PS102- Lecture 1, 2, 3 & 4 1/8/2013 11:15:00 AM
Chapter 7: Learning and Conditioning
Basics of Learning:
o A relatively permanent change in behaviour (or behavioural potential) due to
o Approach that emphasizes the study of observable behaviour and the role of the
environment as a determinant of behaviour
o Environment determines your behaviour
o Basic kind of leaning that involves associations between environmental stimuli and the
o Reward and punishment
Why would a dog salivate when it hears a buzzer?
how can classical conditioning explain prejudice?
If you were attacked by a terrier why might you also be afraid of Labrador Retrievers?
Process by which previously neutral stimulus acquires the capability to elicit a response through
association with a stimulus that already elicits a similar or related response.
Pavlov’s works with salivation in dogs led to discovery of leaning principles.
He was not a psychologist, he was a physiologist.
Reflexes and reflexology.
o Dogs would salivate without the food.
You need an unconditioned stimulus and an unconditioned response in order for conditioning to
Unconditioned stimulus (US)
o A stimulus that elicits a reflexive response in the absence of learning. (e.g. food)
Unconditioned response (UR)
o Reflexive response elicit by a
Stimulus in the absence of
Learning (e.g. salivation of the dog)
Neutral stimulus o Stimulus that does not yet produce a response
o Regularly paired with unconditioned stimulus
o Neutral stimulus becomes “;conditioned” to elicit a response.
Conditioned stimulus (CS)
o An initially neutral stimulus that comes to elicit a conditioned response after being
associated with an unconditioned stimulus (e.g. food bowl)
Conditioned Response (CR)
o A response that it elicited by a conditioned stimulus; occurs after the CS is associated
with the US (e.g. salivation)
We’ve learned about the CS
Learned response from pairing neutral stimulus with unconditioned stimulus
This results in a Conditioned Response
A CR is the same as the unconditioned response to the neutral stimulus
E.g. drooling; drool because of food (UR) or drool because of a bell (CR)
Principles of Classical conditioning:
o A conditioned response doesn’t last forever
o Extinction is the term for the weakening and eventual disappearance of a learned
o Occurs when the CS is no longer pairs with the US
o May experience spontaneous recovery of response after extinction.
o A procedure in which a neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus through
association with an already established conditioned stimulus.
o Higher-order conditioning may be a reason why some words evoke strong emotions
Words are neutral stimuli
Birthday can evoke a positive response from a child because its often paired
o May also explain prejudices
Pair words with a negative meaning (dumb, dirty) with a name for a group of
people and eventually a negative response to the group of people may be
o Tendency to response to a stimulus that resembles one involved in original conditioning o Occurs when a stimulus that resembles the CS elicits the CR.
o Tendency to respond differently to two or more similar stimuli
o Occurs when a stimulus similar to the CS fails to evoke the CR.
What is actually learned?
Classical conditioning is more effective when stimulus to be conditioned precede the
Conditioned stimulus becomes a signal for the unconditioned stimulus
To become a CS, a neutral stimulus must reliably signal or predict the US (Rescorla)
Classical conditioning in real life:
Learning to like:
o Classical conditioning involved in our positive emotional responses to objects, people,
symbols, events and places.
Learning to fear:
o May learn to fear any stimulus that is paired with something that elicits pain, surprise or
o Humans come biologically “prepared” to learn certain fears faster than others
E.g. snakes, spiders, heights
o Easier to condition fears to these things then non threatening stimuli.
o Phobias: an exaggerated unrealistic fear of a specific situation, activity, or object.
Accounting for Taste:
o Classical conditioning can explain how we learn to like and dislike many foods and
o Researchers have taught animals to dislike foods/odours by pairing them with drugs
that cause nausea or other unpleasant symptoms.
The Pen Study:
Presented students with Star Wars theme or Indian music and a pen hat was either blue or beige
After they were asked to choose a pen; star wars chose the same colour pen paired with the
music, Indian listeners chose a different coloured pen.
Music US evoking positive or negative UR; pens became stimuli linked to the same responses
This is why pairing or pleasurable music or scenes occurs in advertising. The Case of Little Albert:
Classic Watson & Rayner (1920) experiment
Conditioned “Little Albert” to be afraid of white rats by pairing the neutral stimulus (rats) with
an unconditioned stimulus (loud noises)
Days later, fear had also generalized to other furry objects.
The Case of Peter:
Jones (1924) and Watson demonstrated that fears can also be unlearned (e.g. Peter’s fear of
Counterconditioning: process of pairing a conditioned stimulus with a stimulus that elicits a
response that is incompatible with an unwanted conditioned response.
Biology and Classical Conditioning
Hungry participants respond faster to images associated with pleasant food odors
o fMRI suggests increased activity in brain areas involved in motivation and emotion
Conditioned fear involved receptor in the amygdala (ah-mag-da-la).
o Glutamate blockers inhibit far response
Startle response may be associated with a gene associated with reactivity in the amygdala.
A drug for Extinction:
Glutamate enhanced extinction… Give a drug that increases glutamate and extinction is faster.
It has you associate a neutral, rather than a feared response to the conditioned stimulus.
Operant (instrumental) conditioning:
The process by which a response becomes more likely to occur or less so, depending on its
Organism’s response operates or produces effects on the environment with influence whether
response will occur again
Principles of Thorndike and B.F. Skinner.
Behaviour becomes more encouraged when it is reinforced. Behaviour is less likely of occur
when the person is punished for bad behaviour.
Like everything else, research in psychology I the result of social and cultural context. In the early 20 century, the new psychologists wanted to gain legitimacy in the scientific
Lots of social unrests; wars, urbanization, poor workers in bad working conditions.
Put cats in puzzle boxes and watch them escape through trial and error
Thorndike suggested that the knowledge was “stamped in” to the cat when the cat got the food
Learning was the result of the consequences of an action
o Increase behaviour when consequences were positive.
B.F. Skinner took Thorndike’s ideas one step further Thorndike talked about whether the
organism liked/disliked the outcome
Skinner thought that this was not necessary… you determine liked/disliked/ from what the
o If behaviour was repeated you could then infer the organism liked the outcome.
o Liked was reinforcement
o Disliked was punishment.
The cat/stove example
Food is reinforce
Being burned is a punishment
All reinforcers increase behaviour (or they aren’t really reinforcers)
All punishments decrease behaviours (or they aren’t really punishments)
Reinforcement and Punishment:
o The process by which a stimulus or event strengthens or increases the probability of the
response that it follows
o The process by which a stimulus or event weakens or reduces the probability of the
Primary and Secondary Consequences:
Primary reinforcer: o Stimulus that is inherently reinforcing, typically satisfying a physiological need (e.g.
o Stimulus that has acquired reinforcing propertied through association with other
reinforcers (e.g. money, praise)
o Stimulus that in inherently punishing (e.g. electric shock, withholding food)
o Stimulus that has acquired punishing propertied though association with other
punishers (e.g. criticism)
Positive an Negative Reinforcement:
All reinforcement increases behaviour
o When a response is followed by the presentation or increase in intensity of a reinforcing
stimulus; response becomes more likely to occur.
o You giving something to them
o Hen a response is followed by the removal, delay, or decrease in intensity of an
unpleasant stimulus; response becomes more likely to occur.
o Taking something away that they don’t like
o Not a bad thing
o “if I do my homework right now, I get out of shoveling the driveway”
o they will be more likely to do that behaviour in the future.
o Bringing an umbrella when it is raining.
Positive and Negative Punishment:
All punishment decreases behaviour
o When a response if followed by the presentation or increase in intensity of an
unpleasant stimulus; response becomes less likely to occur
o Spanking a child after it does something bad
o Being put on academic probation
o When a response is followed by the removal, delay, or decrease in intensity of a pleasant
stimulus; response becomes less likely to occur. o Suspending your license
o Being grounded
o Taking away a privilege
o Being let off of academic probation
Positive reinforer: good grade
Result: studying increases
Negative reinforcer: nagging ceases
Positive punishment: ridicule by friends
Negative punishment: loss of time with friends
Principles of Operant Conditioning:
Paradigms often used a Skinner Box
o A cage equipped with a device that delivers food into a dish when an animal makes a
Schedules of Reinforcement
Continuous schedule of reinforcement:
o A schedule where a particular response is always reinforced
The rat would hit the lever and get the water
Intermittent (partial) schedule of reinforcement
o A schedule (reward/punishment) in which a particular response in sometimes but not
o Can be fixed or variable, and involve the number of responses (ratio) or interval
Always the same between reinforcer and reinforcer
Every 7 minutes, the rat gets the sugar water (interval)
Every & trails, the rat gets the water (ratio)
Random. o They can see this based on the number of responses (ratio schedule)
o Or they can see this based on time (interval)
Lower resistance to extinction
Higher ratios generate higher response rates
Short pause after reinforcement
Lower resistance to extinction
Shorter intervals generate higher rates over all.
Long pause after reinforcement yields “scalloping” effect.
Higher resistance to extinction
High steady rate without pauses.
Generalization and Discrimination:
o Textbook has good technical definition
o Reinforced for responding to red light responding to any colour light
o Punished after hearing tone avoiding all tones
o We may generalize at first but quickly learn to discriminate if only one specific stimulus
is rewarded or punished
o May involve a discriminative stimulus
When behaviours are not likely to occur spontaneously, may use shaping to teach to others (e.g.
animals and children)
o An operant conditioning procedure in which successive approximations of a desired
response are reinforced
o Start by reinforcing when the child’s diaper is dry after a nap, then reinforce throughout
potty training stages.