behaviorism v cognitivism


Behavioral theories

  • mode of learning: learning as a change in rate, frequency of occurrence, or form of behavior or response, which occurs primarily as a function of environmental factors (teachers therefore should arrange the environment so that students can respond properly to stimuli)
  • learner profile: less importance to learner differences.
  • key words: reinforcement history (the extent to which the individual was reinforced in the past for performing the same or similar behavior) and development status (what the individual is capable of doing given his or her present level of development).
  • memory: neurological connections established as a function of behaviors being associated with external stimuli (forgetting as caused by lack of responding over time).
  • motivation: motivated behavior is increased, or continued responding is produced, by reinforcement.
  • transfer: depends on identical elements or similar features between situations.
  • self regulation: involves setting up one’s own contingencies of reinforcement

Cognitive theories

  • mode of learning: through the formation of mental structures, and the processing of information and beliefs, it is an internal phenomenon (teachers make learning meaningful taking into account the learners’ perceptions of themselves and their learning environments).
  • learner profile: more importance to learner differences. What students do with information—how they attend to, rehearse, transform, code, store, and retrieve it—is critically important. The ways that learners process information determine what, when, and how they learn, as well as what use they will make of the learning.
  • memory: has a prominent role in cognitivism, learning via encoding or storing knowledge in an organized meaningful fashion. information is retrieved from memory in response to relevant cues that activate the appropriate memory structures.
  • motivation: one can be motivated and not learn; one can learn without being motivated/ motivation can help to direct attention and influence how information is processed. when reinforcement history conflicts with present beliefs, people are more likely to act based on their beliefs.
  • transfer: it occurs when learners understand how to apply knowledge in different settings.
  • self regulation: the key element is choice. For self-regulation to occur, learners must have some choice in their motives or methods for learning, time spent learning, criterion level of learning, the setting where learning occurs



Schunk, D.H., 2012. Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. (Sixth Edition), Boston: Pearson

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2 thoughts on “behaviorism v cognitivism

    • these two theories belong to the early learning theories and both represent two different versions of objectivism. a lot has happened since then..
      thanks for the vote of confidence!


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