Nonassociative Learning


Unexplained changes in stimulus–response pairings

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … repertoire of behaviors
  • Knowing is … behaving (triggered by stimuli)
  • Learner is … an organism-in-context
  • Learning is … changes in behavior (linking stimuli to responses)
  • Teaching is … training; engineering behavior (through deliberate conditioning)




Nonassociative Learning occurs when an organism’s responses to a stimulus change, with no apparent influence from learning events. Nonassociative Learning processes include:
  • Extinction – reduction in a learned behavior
  • Habituation – a reduction in innate behavior (e.g., no longer startled by a loud noise)
  • Sensitization – an increase in responsiveness to a specific stimulus
  • Spontaneous Recovery – the re-appearance of a thought-to-be-extinguished behavior

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

See Behaviorisms.

Status as a Theory of Learning

See Behaviorisms.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

See Behaviorisms.

Status as a Scientific Theory

See Behaviorisms.


  • Extinction
  • Habituation
  • Sensitization
  • Spontaneous Recovery

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Nonassociative Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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