The Behavioral And Cognitive Learning Theories

The process of collecting new information is referred to as learning. The primary goal of this article is to construct a research paper that compares two learning theories, Cognitive and Behavioral Learning Theories. Essentially, this study will compare each theory's historical evolution, key elements, Biblical Worldview, educational implications, and scientific support.
Finally, this paper will identify and analyze the most effective Learning theory. The chosen hypothesis will be supported by facts and evidence drawn from various journal papers and textbooks. It is vital to notice that each of the hypotheses is distinct from the others. Each theory has its own proponents, beliefs, and assumptions that are different from the others


There are at least three learning theories. The following are some of the main learning theories, Cognitive Learning, Behavioral Learning which is also known as behaviorism and Constructivism. As mentioned earlier, to complete this part of the paper, only two theories will be discussed. These methods are Behaviorism and the Cognitive Learning.

Literature Review

Behavioral Learning Theory

Historical Development

Based on several journals and articles, Behaviorism is a theory that has the focus on behaviors that are objectively observable. Most of the Behavioral theorists refer to learning as the process of acquiring and learning new practices concerning the environmental conditions one is surrounded in. John Watson is considered as the father/founder of this theory (Bruner, 2004). Behaviorists believe that a learner’s behavior is shaped with punishment and reinforcement.

As for the learning theory, the term reinforcement refers to the process of establishing or encouraging a belief or behavior by rewarding or encouraging the Learner (Bruner, 2004). It is important to note the fact that reinforcement types are both positive and negative. On the other hand, when we look at a punishment, it is also divided into negative and positive. As mentioned earlier, the main proponent of this theory was John Watson (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). Other major proponents of this theory are Leonard Bloomfield, Thorndike, Pavlov and B.F Skinner.

Looking at the history of behaviorism, it started as a movement in the year 1913 (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). The move became active after John Watson wrote an article entitled “Psychology as the behaviorist views it.” Despite of the fact that John Watson is the founder of Behaviorism, both Pavlov and Thorndike provided contributions that were important to the growth of behavioral psychology. Pavlov contributed by giving good examples that were used to explain the secretory reflex and its relation to the conditioning process (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). This process was observed by monitoring how saliva flows.

Pavlov is also credited with developing classical conditioning. This is a form of learning that is automatic or reflexive. According to Pavlov, body stimulus can be seen to acquire a capacity that is used to evoke responses that were originally elicted by other stimuli (Pollard & Marcum & Brown & Greaves & Stewart, 2015). On the other hand, Thorndike is credited for having contributed to the development of operant conditioning. When we look at the behaviorist’s theory, there are two types of conditioning. The operant and classical conditioning. Operant conditioning is a form of learning that involves behavior being controlled with different consequences (Pollard & Marcum & Brown & Greaves & Stewart, 2015). Some of the key elements related to this conditioning are negative and positive reinforcement as well as positive and negative punishment.

Key Concepts

When we look at the Behaviorism, some of the fundamental concepts that are associated with this theory of thoughts being assumed to be whispers that are silent. According to most behaviorists, this theory entails that multiple events of thinking that is not different from any verbal behavior (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). Thoughts are also considered as an epiphenomenon, that are not associated with any change in behavior.

Another key concept states that behavior is controlled subconsciously by the black box (Butler & Meloy, 2015). According to behaviorists, the brain is in charge of selecting different types of behavior about the surrounding environment. This process of selection involves two critical activities which include verbal responses and crotch scratching. It is important to note the fact that this theory serves to explain what thoughts are, their role and significance in human life.

Cognitive Learning Theory

Historical Development

The Cognitive learning theory dates back to the year 1936. The main proponent of this approach was Jean Piaget who lived in between the years (1896 – 1980) (Jarvis, 2015). It is important to note the fact that the Cognitive learning theory is also referred to as the developmental stage theory. This theory explains the development and nature of human intelligence. Jean Piaget suggests the way the cognitive learning theory explains how children construct mental models of how the World looks like. He also argues that intelligence is not a fixed trait. Cognitive development supposed to be a process being continuous from birth (Jarvis, 2015). He also stated that cognitive development is affected by factors such as interaction with the environment and biological maturation.

Over the years, the theory has developed to include the stages that are involved in the cognitive learning process. Some of this stages include sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and formal operational stage (Pollard & Marcum & Brown & Greaves & Stewart, 2015). Each step occurs at the specific period in one’s life. For example, the sensorimotor stage occurs from birth to age 2, Preoperational stage occurs from age 2 to age 7, concrete operational phase from age 7 to age 11 and lastly, the formal operational stage happens to children who are above 11 years and goes on through adolescence and childhood (Ormrod, 2016). The theory also developed with time to define how intellectual growth takes place. According to Jean Piaget, intellectual growth takes place through assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration.

Key Concepts

Looking at the Cognitive Learning theory, it is important to note that cognitivists relate this theory to different activities such as deciding, thinking and remembering different task, obligations, concepts or activities (Prati, 2012). Behaviorists and cognitivists have contrasting or conflicting views, this theory does not focus on reinforcement or punishment as a method of enhancing learning. As opposed to behaviorism, the Cognitive learning theory emphasizes on how people learn. It also focuses on conscious thinking.

The theory also focuses on a particular individual’s level of acquiring and understanding new information. Apart from Jean Piaget, other important cognitive theorists are Benjamin Bloom, Howard Gardner, Robert Gagne and Allan Paivio (Pollard & Marcum & Brown & Greaves & Stewart, 2015). The researchers had different contributions to the development of the Cognitive learning theory. This theory is important when it comes to teaching, since tutors can practice expository teaching and dual coding (Jarvis, 2015). This theory is also significant for teachers since they can present new information using the old one.

Research Support for Cognitive and Behavioral Learning Theories

Behavioral Learning Theory

Bruner, J. (2004). A short history of psychological theories of learning. Daedalus, 133(1), 13-20. Retrieved from

This source gives a brief history of the Learning Theories. According to this article, behavioral learning theory is one of the most effective methods of learning. It describes how learning become possible with reinforcement and punishment.

Secondly, it is also important to note that reinforcement and punishment occur in two forms. Reinforcement involves awarding someone to encourage a certain behavior. On the other hand, punishment involves discipline the learner due to committing foul behaviors. This source also describes how Behaviorism makes learning easier and how it has helped the majority to acquire new information.

Dygdon, J. A., & Dienes, K. A. (2013). Behavioral excesses in depression: A learning theory hypothesis. Depression and Anxiety, 30(6), 598-605. doi:10.1002/da.22111

This methodology summarizes how the behavioral theory works. It explains the hypothesis involved in Learning. Learning is a gradual process that includes diverse activities. This source also underlines some of the repercussions associated with Behaviorism.

According to this book, behaviorism is related to depression. Learners require a comfortable environment. In this case, some forms of punishment such as the corporal style, create an uncomfortable one. This source gives an overview of some of the repercussions related to punishment and reinforcement.

Cognitive Learning Theory

Ormrod, J. E. (2016). Human learning. Boston, MA: Pearson.

The source explains some of the main Learning theories used by teachers in different institutions. Human learning is difficult and requires a lot of understanding, so the Cognitive Learning theory is widely discussed in this source.

Ormrod suggests the key principles related to this studying process. The black box is used subconsciously. This source enlightens some ways people use their thoughts to make different decisions.

Jarvis, P. (2015). Learning expertise in practice: Implications for learning theory. Studies in the Education of Adults, 47(1), 81-94. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.013

Jarvis comes up with this book to describe some of the implications related to the Cognitive Learning theory. According to this book, this theory has positive impacts on different learners. According to Jarvis, this theory raises one’s ability to acquire new information thoroughly as compared to other teaching and learning methodologies.

Educational Implications

Both the Cognitive and Behavioral learning theories are effective in a classroom. They have different outcomes. Each one has benefits when it comes to teaching new information to the learner. It is also important to note the fact that each of the theories mentioned above has their own merits and demerits.

Some of the advantages related with behaviorism are that the theory provides many practical techniques and applications that are used to shape behavior (Jarvis, 2015). Some of this techniques involve using rewards to reinforce a good performance in education. Behaviorism also provides strong arguments, used in nurturing (Butler & Meloy, 2015).

On the other hand, when we look at the Cognitive theory, there is a lot to be gathered. This theory focuses on an individual student, his learning progress and process (Bruner, 2004). The methodology also provides the student with multiple experiences. Learner can be able to overcome difficulties when it comes to understanding the learning process (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). It also enables them to progress positively in most of their learning processes.

Biblical Worldview

When it comes to learning, the Bible plays a significant role. According to the Bible, behavior is shaped and influenced by the surrounding environment. The Bible believes that learning behavior is also shaped with one’s sense of belonging. In reference to 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad Company Corrupts good character (Verbrugge & Verlyn & Murray, 2017). The Bible is also against those associated with wrongdoers. This is quoted in 1 Corinthians 5:6 – 13, 10:14 and Timothy 4:7, 14 – 16 (Verbrugge & Verlyn & Murray, 2017).

Based on this readings, it is safe to state that The Bible is very influential when it comes to impacting the learning behavior of an individual. The Bible belongs to the Christians, their learning behavior is greatly impacted the Bible.

For example, since bad company corrupts good character, a Christian would tryto avoid any bad friends or a company. This measure is to ensure that their learning behavior is not distracted. Secondly, when we look at the fact that the Bible is against people who have bad learning behaviors, it is quite obvious that a good Christian will avoid any bad learning behaviors so that they can be pure in heart.

Most Effective Learning Theory

Based on the research conducted, it is safe to state the fact that the most effective learning theory appreciated by educators and learners is the Cognitive Learning theory. Unlike behaviorism, the Cognitive theory examines a majority of the mental processes (Pollard & Marcum & Brown & Greaves & Stewart, 2015). Some of this processes include predictive coding, executive control, attention etc. This theory explains how the mind works so that learning can be enhanced. On the other hand, behaviorism treats the mind as a black box whose processes and activities are unknown (Dyddon & Dienes, 2013). This makes learning harder to contemplate.


Bruner, J. (2004). A short history of psychological theories of learning. Daudalus, 133(1), 13-20. Retrieved from

Butler, M. H., Meloy, K. C., & Call, M. L. (2015). Dismantling powerlessness in addiction: Empowering recovering through rehabilitating behavioral learning. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 22(1), 26-58. doi: 10.1080/10720162.2014.993778

Dygdon, J. A., & Dienes, K. A. (2013). Behavioral excesses in depression: A learning theory hypothesis. Depression and Anxiety, 30(6), 598-605. doi:10.1002/da.22111

Jarvis, P. (2015). Learning expertise in practice: Implications for learning theory. Studies in the Education of Adults, 47(1), 81-94. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.013

Ormrod, J. E. (2016). Human learning. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Pollard, E., Marcum, T., Brown P., Greaves, A., & Stewart, C. (2015). Application of mobile devices: Aligning cognitive learning theories and technology. Physiotherapy, 101, 1218-1219. doi: 10.1016/

Prati, G. (2012). A social cognitive learning theory of homophobic aggression among adolescents. School Psychology Review, 41(4), 413-428. Retrieved from

Verbrugge, Verlyn, and Murray Harris. 1 and 2 Corinthians. HarperCollins Christian Publishing, 2017.

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