The principles of learning and behavior: Variables

November 2, 2010

Robert Forto


Robert Forto

In a laboratory setting learning is studied by conducting tightly controlled experiments.  Variables in experiments are defined as “…any factor that changes, or can be changed.”  There are three primary types of variables:

1. Dependent

2. Independent

3. Intervening

Dependent Variables are the variables that researchers are likely to be most interested in; often these variables represent a behavior that the researcher is trying to explain.  Dependent variables, as the name suggests, are dependent upon some other variable, usually the independent variable.

[ Rewind: Learning theory ]

The independent variable is a factor or stimuli that the researcher introduces into the experiment to see what affect it does or does not have on the dependent variable.   Usually the primary goal of an experiment is to see if the independent variable indeed affects the dependent variable.  In other words, the independent variable is the cause and the dependent variable is the effect.

[ Rewind: Influential people in the development and learning part 3 ]

Intervening variables are not as clear-cut as the other types of variables.  They are not something that can be seen or heard but one can assume they are there because of the effects they have on the dependent variable.  Intervening variables are used primarily to help explain and/or predict a relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable.


Dr. Robert Forto is the training director for Denver Dog Works and Alaska Dog Works and the host of the popular radio program, The Dog Dog Doctor Radio Show

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About robertforto

Robert Forto is the owner of Dog Works Training Company in Alaska, a canine behaviorist, mushin' down a dream, sports nut and radio show host. Robert writes a lot about his observations in Alaska, pop culture, music, and of course dogs!

View all posts by robertforto

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