PSY260H1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Loudspeaker, Somatosensory System, Classical Conditioning

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16 Oct 2011
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Lecture Four
Today we are talking about associative types of learning. Think back to first lecture when we
introduced the concept of learning by taking a look at the definitions we accept for learning and
for conditioning. There are certain examples of conditioning that filled the definition we
generally hold for learning. So the question is whether or not there is really a difference between
these two concepts and terms.
The difference between learning and conditioning becomes an operational one. Conditioning is
any sort of change that occurs which reflects the experience that something has had. We can look
at synapses and the like for examples of this. Could we potentially use the definition of learning
and apply it to these things (a cardiovascular system that has learned, for example)? Learning is a
change in a system (a neural or behavioural one) that reflects the experience that system has had.
So would you call conditioning of the cardiovascular system as learning? Or would a synapse
change be considered learning? In most cases, probably not even though "learning" is defined as
a change through experience. This is where the debate lies and at this point we consider that
there is simple gray area between learning and conditioning.
What IS non-associative learning though?
Non associative learning usually refer’s to conditioning. Think about things that you do that don't
require associations to be made (in time, in space). A change still occurs however, because it is
necessary and the organism is adapting. This is known as conditioning. Sometimes it is also
called learning.
What are associative types of learning or conditioning?
Associative types of conditioning or “learning” are defined operationally as something that we
can use and recall. We learn something because we can recall a time when we have learned it.
We have a sense of change within us. Can we, for example, look within ourselves and say that
the cardiovascular system has “learned”. Do we recall a time when it has learned? Do we feel a
sense of change? Can we use and recall this change in the cardiovascular system? Probably not
seeing as it has simply been conditioned (to deal with the bodies’ new "environment").
So, when we look at something through its operation we have an intuitive sense of what learning
and conditioning is; even though the definitions in the book kind of overlap the two.
What is conditioning (in the classical sense)?
Conditioning begins early on in utero. Learning is going to start soon afterwards. This is a time
when the nervous system is developing and the “blank slate” is trying to understand what is
important to perceive in the world and what background noise is. We are built to acquire
information of the outside word while not living in the outside world.
How does associative or classical conditioning relate to Pavlovian conditioning?
Associative/classical conditioning is the same as Pavlovian conditioning. It is also technically a
part of operant conditioning (if you look close enough).
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