Lecture 5: Learning
Learning as Contiguity
• How we put things together in our mind.
o (i.e.: Chevy + girl example)
1. Pretty girl arousal
2. Chevy no arousal
3. Pretty girl + Chevy = arousal
4. Chevy arousal
• John Locke; all learning is a consequence of this building associations.
o Tabula rasa: children are born as blank slates, and experiences are written
onto them. Through these associations, the child learns about the things in
o i.e.: Mommy + milk association
• Ivan Pavlov; a biologist, not a psychologist, but best known for his psychology
research. Received a Nobel Prize for his works with the digestive system.
o Conducted experiments looking into a dog’s digestive system through a
window he surgically installed.
o “Psychic secretions” occurred as Pavlov called them, when the dogs were
starved and then shown food.
o Classical (Pavlovian) Conditioning: “Pavlov’s Dog”
1. food salivation
2. bell no salivation
3. bell + food = salivation
4. bell salivation
Existing Stimulus-Response Unconditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Response
Behaviour (food) (salivation)
Neutral Stimulus (bell) No salivation
New Stimulus-Response Neutral Stimulus (bell) + Unconditioned Response
Behaviour Unconditioned Stimulus (salivation)
Behavioural Change Conditioned Stimulus (bell) Conditioned Response
• Classical conditioning does not require conscious effort. It occurs naturally.
• Learning is a relatively permanent acquisition of new behaviour as a result of
experience. Anything that can be learned can be unlearned as well.
o Acquisition: beginning to make the association between objects.
o Extinction: if the neutral and unconditioned stimuli aren’t paired together
for a protracted period of time, the new stimulus response weakens.
o Generalization: any stimuli that we perceive as being similar to the
conditioned stimulus also acquires the ability to illicit the response. o Discrimination: the dog has the ability to discriminate among possible
stimuli (i.e.: bell vs. flashing light, one pitch of bell vs. another).
• John Broadus “Swats” Watson (1878-1958):
o As a child, he wasn’t a good student and had many run-ins with the
o He was admitted to college due to his mother’s religious connections.
o When a professor told him to not put his final project in the wrong
order, of course he did. His professor failed him as promised, causing
Watson to not be admitted to Princeton. Watson devises a plan to
later on make this professor’s life a living hell…
o He is hired to John Hopkins’s University once he gets his PhD (along
the lines of his plan). The chair of the psychology dept. is dismissed
due to a scandal concerning a grad student, and Watson is given the
position at age 29. He hires his old professor that failed him, but the
professor gets sick, and Watson’s revenge never occurs.
o Watson was the father of the Behavioralist Movement; bringing
Pavlov’s theory to the forefront of psychology.
“Little Albert” studies (1920’s); Pavlov’s dog theory revisited
using a child. Albert is given a live rabbit, and has an affinity
for it. While he is playing with it, Watson and his grad student
Rayner sneak up behind him and bang a gong (obviously
scaring him). They repeat this until Albert acquires the
association; now fearing not only rabbits, but anything that
Watson is the creator of the concepts used in advertising today (Chevy + Pretty Girl).
Learning as Contingency
• Edward Thorndike (1874-1949); using chickens and cats, he conducts
experiments which leads him to a new form of learning.
o Constructs a “puzzle box”, placing some food outside the box as
incentive. A lever is placed inside the box to raise the closed door,
which the cat can push down to get out to the food.