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Chapter 7 notes

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Western University
Psychology 1000

Chapter 7 Learning and Adaptation: The Role of Experience Learning: is a process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organism’s behaviour or capabilities (process of personal adaptation to the ever-changing circumstances of our lives). Capabilities: highlights a distinction made by many theorists: “knowing how”, or leaning, versus “doing”, or performance. Habituation and sensitization: involve a change in behaviour that results from repeated exposure to a single stimulus. Classical conditioning: occurs when two stimuli become associated wit each other. Operant conditioning: we learn to associate our responses with specific consequences. Observational learning: we learn by watching others behave. Adapting To The Environment How Do We Learn? The Search For Mechanisms • Interaction with immediate and past environment. • The cognitive perspective, biological factors, and cross-cultural psychology have expanded our understanding of learning. Habituation and Sensitization Habituation: is the decrease in the strength of response to a repeated stimulus. • Key adaptive function • E.g. You do not need to constantly respond to the stimulus of your clothing • Learning not to respond to uneventful familiar stimuli (conserve energy) • Simple form of learning that occurs in the central nervous system • Sensory information is still available if it become relevant Sensitization: increase in the strength of response to a repeated stimulus. • Each time the stimulus reoccurs it elicits a stronger response • Tends to occur to strong or noxious stimuli • Its purpose is to increase responses to a potentially dangerous stimulus Classical Conditioning: Associating One Stimulus With Another Classical conditioning: an organism learns to associate two stimuli, such that one stimulus comes to produce a response that originally was produced only by other stimulus. • Learning an association between stimuli Pavlov’s Pioneering Research • Discovered that with repeated testing, dogs began to salivate before the food was presented, such as when they heard the footsteps of the approaching experimenter. • Dogs have a natural reflex to salivate to food but not to tones. Yet when a tone or other stimulus that ordinarily did not cause salivation was presented just before food powder was squirted directly into a dog’s mouth, the sound of the tone alone soon made the dog salivate (classical conditioning). • Classical conditioning alerts organisms to stimuli that signal the impending arrival of an important event. • If salivation could be continued, so might other bodily processes? Basic Principles Acquisition • Acquisition: refers to the period during which a response is being learned. • Neutral stimulus: does not elicit the salivation response. • Unconditioned stimulus (UCS): a stimulus that elicits a particular reflexive or innate response without prior learning. • Unconditioned response (UCR): a response that is elicited by a specific stimulus without prior learning. • Conditioned stimulus (CS): a neutral stimulus that comes to evoke a conditioned response after being paired with an unconditioned stimulus. • Conditioned response (CR): in classical conditioning, a response to a conditioned stimulus; the CR is established by pairing a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus that evokes a similar response. • Classical conditioning usually is strongest when there are repeated CS-USC pairings, the UCS is more intense, the sequence involves forward pairing, and the time interval between the CS and UCS is short. Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery Extinction: If the CS is presented repeatedly in the absence of the UCS, the CR weakens and eventually disappears. • Extinction trial: each presentation of the CS without the UCS • Not all traces of it are erased Spontaneous recovery: the reappearance of a previously extinguished CR after a rest period and without new learning trials. • Recovered CR is usually weaker than initial CR, and extinguishes more rapidly in the absence of UCS. Generalization and Discrimination • Organisms respond not only the original CS, but also to stimuli similar to it. Stimulus generalization: stimuli similar to the initial SC elicit a CR. • Serves as a critical adaptive function Discrimination: a CR occurs to one stimulus (a sound), but not to others. Higher-Order Conditioning Higher-order conditioning: A neutral stimulus becomes a CS after being paired with an already established CS. • Produces a CR that is weaker and extinguishes more rapidly than the original CR Applications of Classical Conditioning Acquiring and Overcoming Fear • If phobias are learned, they can be “unlearned” • Exposure therapies: basic goasl is to expose the phobic patient to the feared stimulus (CS) without any UCS, allowing the extinction to occur. • Systematic desensitization: patients learn muscular relaxation techniques and then they are gradually exposed to the fear-provoking stimulus. • Flooding: immediately exposes the person to the phobic stimulus. Conditioned Attraction and Aversion • Originally neutral stimuli can trigger sexual arousal after they have been paired with a naturally arousing USC. • Aversion therapy: condition an aversion (repulsion) to a stimulus that triggers unwanted behaviour by pairing it with a noxious UCS. • Neutral stimuli acquire favourable of unfavourable meaning by being paired with other stimuli that already elicit positive or negative attitudes. • We seem to be biologically prepared to easily learn to fear stimuli such as heights, snakes, spiders, and bats. • It is relatively easy to condition an aversion to a taste by pairing a taste and an illness, but it is very difficult to condition a similar aversion to a visual stimulus by pairing a visual cue and an illness. • When a neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with a natural allergen (the UCS), it may become a CS that triggers an allergic CR. Operant Conditioning: Learning Through Consequences • Not elicit responses automatically triggered by some stimulant, but they are emitted (voluntary) responses. Thorndike’s Law of Effect • Puzzle box, that could be opened from the inside by pulling a string or stepping on a lever. • With trial-and-error, they gradually eliminated responses that failed to open the door, and became more likely to perform actions that worked (instrumental learning), • Law of effect: stated that in a given situation, a response followed by a “satisfying” consequence will become more likely to occur, and a response followed by an unsatisfying outcome will become less likely to occur. Skinner’s Analysis of Operant Conditioning Operant behaviour: an organism operates on its environment in some way; it emits responses that produce certain consequences. Operant conditioning: is a type of learning in which behaviour is influenced by its consequences. • Responses that produce favourable consequences tend to be repeated • Responses that produce unfavourable consequences become less likely to occur • Viewed operant conditioning as a type of “natural selection” that facilitates an organism’s personal adaptation to the environment (increase behaviours that benefit them, and reduce behaviours that harm them). • Skinner box: special chamber to study operant conditioning experimentally (a lever on the wall drops a food pellet into a small cup) Two important types of consequences: 1. Reinforcement: a response is strengthened by an outcome that follows it. The outcome that increases the frequency of a response is called a reinforcer. 2. Punishment: occurs when a response is weakened by outcomes that follow it. Punisher is a consequence that weakens the behaviour. ABCs of Operant Conditioning Three (3) kinds of events 1. Antecedents (A): stimuli that are present before behaviour occurs 2. Behaviours (B): that the organism emits 3. Consequences (C): that follow the behaviour *If antecedent stimuli are present, AND behaviour is emitted, THEN consequences will occur. Contingencies: The relations between A and B, and between B and C Key differences between classical and operant conditioning • In classical conditioning, the organism learns an association between two stimuli- the CS and UCS-that occurs before the behaviour. In operant conditioning, the organism learns an association between behaviour and its consequences. Behaviour changes because of events that occur after it. • Classical conditioning focuses on elicited behaviours. The conditioned response is triggered involuntarily, almost like a reflex, by a stimulus that precedes it. Operant conditioning focuses on emitted behaviours: In a given situation, the organism generates responses that are under physical control. Antecedent Conditions: Identifying When To Respond Discriminative stimulus: a signal that a particular response will now produce certain consequences. They “set the occasion” for operant responses. Consequences: Determining How To Respond Positive Reinforcement Positive reinforcement: A response is strengthened by a subsequent presentation of a stimulus. The stimulus that follows and strengthens the response is called a positive reinforcer. Negative reinforcement Negative reinforcement: A response is strengthened by the subsequent removal or avoidance of a stimulus. The stimulus that is removed or avoided is called a negative reinforcer. • Not to be confused with punishment (Reinforcement always means that a response is being strengthened, whereas punishment weakens a response) Operant Extinction Operant extinction: is the weakening and eventual disappearance of a response because it is no longer reinforced. • The degree to which non-reinforced responses persist is called resistance to extinction. o Strongly influenced by the pattern of reinforcement that has previously maintained the behaviour. • Operant extinction often provides a good alternative to punishment as a method for reducing undesirable behaviour. Positive Punishment Positive punishment or aversive punishment: occurs when a response is weakened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus (aversive stimuli: painful slaps, electric shock, verbal reprimands). • Produces rapid results Limitations: • Suppresses the behaviour but does not cause the organism to forget how to make the response (e.g. children refrain from using bad language only when their parents are around) • Punishment arouses negative emotion (fear, anger), which can produce dislike of the person delivering the punishment • Amounts to control by aggression (send the message that aggression is appropriate) Negative Punishment Negative punishment: a response weakened by the subsequent removal of a stimulus (response cost). Two distinct advantages over positive punishment: 1. It is less likely to create strong fear or even hatred of the punishing agent 2. Punishing agent is not modelling physical aggression through imitation Primary and Secondary Consequences Primary reinforcers: are stimuli, such as food and water, that an organism naturally finds reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs. Secondary (conditioned) reinforcers: a stimulus that acquires reinforcing qualities by being associated with a primary reinforcer (e.g. money). • Illustrates how behaviour often depends on a combination of classical and operant conditioning. • A primary consequence has its value because of biological importance. A secondary consequence has its importance because of learning. Immediate versus Delayed Consequences • Immediate punishment has stronger effects than delayed punishment Delay of gratification: the ability to forego an immediate smaller reward for a delayed but more satisfying outcome. • Young children who display less ability to delay gratification show poorer adjustment and have more difficulty coping with stress and frustration when they become adolescents. • May play a role in behaviour such as chronic drinking, smoking, and even criminal acts. • Immediate gratifying consequences override the delayed benefits of not performing the behaviour. Shaping and Chaining: Taking One Step At A Time Shaping: reinforcing successive approximations toward a final response (method of successive approximations). Chaining: is used to develop a sequence (chain) of responses by reinforcing each response with the opportunity to perform the next response. • Chaining usually beings with the final response in the sequence and works backwards toward the first response. Generalization and Discrimination • Operant responses may generalize to similar antecedent situations Operant generalization: an operant response occurs to a new antecedent stimulus or situation that is similar to the original one. Operant discrimination: means that an operant response will occur to one antecedent stimulus (parents’ presence or absence) but not to another. • When antecedent stimuli influence behaviour, that behaviour is said to be under stimulus control. • Operant discrimination training: teach an organism that making a response when a discriminative stimulus is present produces food or some other positive consequence. Schedules of Reinforcement Continuous reinforcement schedule: every response of a particular type is reinforced. Partial reinforcement: only some responses are reinforced. Two dimensions: 1. Ratio versus interval schedules • Ratio schedules o A certain percentage of responses is reinforced • Interval schedules o A certain amount of time must elapse between reinforcements, regardless of how many correct responses might occur during
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