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Learning Theories

  1. John W. Donahoe

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0503

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Donahoe, J. W. 2010. Learning Theories. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. University of Massachusetts

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


A theory consists of a set of principles based on observations typically obtained under controlled laboratory conditions. The function of theory is to summarize in a concise fashion observations in a field of study and to enable predictions about future observations in that field. Learning theory is concerned with the variables that produce long-lasting changes in individual behavior and the cumulative effects of those variables acting over time. Although based on laboratory research, often with animals, the principles are intended to apply to all behavior including the behavior of humans.


  • associationism;
  • behavior analysis;
  • blocking;
  • conditioning;
  • long-term potentiation (LTP);
  • natural selection;
  • neural networks;
  • operant (instrumental) conditioning;
  • Pavlovian (classical) conditioning;
  • reinforcement;
  • shaping