Chapter 6Learning 01/28/2014
Learning is any relatively durable change in behavior or knowledge that is due to experience.
Conditioning involves learning connections between events that occur in an organisms environment.
There’s two types of conditioning:
1. Classical Conditioning
classical conditioning is a type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response
that was originally evoked by another stimulus.
This process was first described around 1900 by Ivan Pavlov, also known as the Pavlovian conditioning.
Pavlov’s Demonstration: “psychic reflexes”
Pavlov was studying the role of saliva in the digestive processes of dogs when he stumbled onto what he
called ‘psychic reflexes’.
He noticed that dogs would begin to salivate before the meat powder was presented to the dogs. They
would begin to salivate in response to a clicking sound made by a device that was used to present the
The sound began was a ‘neutral stimulus’ as it did not make the dog salivate, but eventually when sound
and the meat were presented together a couple of times, the dog began to salivate when the sound was
Terminology and Procedures
Pavlov noticed between the meat powder and the salivation was neutral, unlearned association, it did not
have to be created through conditioning.
Unconditioned stimulus(UCS) is a stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response without previous
Unconditioned response(UCR) is an unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without
The link between the tone and salivation was established through conditioning.
The conditioned stimulus(CS) is a previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the
capacity to evoke a conditioned response. The conditioned response(CR) is a learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of
Example: If you cringe when you hear the sound of a dentists drill this response is a result of classical
conditioning. In this case, pain has been paired with the sound of the drill, which became a CS eliciting
Evaluative Conditioning of Attitudes
Evaluative conditioning refers to changes in the liking of a stimulus that result from pairing that stimulus with
other positive or negative stimuli.
A neutral stimulus is paired with unconditioned stimuli that trigger positive reactions so that the neutral
stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that elicits similar positive reactions.
Extinction Weakening Conditioned Responses:
The gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency.
What leads to extinction in classical conditioning?
The consistent presentation of the conditioned stimulus alone , with the unconditioned stimulus.
For example, Pavlov presented only the tone to the conditioned dog, eventually the tone lost its
capacity to elicit the response of salivation.
Spontaneous Recovery: Resurrecting Responses
Some conditioned responses display the ultimate in tenacity by ‘reappearing from the dead’ after having
Spontaneous recovery is the reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of nonexposure to
the conditioned stimulus.
The return of the response may be weaker then it originally was in certain cases.
Renewal effectif a response is extinguished in a different environment than it was acquired, the
extinguished response will reappear if the animal is returned to the original environment where acquisition
Extinction does no appear to lead to unlearning.
Stimulus generalization occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus
responds in the same way to a new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.
The basic law governing generalization is this: The more similar new stimuli are to the original CS, the
greater the generalization.
The strength of the generalization response declines as the similarity between the new stimuli and the
original CS decreases.
The opposite of generalization is discrimination. Which involves not responding to stimuli that resemble the
Stimulus Discrimination Stimulus discrimination is just the opposite of stimulus generalization.
Stimulus discrimination occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus does
not respond in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.
Organisms can gradually learn to discriminate between an original CS and similar stimuli if they have
enough experience with both.
Ex. Lets say your dog responds to the sound of your car pulling into the driveway by wagging its tail. Initially
it will respond to all cars that pull into the driveway. However, if there is a specific sound of your car, your
dog may gradually respond to only your car.
The development of stimulus discrimination usually requires that the original CS(your car) continues to be
paired with the UCS(your arrival) while similar stimuli(other cars) not be paired with the UCS.
The less similar new stimuli are to the original CS, the greater the likelihood of discrimination.
Ex. You condition your dog to salivate in response to the sound of a tone by pairing the tone with meat
powder. Once the tone is firmly established as a CS, you pair the tone with a new stiumulssay red light.
Will the dog salivate to the red light alone?
Yes because it will acquire a capacity to elicit salivation by virtue of being paired with the tone.
Higherorder conditioning in which a conditioned stimulus functions as if it were an unconditioned stimulus.
Higher conditioned involves in two phases:
First, a neutral stimulus(such as a tone) as paired with the unconditioned stimulus(such as meat powder)
until it becomes a conditioned stimulus that elicits the response originally evoked by the UCS( the
Second, another neutral stimulus(such as red light) is paired with the previously established CS, so that it
also acquires the capacity to elicit the response originally evoked by the UCS.
2. Operant Conditioning by skinner
is a form of learning in which responses come to be controlled by their consequences.
Thorndike’s Law of Effect
another name for operant conditioning is ‘instrumental learning’ a term introduced by Thorndike.
He did a study on a hungry cat that was placed in a small cage with food available just outside. The cat
could escape to obtain the food by performing a specific response, such as pulling a wire or depressing a
lever. The cat was rewarded and then put back into the box, he did sever trails to see if the cat would get
out of the box faster then the previous trial. He noticed that there was gradual uneven decline in the time it
took the cat to get out of the cage. The decline showed the cat was learning, but the gradual decline
showed that learning did not depend on thinking and understanding. Showed law of effect.
Law of effect, if a response in the presence of a stimulus leads to satisfying effects, the association
between the stimulus and the response is strengthened. Reinforcement
What is reinforcement and how does it work?
Skinner demonstrated that organisms tend to repeat those responses that are followed by favorable
Reinforcement occurs when an event following a response increases an organism’s tendency to make that
According to skinner, reinforcement occurs when a response is followed by rewarding consequences and
the organism’s tendency to make the response increases.
Like Pavlov, skinner created experimental procedure.
An operant chamber or skinner box is a small enclosure in which an animal can make a specific response
that is recorded while the consequences of the response are systematically controlled.
Reinforcement contingencies are the circumstances or rules that determine whether responses led to the
presentation of reinforces.
A rapid response rate produces a steep slope, whereas a slow response produces a shallow slope.
Acquisition and Shaping
Operant responses are usually established through a gradual process called shaping, which consists of the
reinforcement of closer and closer approximations of desired responses.
Shaping is an important component of Skinner’s research.
Ex. When a rat is first placed in a Skinner box, it may not press the lever at all, in this case, an
experimenter begins shaping by releasing food pellets whenever the rat moves. As this response becomes
more frequent, the experimenter may begin to release food only when the rat touches the lever. As the
reinforcement increases the rat’s tendency to touch the lever increases.
In operant conditioning extinction refers to the gradual weakening of a response tendency because the
response is no longer followed by a reinforce.
Resistance to Extinction occurs when an organisms continues to make a response after delivery of the
reinforce has been terminated.
Operant responding is ultimately controlled by its consequences as organism learn responseoutcome.
Often when response is followed by a reinforce in the presence of particular stimulus, the stimulus comes to
serve as a ‘signal”, indicating that the response is likely to lead to a reinforce.
Ex. A pigeons disk pecking may be reinforced only when a small light behind the disk is lit. When light is
out, pecking does not lead to the reward. Pigeons quickly learn to peck the disk only when it is lit.
Discriminative Stimuli are cues that influence operant behavior by indicating the probable
consequences(reinforcement or nonreinforcement) of a response.
Comparison of Basic Process in Classical and Operant Condition