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PSYB30H3 Lecture Notes - Social Learning Theory, Behaviorism, Environmentalism

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Marc A Fournier

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PSYB30 Personality - Chapter 3 Notes
Social Learning and Culture
For much of the 20th century, mainstream American psychology tended to downplay inherent
or biologically ingrained differences between people and emphasized instead the power of
social environments to shape human behavior
Skinner argued that human behavior and people's lives are primarily the products of social
learning in culture
Behaviorism and Social-Learning Theory - American Environmentalism: The Behaviorist
Behaviorism is a brand of psychology that explores the ways in which observable behavior is
learned and shaped by the environment
B.F. Skinner was very popular in this aspect of psychology
For the newborn, John Locke, believed that the mind is like a blank slate, or clean piece of
Locke also believed that over time, experiences write upon the slate, giving the mind its
characteristic content
Locke also argued that the environment shapes the person - that everyone is bored
psychologically equal and personality was made by the environment
According to behaviorists, our environments teach us to be who we are; we are what we learn
to be
They also believed that the motivation to learn was to keep order and obtain pleasure and
avoid pain
Utilitarianism put forth the idea that the "good" society should make for the greatest
happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people

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PSYB30 Personality - Chapter 3 Notes
Utilitarians argued that this could be accomplished if societies were structured in a more
egalitarian fashion
Behaviorism in all its different forms was steeped in a utilitarian ideology
According to most utilitarians, a great deal of learning occurs through the association of
actions with either positive (pleasurable) or negative (painful) events
The doctrine of associationism claims that various objects and ideas that are contiguous in
time or space come to be connected or associated
Classical conditioning represents one such form of simple learning ( the tone - conditioned
stimulus and the meat - unconditioned stimulus have become associated with each other.
In higher-order conditioning the conditioned stimuli which have obtained their eliciting
power through associations with unconditioned stimuli come to be associated with other
neutral stimuli, which themselves become conditioned stimuli by virtue of the association
ie) a young man may develop an aversion to a particular brand of women's
perfume because that was the perfume his mother wore the summer he broke up
with his girlfriend
higher-order conditioning could also produce emotionally positive associations
ie) if a young man's sister wore the perfume on the day he found out that he
had been named his high school's outstanding student
classical conditioning is a low-level form of learning whereby two stimuli become associated
because they appear together at the same time
Phobias are intense fear responses to particular stimuli - and behavior therapists sometimes
apply principles of classical conditioning to help patients with phobias
A second form of learning is instrumental conditioning or operant conditioning
In operant conditioning, behavior is modified by its consequences

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PSYB30 Personality - Chapter 3 Notes
Positive consequences for a behavior increase the likelihood of its recurrence, thus reinforcing
the association between the behavior and the various stimuli in the environment present at
the time the behavior occurred
Negative consequences decrease the likelihood the behavior will recur, thus weakening
stimulus-response connections
Refer to table 3.1 on page 72
The process of reinforcing closer and closer approximations to a desired behavior in an
attempt to elicit that behavior is called shaping
ie) employ basic principles of reinforcement and punishment to teach animals
to perform complex behaviors
in a controlled lab, during its random activity, when the animal happens to
behave desirably, the experimenter will reinforce it with a reward. This behavior in
theory should increase in frequency
this can be seen in children in grade school - the classroom vs the playground
(being quiet vs playing)
parents rely much too heavily on punishment. Because punishing a response merely alerts
the person to what should NOT be done while providing no example of a constructive
alternative, punishment is generally a rather weak form of behavioral control
parents also underestimate the power of partial reinforcement.
In partial reinforcement a particular response is reinforced intermittently, whereas in
continuous reinforcement the response is reinforced every time it occurs
When behavior is no longer reinforced, extinction might eventually occur - the behavior
decreases in frequency and eventually dies out
Behavior that has been partially reinforced is much more difficult to extinguish than
continuously reinforced behavior
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