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Operant conditioning: Escape and avoidance learning

Escape learning and avoidance learning are two types of aversive control. Escape learning is a reaction to terminate an ongoing, unpleasant stimulus. Avoidance learning is when a signal is given before the unpleasant stimulus, allowing you to avoid the situation. Both are key concepts in behavioral psychology. Created by Jeffrey Walsh.

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Video transcript

So the topic today is about escape learning versus avoidance learning. And these two types of learning fall under the category of aversive control. And aversive control is a term used to describe situations in which a behavior is motivated by the threat of something unpleasant. So let's say this is you and you're studying the definition of escape learning, which is when you perform a behavior-- what the heck. A fire is breaking out. I'm sorry, you're going to have to get out of this video. It's unsafe here. There's a fire breaking out. So thankfully there's an exit. Let's just get you out of here. And you're gone. So let's see if I can put out these fires here so we can continue on with our lecture. So thank goodness that you got out safely. But let's bring you back here so we can continue on. So as I was saying, escape learning, also known as escape conditioning, is when you perform behavior to terminate an ongoing, unpleasant, aversive stimulus. It's the kind of reaction you have when you say to yourself, just get me the heck out of here. There's an element of surprise in escape conditioning because you're thrown into a situation where you have to find a way to get out. So in this case, when the fire broke out you weren't expecting it. But you reacted appropriately by escaping from the situation by using the exit door. So that's escape learning. Now, escape learning can be converted into avoidance learning if some sort of signal is given before the aversive or unpleasant stimulus occurs. So using the fire example, for instance, if you were standing here listening to me talk and suddenly this fire alarm started ringing off-- you would make your way to the exit door and be long gone before the fire's broke out. Put another way, you're able to avoid the fire. So those are the two types of aversive control, escape and avoidance.