaks to control his car movement on the road during normal driving. This normally happened to prevent hitting other cars, to slow down to let pedestrian pass or to cross bumps among other situations. After getting used into driving, slamming of breaks became unconditional reaction to unconditioned stimulus that is mentally initiated as part of driving. This unconditioned stimulus can be highly based on personal judgment of the road based on the situation (Hummel, Abercrombie& Koepsel, 1991). The first stage of classical conditioning theory also engages another stimulus that contains no effect on an individual. This stimulus is referred to as neutral stimulus (NS), which does not react until it is matched with the unconditional stimulus.Neutral stimulus in this case include normal conditions on the road that include nearing another vehicle on the road, or need to slow down for one reason or another for instance traffic rights, road signs, as well as indicator and horns from other cars.

The second stage of this theory according to Hummel, Abercrombie and Koepsel(1991), involves the conditioning stage where a stimulus that generate no reaction is related to unconditional stimulus where it now turns to the conditioned stimulus. For instance in this case, the road sign or other drivers’ indicator can be associated with slowing down. The third stage then happens after conditioning where the Unconditioned stimulus is related with neutral stimulus, to create conditioned stimulus which generates a novel conditioned reaction (CR). For instance in this case, sign of bump sign ahead is related with mental trigger to slow down which is regarded as skillful driving. Adam involvement in the accidents initiated fear and panic, and this started impacting his initial sound judgment on the road situation or unconditional stimulus,during driving. He therefore became over cautious while driving. Thus, the combination of neutral stimulus such as sign of bump ahead and the unconditional stimulus which the accident event experience triggers fear and panic, pushing Adam to initially having unconditioned response (UR)of slamming the breaks suddenly, trying to avoid the repetition of accident incident. This road signs or drivers indicator, which are neutral stimuli nowtrigger poor judgment which is blurred by fear and panic initiated by the accident, and hence acting as the new conditional stimulus, which results to sudden slamming of breaks as a conditioned reaction (CR). The fear and panic then ends up becoming an influencer in Adams conditional stimuli such that anytime he reads a road sign or sees indicator from another becomes an indication of danger, making him to slam the breaks suddenly. This condition has made the instances of break slamming to be quite sudden and often, making it even harder for Adam to drive safely.

According to Lissek et al. (2005), Fear conditioning entails neutral stimulus paring with an aversive unconditioned stimulus. Initially the neutral stimulus provokes no emotional reaction, though after a repeated combination with the unconditional stimulus, the neutral stimulus turns to a conditioned stimulus indicating imminent onset of unconditioned stimulus and inducing anxiety related with the expectation of aversive unconditional stimulus. Even though fear conditioning according to Lissek et al. (2010) is normally self-perserving and adaptive type of learning, this form of conditioning might turn to be a cause of pathology when fearful reactivity to a conditional stimulus persists in the unconditional or conditional stimulus contingency absence. This can result into the development of phobia, for instance in this case, Adam may develop driving phobia, which is a great fear where he always find it dangerous to drive and become fearful of driving. Based on a research conducted by Lissek et al. (2010), most people suffering from classical conditioning anxiety demonstrated a stronger conditioned generalization compared to other individuals. In this VanElzakker et al. (2014) view, most of these individual tend to be affected by the experience of the traumatic events that took place, and hence they have a tendency of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This may be the case with Adam. Adam may be suffering from anxiety disorders or PTSD (VanElzakker et al., 2014). Based on the two provisions, Adams can be effectively treated by a combination of pharmacological treatment and therapeutic measures. Pharmacological treatment will assist in harnessing the anxiety disorder or PTSD symptoms, while therapy which can include cognitive behavioral therapy will assist in correcting Adam’s distorted view of the situation which blurs his judgment.

Operant Learning Model

Operant learning model is founded on the operant behavior concept which assumes that individual behavior is controlled by its outcome. It refers to the primary process of learning which entails altering the probability that a reaction will be repeated by the response consequences manipulation through punishments or reinforcements. According to Staddon and Cerutti (2003), operant conditioning in practice refers to the study of changeable behavior upheld by reinforcement schedules. In this case, reinforcement schedules refer to any process that brings a reinforcer to a person based on some rules that are well defined. Reinforcement is an outcome that makes a behavior to augment in intensity or frequency. The reinforcement can either be positive or negative. A positive reinforcement according to Staddon and Cerutti (2003) happens when a behavior is rewarded or followed by rewarding stimulus, while a negative reinforcement happens followed by a stimulus which is aversive. On the other hand, a punishment is any outcome which makes a behavior to reduce in intensity or frequency, just like reinforcement punishment can either be negative or positive. Negative punishment happens when a desirable stimuli is removed following a behavior, while a positive punishment happens when aversive consequences follow a behavior (Staddon&Cerutti, 2003).

Based on this model, Adam mode of driving is creating danger to himself and other passengers on the road. He seems to slam breaks at the wrong time creating confusion and possibility of a crash on the road. This act is initiated by the previous experience. However, its continuation place new dangers not just to Adam but also to other road users. The behavior can be said to occur due to fear of facing the previous consequences experienced after the accident. Adam’s condition is highly psychological which implies that to correct his behavior one should consider a punishment or reinforcement that focus on reducing the level of anxiety and rebuilding his confidence on the read.  Based on the condition, Adams may require treatment to be safe on the road. However, to encourage him to take the therapeutic initiative seriously, negative punishment such as suspension of his driving license until he is able to drive safely or restriction on the roads to drive in until his condition improves can work better. A positive reinforcement can also be done by praising Adam, any time he drives safely with minimized brakes slamming.

The best theory to apply to handle this condition is psychotherapy theory. According to StaddonandCerutti(2003), behavior therapy presumes that each behavior is learned via rules, association, observation, or consequences. Therapy focuses on assisting clients by offering corrective experiences of learning which result to behavior changes, extensively defined. In behavior therapy, learning takes place in highly active and structured way, where clients are anticipated to do thing for homework and in therapy session. These activities can include making them face their fears by conducting feared situations exposure, performing relaxation exercises and monitoring their negative behaviors to measure rate or improvement. All these acts will be highly important for Adams in correcting his behavior. Reinforcement and punishment measures discussed above can be employed to promote success in the employed therapeutic measure

Social Observable Learning Model

Social observation learning theory is founded on the idea that people learn from their interaction with other individual in a social environment. By observing other people behaviors separately, people generate similar behaviors, through imitation and assimilation, particularly if they get positive observational experiences or if they include rewards. associated with the observed behavior. Based on the Bundara views, imitation entails the real replication of observed motor activities. Based on this theory individuals can learn novel behaviors and information through watching other individuals (Mischel, 1973). According to the theory elements there are three overall principles for learning from one another. The social learning principles are assumed to work in the same manner in the entire lifetime. In Fryling, Johnston and Hayes(2011) views, observational learning might happen at any age. Insofar as disclosure to novel influential, dominant models that control resources might happen at new learning, life stage via the modeling process.  Social learning theory provides that individuals learn from other through modeling, imitation and observation. According to the general ideologies, behaviorists claim that learning has to be signified by a permanent behavioral change. This implies that learning need to be denoted by a permanent behavior change, while in contrast theorists in social learning say that since individuals can learn via observation alone, their learning might necessarily not be demonstrated in their performance. According to Fryling, Johnston and Hayes(2011), learning results can be molded in the behavioral changes form in skills, knowledge and mastery of attitude values. Moreover, the process of learning in changing behavior of people can be done via self-experience and learning from the environment and others.

In this case, Adams learnt to drive through a number of processes that included observation, imitating the trainer or other drivers and modeling. This according to Bandura can be described with four stages process which includes attentional processes where a person pays attention to imitated or modeled behavior. The second stage is retention process where a person has long-term memory of the modeled behavior. The third stage an individual translates memories that are symbolically coded memories into a novel response pattern. In the last stage the symbolically coded memories of behavior model is translated into a novel response pattern. Adam had already mastered the driving skills before the accident. However, the accident experience may have interfered with his long-term memory on driving, resulting to major driving mistakes (Harinie et al., 2017).

To correct Adam’s behavior, Bandura’s theory of social cognitive learning should be employed. In this theory, Bandura refer learning theory as set of ideologies based and systematic reasoning, which is anticipated for theoretical framework and have been empirically tested in offering problem solving and explanation in the learning phenomenon (Harinie et al., 2017). The learning phenomenon in this case is initiated by individual behavior changes in its interaction with the surrounding in an effort to attain its objectives and address the needs so as to get improved life quality. Behavior can be influenced by the environment and cognition. Cognition can also be influenced by the behavior based on Bandura theory. In this case, Adam’s behavior can be said to be influenced by cognition and the environment which seems to be similar to the environment he observed during the accident. The correction strategy should focus on reinstating Adam’s long-term memory on how to drive a car effectively. This can be done by retraining and allowing him to exercise. This is likely to rebuild his cognitive learning and chance his behavior on the road.


Learning is a process which according to different learning theory can take place in different ways.  Based on conditioning learning theory, a behavior can be influenced by a combination of unconditional and neutral stimulus to create a conditioned response after some time. On operant learning, a behavior is said to be influenced by the outcome and hence, to foster the right behavior reinforcement or punishment may be needed. The use of reward or withdrawal of important aspects of life can be used to influence the right behavior. In the social observational learning, people tend to learn by observing the behavior of others in the society. This may involve imitation, modeling, and sometime practicing to get it right. The three theories are applied in Adam’s case trying to explain how the situation happened and what can be done to resolve the current problem.


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