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10 Apr 2012
Ch. 6 Learning (cont’d from pg. 256)
Positive Reinforcement versus Negative Reinforcement
Skinner says that there are 2 types of reinforcement: Positive reinforcement occurs when a response is
strengthened b/c it is followed by the presentation of a rewarding stimulus. Negative reinforcement
occurs when a response is strengthened b/c it is followed by the removal of an aversion (unpleasant)
Negative Reinforcement and Avoidance Behaviour
Escape Learning
Roots of avoidance lie in escape learning
Escape learning: where an organism acquires a response that decreases or ends some aversive
Ex. leaving a party where you were getting picked on by your peers, turning on the AC to get rid of
Avoidance Learning
Def: where an organism acquires a response that prevents some aversive stimulation from occurring
Ex. avoiding parties b/c you were concerned about being picked on
In ~, a fear response is acquired through classical conditioning and an avoidance response is
maintained by operant conditioning. Explains why phobias are so hard to get rid of; avoidant
responses earn negative reinforcement each time they’re made, thus strengthening the avoidant
behaviour the avoidant responses prevent any opportunity to extinguish the phobic response b/c
you’re never exposed to the conditioned stimulus (the source of fear, ie. Small spaces for ppl w/
Punishment: Consequences That Weaken Responses
Def: occurs when an event following a response weakens the tendency to make that response. Opposite
procedure of negative reinforcement that yields opposite effects on behaviour. Ex. disciplinary procedures,
being mocked by peers for wearing a new outfit
Side Effects of Physical Punishment
Gershoff concluded that physical punishment is associated with aggressiveness, criminal behaviour
etc., but critics point out that she doesn’t differentiate b/w infrequent spanking and child abuse; also,
perhaps aggressive children simply receive more physical punishment, rather than that the latter
encourages the former
How to make punishments more effective:
(1) Apply punishment swiftly – a delay in delivering punishment lessens its impact.
(2) Use punishment just severe enough to be effective – this also decreases the likelihood of
undesirable side effects, in comparison to very severe punishments.
(3) Make punishment consistent – inconsistency creates more confusion than learning.
(4) Explain the punishment – the more children understand why they were punished, the more
effective the punishment tends to be.
(5) Use noncorporal punishments, such as withdrawal of privileges – corporal punishments isn’t felt by
a child an hour later, but withdrawing valued privileges can give children hours to contemplate the
behaviour that got them into trouble.
Changing Directions in the Study of Conditioning
Recognizing Biological Constraints on Conditioning
There are limits to the generality of conditioning principles – limits imposed by an organism’s biological
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