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Learning is a term that refers to the process of acquiring skills and knowledge while memory refers to the process of retaining the already acquired knowledge. The two terms are closely linked to each other. If the rate of knowledge acquisition is slow the result is learning but if the rate of acquisition is high memory has been developed. Learning occurs before memory. Memory has a major role to play in classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning and in social learning theory.

Classical conditioning

In classical conditioning, learning occurs due to association. The two things which are associated are a conditional stimulus and unconditional stimulus. Memory in this case, enables an individual to remember the unconditional stimulus so as to respond to the conditional stimulus. For example, if one flinch when there is a sudden noise then at the same time some movement is made such as hand clapping, the individual will learn to flinch when that movement is made without necessarily producing any noise. The ability to associate things occurs when there is memory (Byrne, 2008).

Instrumental conditioning

Instrumental conditioning refers to an associative kind of learning where the reappearance of a behavior depends on the reinforcement given after the behavior occurred. For example, if a child feeds a dog and the response she gets is being praised as ‘good boy’ the probability that the boy will repeat the action is high. This learning occurs when the child has the ability to remember the consequences of his or her behavior. Hence memory plays a very important role in instrumental conditioning (Berrios & Hodges, 2000).

Social learning theory

Social learning theory explains that people gain knowledge of a behavior through, watching the behaviors and manners of other people and the consequences of their behaviors. Modeling according to them plays a major role in determining a behavior. Through observation one establishes how new behaviors are developed and the stored information helps in giving guidance for later action to be taken. To them therefore, human behavior results from a link between behavior, cognitive influence and the influences from the environment. Social learning theory therefore covers awareness, memory and inspiration.

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