Two Mental Health Theories

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Two Mental Health Theories

Rasmussen College

Author Note

This paper is being submitted on October 8, 2019, for NUR2488 Mental Health course.

Two Mental Health Theories

In this essay, I will be comparing and contrasting Ivan Pavlov’s (1927) behavioral theory and B. F. Skinner’s (1938) behavioral theory. According to Varcarolis E.M. (2017) Ivan Pavlov’s behavioral theory is famous for investigating classical conditioning. B. F. Skinner’s behavioral theory is famous for investigating operant conditioning. Conditioning is a type of learning that links a trigger or stimulus to human behavior or response. While these forms of conditioning have differences, their purpose is the same. That purpose is acquiring new behavior.

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 (Psyche Study, 2017). B. F. Skinner was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He considered free will as an illusion and that human action depends on consequences of previous actions (Psyche Study, 2017).

While classical conditioning deals with the learning process that leads to us gaining a new behavior through the process of association, while operant conditioning is a form of learning which explains the relationship between behaviors on certain rewards and consequences (Varacarolis E. M., 2017). Classical conditioning deals with how internal mental thoughts and brain mechanisms play a huge role in associative learning. Operant conditioning is the study of the theory which only deals with expressible behaviors and not any internal mental thoughts and brain mechanisms. Classical Conditioning works by pairing involuntary response with stimulus. After which, the unconditioned response becomes the conditioned response (Varcarolis E. M. 2017). Pavlov’s dog experiment is a base for the establishment of classical conditioning theory and its concepts. Operant Conditioning works by applying two major concepts which are reinforcements and punishments, after the behavior happens, which causes the rate of behavior to increase or decrease. Skinner’s Skinner box experiment with a rat is the base for operant conditioning theory and its concepts (Varcarolis E. M., 2017).

Similarities between classical conditioning and operant conditioning is their application. Both of these theories are used to teach a new behavior. Despite different techniques, the goal of both theories are the same. Both techniques are applied unknowningly (Khan Academy 2017). In both classical conditioning and operant conditioning, extinction may occur in the behaviors. Extinction means that the conditioned responsed diminish or stop when conditioning factors are withdrawn. However, the same behaviors will recover when conditioning is reapplied (Psyche Study 2017).


Classical and operant conditioning article. (n.d.). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from

Classical VS Operant Conditioning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from

Varcarolis, E. M. (2017). Essentials of psychiatric mental health nursing: a communication approach to evidence-based care. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

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