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10 Apr 2012

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Chapter 6: Learning
- Phobias
oIrrational fears of specific objects or situations
oOften the result of another learning process termed classical conditioning
oRelatively common
- Learning
oRefers to a relatively durable change in behaviour of knowledge that is due to experience
oOne of the most fundamental concepts in all of psychology
oLearning includes the acquisition of knowledge and skills but it also shapes personal habits,
personality traits, emotional responses, and personal preferences
oMuch of your behaviour is the result of learning
oNot exclusively human process—most organisms are capable of learning
- Conditioning
oInvolves learning associations between events that occur in an organism’s environment
Classical Conditioning
- Classical conditioning
oA type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was
originally evoked by another stimulus
oThe process was first described around 1900 by Ivan Pavlov
Sometimes called Pavolian conditioning in tribute to him
Pavlov’s Demonstration: “Psychic Reflexes
- Pavlov was studying the role of saliva in the digestive process of dogs when he stumbled onto what
he called “psychic reflexes
- His subjects were dogs restrained in harness in an experimental chamber
- Their saliva was collected by means of a surgically implanted tube in the salivary gland
- Pavlov would present meat powder to a dog and then collect the resulting saliva
-FINDINGS: Dogs accustomed to the procedure would start salivating before the meat powder was
presented—they would salivate in response to a clicking sound made by the device that was used to
present the meat powder
- To clarify what was happening, he paired the presentation of the meat powder with various stimuli
that would stand out in the laboratory situation
oHe used a simple auditory stimulus—the presentation of a tone
oAfter the tone and the meat powder had been presented together a number of times, the tone
was presented alone
oResult: the dogs responded by salivating to the sound of the tone alone
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-Significance: tone started out as a neutral stimulus
It did not originally produce the response of salivation
By pairing tone with a stimulus (meat powder) it produced the salivation response
Pavlov demonstrated how learned associations—basic building blocks of the entire
learning process—were formed by events in an organism’s environment
Terminology and Procedures
- Unconditioned stimulus (UCS)
oA stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response without previous conditioning
- Unconditioned response (UCR)
oAn unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without previous conditioning
- The bond Pavlov noted between meat powder and salivation was a natural, unlearned association
oIt did not have to be created through conditioning
Thus it’s called an unconditioned association
- The link between the tone and salivation was established through conditioning
oThus it’s called a conditioned association
- Conditioned stimulus (CS)
oA previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a
conditioned response
- Conditioned response (CR)
oA learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of previous conditioning
oTraditionally been characterized as reflexes that are said to be elicited (drawn forth) because
most of them are relatively automatic or involuntary
-Pavlov’s “psychic reflex” came to be called the conditioned reflex
- A trial in classical conditioning
oConsists of any presentation of a stimulus or pair of stimuli
-Although classical conditioning generally proceeds gradually, it can occur quite rapidly, sometimes in
just one pairing of the CS and UCS
Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life
- Laboratory experiments on classical conditioning typically include simple responses such as
salivation, eyelid closure, knee jerks, the flexing of various limbs, and fear responses
- Classical conditioning often plays a key role in shaping emotional responses such as fears
oE.g. phobias
- Real life example:
oAdvertisers frequently pair their products with attractive or well-known people in an attempt
to elicit positive reactions and positive decisions (I.e., buy the product) on the part of the
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oPuppies and cute children are also popular stimuli used in advertisements designed to
promote positive associations with their product
Conditioning and Physiological Responses
- Research has revealed that the functioning of the immune system can be influenced by psychological
factors, including conditioning
- Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen
oShowed that classical conditioning procedures can lead to immunosuppression—a decrease in
the production of antibodies (disease fighting agents)
- Classical conditioning can
oelicit allergic reactions
oinfluence sexual arousal
quail can be conditioned to become sexually aroused by a neutral, nonsexual stimulus
—such as a red light—that has been paired with opportunities to copulate
conditioned stimuli can even elicit increased sperm release in male quail—evolutionary
-Classical conditioning also contributes to the growth of drug tolerance and the experience of
withdrawal symptoms when drug use is halted
Conditioning and Drug Effects
- Drug tolerance
oInvolves a gradual decline in responsiveness to a drug with repeated use, so that larger and
larger doses are required to attain the user`s customary effect
- Shepard Siegel
oDemonstrates that classical conditioning also contributes to drug tolerance
oStimuli that are consistently paired with the administration of drugs can acquire the capacity
to elicit conditioned responses in both humans and laboratory animals
oIn many instances, the conditioned responses are physiological reactions that are just the
opposite of the normal effects of the drugs
oThese opposite responses—the result of conditioning with narcotics, stimulants, and alcohol—
are called compensatory CRs because they partially compensate for some drug effects
Compensatory CRs help to maintain homeostasis (internal balance) in physiological
oMost drug users have routines that lead to the consistent pairing of drug administration and
certain stimuli (such as syringes, cocaine bottles, specific settings and rituals)
oAccording to Siegel
These environmental cues eventually begin to elicit compensatory CRs that partially
cancel out some of the anticipated effects of abused drugs
As these compensatory CRs strengthen, they neutralize more and more of a drug’s
pleasurable effects
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