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Psych1000- Chapter 7 Learning and Adaptation.docx

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Western University
Psychology 1000
Erica Lawson

Chapter 7 Learning and Adaptation The Role of ExperienceLearning is the process by which experience produces relatively enduring change in an organisms behaviour or capabilities Measure learning by actual changes in performanceAdapting to the environmentLearning makes to possible for us to adapt to changesLearning as a process of personal adaptation to the ever changing circumstances of our lives How do we learn The search for mechanismsLearning was guided by two different perspectives on behavior behaviourism and ethnology for a long time Behaviorists focused on how organisms learn examining the processes by which experience influences behavior Assumed that there are laws of learning that apply to all organismsTreated organism as a tabula rasa or blank tablet upon which learning experiences were inscribed Most of research done in lab settings with nonhuman speciesExplained learning solely in terms of directly observable events Behaviourists explained learning solely in terms of directly observable events and avoided speculating about an organisms unobservable mental stateWhy do we learn The search for functionsEthology arose within the discipline of biology in EuropeEthology focused on animal behavior within the natural environmentView organism as anything but a blank tablet arguing that because of evolution every species comes into the world biologically prepared to act in certain ways Focused on functions of behavior in its adaptive significance how does a behavior influence an organisms chances for survival and reproduction in its natural environmentA new born herring gull chick will peck most frequently at objects that are long and have red markings even if they are inanimate models or do not look like an adult gulls billThis fixed action pattern is present from birth and does not require learningThe stimuli that trigger a fixed action pattern are called releaser stimuliFixed action pattern an unlearned response automatically triggered by a particular stimulus As ethological research grew it was discovered that o 1 Some fixed action patterns could be modified by experience o 2 In many cases what appeared to be instinctive behavior actually involved learning Ethnologists noted what they learned in order to surviveExperiment was done called indigo bunting to see if birds instinctively knew where north is If they did the north star would seem to be a fixed action patternThey were raised in a planetarium one with a true sky and one with a false sky The buntings raised with a true sky moved away from the North Star but the other groups moved away from the false stationary star indicating that environmental changes could modify the buntings navigational behaviour Conclusion bunting is genetically prewired to navigate by a fixed star but it has to learn which specific star is stationary through observation and experience Crossroads of learning biology cognition and cultureBehaviourism and ethology have converged in recent decades reminding us that environment shapes behavior in two ways o Personal adaptation o Species adaptation Personal adaptation occurs through the laws of learning that the behaviourists examined and it results from our interactions with immediate and past environments o Going on a date driving etcThe environment also plays a role in species adaptation Environmental conditions faced by each species help shape its biology Learned behaviours are not passed down genetically from one generation to the nextThrough natural selection genetically based features that enhance ability to adapt to the environment survive and reproduce are more likely to be passed on to the next generation The ability to learn is a powerful tool Species that learn have the potential to adapt to changing environmental conditions or expand into new and different environments Although the learned behaviours themselves are not passed across generations by the genes the ability to learn isThe brain structure and function that allows learning are under genetic controlHuman brain acquired the capacity to perform psychological functions that have adaptive values and enable us to learn We have become prewired to learn Every organisms environment is full of events and the organism must learn o Which events are or are not important to survival and wellbeing o Which stimuli signal that an important event is about to occur o Whether its responses will produce positive or negative consequences The resurgence of the cognitive perspective and emergence of cross cultural psychology also have expanded our understand and have challenged the behaviourist assumption that learning does not involve mental processesCross cultural highlights the impact of culture on what we learn from customs to our basic perceptions HabituationHabituation is a decrease in the strength of response to a repeated stimulus May be simplest form of learningIt serves a key adaptive functionIf an organism responded to every stimulus in its environment it would rapidly become overwhelmed and exhausted By learning not to respond organisms conserve energy and can attend to other stimuli Also plays an important role in enabling scientists to study behavior It is different than sensory adaptation which refers to a decreased sensory response to a continuously present stimulus Habituation is a simple form of learning that occurs within the central nervous system
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