The term Conditioning comes from the field of psychology. A distinction is made here between classic conditioning and instrumental or operant conditioning.
Conditioning is primarily used in learning and education. Critics feel that the approach to conditioning is too one-sided because too many other forms of learning are neglected or even dangerous if learning degenerates into dressage.
The concept of conditioning comes from learning psychology. Basically, it is a matter of achieving certain reactions through certain stimuli.
A distinction is made between classic conditioning and instrumental or operant conditioning. In classic conditioning, continuous specific stimuli and subsequent rewards reliably trigger physical or behavioral reactions. The first example of this classical conditioning was the Pavlovian dogs. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov discovered these reactions by chance and then refined this observation through an experiment by always sounding a bell before giving food to his laboratory dogs.
In this way, he achieved in his test dogs that they began to salivate before they were given the food. The instrumental or operant conditioning always starts from an already existing basic behavior that occurs spontaneously. By rewarding or punishing what is called positive or negative reinforcement in learning psychology, it is possible to either increase this behavior in positive reinforcers or to reduce it in negative reinforcers.
Classical conditioning can be used specifically in experiments, but it is not useful in this form in learning psychology. It only serves as an explanatory model for behavior that was previously not understood.
Rather, these findings are often useful in clearing up psychosomatic complaints. Thus, unconsciously, in frightening situations, the presence of a stimulus that happens to be present, to name an example, can lead to allergic reactions. When treating such an allergy, it can be helpful to determine when this reaction first occurred and thus to find out the connection. Through targeted counter-conditioning, such psychosomatic illnesses can often be treated, reduced or even cured well.
It is different with operant or instrumental conditioning. This form of conditioning is very common today. There is always a certain underlying behavior that should be changed through conditioning. Positive reinforcers are also known as rewards, negative reinforcers as punishment. It depends on what the conditioning is to achieve, whether it is better to work with positive or negative reinforcers. In today's psychology of learning, it is certain that only positive reinforcers can influence certain strengths in learning in such a way that they are expanded and shown more frequently. Those who are praised make an effort to get even more praise.
An example would be to reward a horse that is supposed to show certain tricks in a freedom dressage with a treat or with pranks. Over time it will show these behaviors so confidently that it can be reliably performed in a show in front of an audience. The same horse may have had a tendency to kick while scraping hooves in the past. They are then not praised for this behavior, but punished, for example with a slap, an unfriendly no or simply by not getting a treat after scratching their hooves. If the hooves exist without stepping, they get a treat.
The horse will likely stop stepping while scratching hooves over time because it has been exposed to negative reinforcers for undesired behavior and positive reinforcement for desired behavior. There is a lot of discussion today about working more with positive than negative reinforcers towards children, especially in school. In the past there was more punishment, today there is more praise in order to get the children to participate in class.
Criticism about conditioning is primarily because it neglects many other aspects of learning. This includes the natural curiosity behavior of most living beings and humans as well as learning on the model, i.e. imitating the observed behavior of other socially living animals or other people.
Other points of criticism are that conditioning can also teach behavior that is harmful, for example by praising undesirable negative behavior. It is possible to train such a dog to be a dangerous walker. The example of good and bad grades in school as positive and negative reinforcers can be used as an explanatory model to illustrate where the problems of conditioning still lie today. If a child experiences from the beginning that he always receives good grades for his achievements, he will feel confirmed at school and will try even more.
At home, the child receives additional praise from parents or other family members and continues to feel validated. It can be assumed that such a child will continue to develop into a good student. It is different for a child who receives mostly poor grades at the beginning of school. It perceives this as a punishment, at home the disappointment of the parents as an additional punishment and can thus under certain circumstances completely lose the desire to learn and more or less refuse school.