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Department
Psychology
Course
Psychology 1000
Professor
Dr.Mike
Semester
Winter

Description
Learning: a process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organism’s behaviour or capabilities  Capabilities is “knowing how,” or learning, versus “doing” on a performance ADAPTING TO THE ENVIRONMENT -we encounter changes to our environment, each with unique challenges, but no matter the challenge, we are able to overcome it because learning makes it possible to adapt; learning is a process of personal adaptation HOW DO WE LEARN? -the study of learning proceeds along two different pathways because of two different perspectives on behaviour: 1) Behaviourism: -focus on how organisms learn, examining the processes by which experience influences behaviour -assumes that there are laws of learning that apply to virtually all organisms -tabula rasa: a blank tablet in which learning experiences are inscribed -explain learning solely in terms of directly observable events and avoid speculating about an organism’s unobservable “mental state” -popular in America 2) Ethology: -focuses on animal behaviour within the natural environment; argue that because of evolution, every species comes into the world biologically prepared to act in certain ways -focuses on the functions of behaviour, particularly its adaptive significance (how does behaviour influence an organism’s chances of survival? -fixed action pattern: -an unlearned response automatically triggered by a particular stimuli Ex) the newly hatched herring gull ‘beg’ for food by pecking on a red mark on their parents bill, and at early stages, anything that has the same shape as a bill or is red they will peck 1) Some fixed action patterns can be modified by experience 2) What appeared to be “instinctive” behaviour actually involved learning Ex) bunting birds are “prewired” to navigate by a fixed star, but it had to learn that the north star was that fixed star in our environment -popular in Europe CROSSROADS OF LEARNING: -the environment shapes behaviour in two fundamental ways: (1) Personal adaptation: -occurs through the laws of learning that behaviorists examined -results from our interactions with immediate and past environments (2) Species adaptation: -through the process of evolution, environmental conditions faced by each species help shape its biology -does not occur directly, but through natural selection, genetically based features that enhance a species ability to adapt to the environment, and thus survive and reproduce are more like to be passed on ex) the human brain acquired the capacity to perform psychological functions that enable us to learn -since all organisms face common adaptive challenges, there is a similarity between learning mechanisms All organisms must learn: -which events are or are not important to survival -which stimuli signal that the important event is about to occur -will its response produce positive or negative effects -each species evolutionary history and ecological niche place constraints on the learning that can occur -cognitive psychologists think that learning does involve mental processes (goes against behaviorists) -cross-cultural psychology highlights the vast impact of culture on what we learn HABITUATION: Habituation: the decrease in the strength of a response to a repeated stimulus; the simplest form of learning and it occurs across species -serves a key adaptive function; By learning not to respond to uneventful familiar stimuli, organisms conserve energy and can attend to other stimuli that are important Differs from sensory adaptation: -sensory adaptation: decreased sensory response to a continuously present stimuli (no longer smelling an odour in the room) -habituation: occurs in the central nervous system, not the sensory neurons **you may habituate to a stimulus, but the still available if it becomes relevant CLASSICAL CONDITIONG Classical conditioning: a learning process in which an organism learns to associate two stimuli (a song and a pleasant event), such that one stimulus (a song) comes to produce a response (feeling happy) that was originally produced by the other stimuli (a pleasant event) -unlike habituation, classical conditioning involves learning an association between stimuli PAVLOVS PIONEERING RESEARCH: (1860s, Ivan Pavlov) -to study digestion, he presented various types of food to dogs and measured their natural salivary response  noticed with repeated testing, the dogs began to salivate before the food was presented, such as when they heard to footsteps of the researcher further research: -dogs have a natural reflex to salivate to food but not to tones  yet when a tone or other stimulus that ordinarily did not cause salvation was present just before food was given, the sound of the tone alone soon made the dogs salivate  This came to be classical/pavlovian conditioning: learning by association -was a basic learning process that performs a key adaptive function; alerts organisms to stimuli that signal the impending arrival of an important event BASIC PRINCIPLES: What factors influence the acquisition and persistence of conditioned responses? Acquisition: -the period during which the response is being learned Neutral stimulus: the tone; does not elicit the salivation response -salvation response to food is reflexive (occurs naturally) Unconditioned stimulus (UCS): the food; no learning is required to produce salivation Unconditioned response (UCR): the salvation -The tone and food are paired- each pairing is called a learning trial Conditioned stimulus (CS): the tone; the dog salivates even though there is no food Conditioned response (CR): the salivation NOTE: when the dog salivates this is a conditioned response (natural, unlearned reflex) and an unconditioned response (learned response) -a CS must be paired several times with a UCS to establish a strong CR -when the UCS is strong and aversive (ie. An electrical shock), it will take less CS-UCS pairing before a CR is produced - One-trial (single trial) learning: when it only takes one time CS-UCS pairing can affect conditioning: Forward pairing: Forward short-delay pairing: the CS (tone) appears first and is still present when the UCS (food) appears forward trace pairing: the CS (tone) would come on and off, and afterward the UCS (food) would be presented *in forward pairing, it is optimal for the CS to appear no more than 2-3 seconds before the UCS -has an adaptive value because the CS signals the impeding arrival of the UCS Simultaneous pairing: -presenting the CS and UCS at the same time -produces less rapid conditioning Backward pairing: -the CS is presented after the UCS -learning is slowest or does not occur at all Extinction and Spontaneous recovery: Extinction: eliminating the CR when it is no longer needed -if the CS is presented repeatedly in the absence of the UCS, the CR weakens and eventually disappears -each presentation of the CS without the UCS is an extinction trial -occasional re-pairing of the CS and the UCS are required to maintain a CR -the key ingredient to extinction is not the mere passage of time, but the repeated presentation of the CS without the UCS Spontaneous recovery: the reappearance of a previously extinguished CR after a rest period and without new learning trials -recovered CR is usually weaker than the initial CR and extinguishes more rapidly in the absence of a UCS Ex) Treatment of phobias: require multiple sessions because the CR (ex. fear), may have undergone extinction, but it may reappear. -each set of extinction trials, the CR is weakened and with sufficient extinction training, spontaneous recovery is weak enough that it is not a problem Generalization and Discrimination: Stimulus generalization: -stimuli similar to initial CS elicit a CR; the organism will often respond not only to the original CS, but also to stimuli that are similar to it -the greater the stimulus similarity, the greater the chance that a CR will occur -serves critical adaptive functions Ex) an animal will develop an alarm response to a range of rustling sounds even though it was just the response of one sound that caused it to be attacked… better safe than sorry Discrimination: -organisms must be able to discriminate (differentiate) between different stimuli (distinguish irrelevant sounds from those that may signal danger) -demonstrated when a CR (such as an alarm) occurs to one stimulus (a sound) but not to others Ex) Emily had a phobia against snakes (which was very wide), but not towards other animals Higher Order conditioning: -a neural stimulus becomes a CS after being paired with an already established CS -a higher order CS produces a CR that is weaker and extinguishes more rapidly than the initial CR Ex) Pavlov’s dog example: after the tone is a well known stimulus, one could introduce a new neutral stimulus (such as a black box) which would only cause the dog to salivate once several square-tone pairings are done; now the black box is a new CS APPLICATIONS OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: Acquiring and Overcoming Fear: -behaviorists view that phobias ( a fear for snakes) have become a fear triggering CS due to one-trial pairings with a UCS and stimulus generalization Limitations: almost any explanation can seem plausible when it is after some event occurs Therefore, more research was needed: Ex) an 11-month old was shown and rat and there was no response (neutral), but when there was a loud noise (UCS) it made the child cry (UCR) -after several rat-noise pairings, the child would cry when he saw just a rat -he would also cry when he saw other white-furry objects (stimulus generalization) **if phobias are “learned” they can be “unlearned” Exposure therapies: a way to get rid of a phobia by exposing the patient to the feared CS without any UCS, allowing extinction to occur. How is this done? Ex) systematic desensitization: the patient learns muscular relaxation techniques and then is gradually exposed to the fear-provoking stimulus Ex) flooding: immediately exposes the patient to the phobic stimulus Conditioned Attraction and Aversion: -much of what attracts and pleasurably arouses us is influenced by classical conditioning (ex. pairing neutral odour with pleasing physical massages increases people’s attraction to that smell) Aversion therapy: -attempts to condition an aversion (repulsion) to a stimulus that triggers unwanted behaviour by pairing it with a noxious UCS -ex) treats child molesters by showing pictures of children and pairing them with an electric shock -yields mixed results, often producing short term changes that extinguish overtime -conditioned attraction and aversion plays a role in attitude formation; neutral stimuli acquires favorable or unfavorable meaning (ex. advertising) -conditioning can create unfavorable attitudes towards a CS by pairing the CS with a negative and unpleasant UCS Constraints on learning: -easier to condition fear to some stimuli than others (we are biologically prepared to easily learn to fear stimuli such as height, bats…) -relatively easy to condition and aversion to taste -difficult to condition a similar aversion to visual stimuli OPERANT CONDITIONING Classical conditioning: elicited responses automatically triggered by one stimulus Operant conditioning: emitted (voluntary) responses that are learned in a different way THORNDIKE’S LAW OF EFFECT Edward Thorndike (1898)- How do animals learn to solve problems? -created a puzzle box in which an animal would be placed inside and food would be placed outside; the only way to get the food was for the animal to pull the lever which would open the cage -after trial-and-error the animal would accidentally step on the lever and receive food; after this, their performance would slowly and gradually increase -concluded that animals do not have “insight” but through trial-and-error they eliminate the responses that failed to open the door  Instrumental learning because the animal’s behaviour were instrumental in bringing about certain outcomes Law of Effect: -in a given situation, a response followed by an unsatisfying outcome will become less likely to occur -the foundation for the school of behaviorism SKINNER’S ANALYSIS OF OPERANT CONDITIONG: B.F Skinner Operant behaviour: an organism operates on its environment in some way; it emits responses that produce certain consequences Operant conditioning: -akin to Thorndike’s instrumental learning -a type of learning in which behaviour is influenced by its consequences (learn to increase behaviour that benefits them and reduce behaviour that harms them -a type of “natural selection” that facilitates an organism’s personal adaptation through the environment -Skinner Box: -a special chamber used to study operant conditioning experimentally -on one wall there is a lever that each time a rat would pull it, a food pellet would drop into a small cup Found that: when recording the rat’s behaviour on a cumulative recorder, the rat presses the bar more and more frequently Two Types of Consequences: Reinforcement: -a response is strengthened by the outcome that follows it (an increase in frequency of the response) -reinforcer: the outcome (stimulus or event) that increases the frequency of a response (ex. food pellets) Punishment: -the response is weakened by the outcome that follows it -punisher: a consequence that weakens the behaviour ABCs of Operant Conditioning: Three kinds of events: Antecedents (A): stimuli that are present before behaviour If I say “sit” to a dog Behaviours (B): that the organism emits AND the dog sits Consequences (C): that follow the behaviours THEN the dog gets a treat **the relations between A and B, and between B and C, are called contingencies Key Differences between classical and operant conditioning: 1) Classical conditioning the organism learns an association between two stimuli (CS and UCS)  Occurs before the behaviour Operant conditioning the organism learns an association between behaviour and its consequence  Occurs after behaviour 2) Classical conditioning focuses on elicit behaviours; response is triggered involuntarily (like a reflex) Operant conditioning focuses on emitted behaviours; generates responses under their physical control -some situations may involve both classical and operant conditioning ANTECENDENT CONDITIONS: IDENTIFYING WHEN TO RESPONSD -in operant conditioning, the antecedent may be a general situation or a specific stimulus Discriminative stimulus: a signal that a particular response will now produce certain consequences Ex) raising chalk to the board is operant conditioning; putting your hands to your ears is discriminative Ex) food on your plate is a discriminative stimulus to start eating CONSEQUENCES: DETERMING HOW TO RESPOND Two major types of reinforcement strengthen response, and two major types of punishment weaken them: REINFORCEMENT: Positive Reinforcement: -a response is strengthened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus -positive reinforcer: the stimulus that follows and strengthens the response -often interchanged with “reward”, but positive reinforcement is better because it describes how consequences affect behaviour Primary and Secondary Reinforcers: -Primary Reinforcers: stimuli that an organism naturally finds reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs -Secondary/conditioned Reinforcers: other stimuli can become reinforcers through their association with primary reinforcers -show how behaviour often depends on a combination of classical and operant conditioning Ex) for a dog: correct responses such as sitting are operantly reinforced with food, When delivering food, the words “Good Dog” after repeated pairing with food, the words “good dog” becomes a classically conditioned stimulus Now the phrase “good dog” can be used as a secondary reinforcer instead of always having to carry food Negative Reinforcement: -a response is strengthened by the subsequent removal or avoidance of a stimulus -negative reinforcer: the stimulus that is removed OPERANT EXTINCTION: Operant Extinction: -the weakening and eventual disappearance of a response because it is no longer reinforced; when previously reinforced behaviours no longer pay off -resistance to extinction: the degree to which non-reinforced responses persist Stop quickly = low resistance Keeps occurring = high resistance -provides a good alternative to punishment -involves “time out” which is short for “time out from positive reinforcement” PUNISHMENT: Positive Punishment: -a response is weakened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus (ex. spanking or scolding a child) -also called aversive punishment -often subtle, and produces rapid results -Limitations/ Bad effects: -suppresses behaviour but does not cause the organism to forget how to make the response -may not generalize to other relevant situation -arouses negative emotions -positive physical punishment may set a bad example -psychologists recommend against this form unless there is no other feasible option Negative Punishment: -a response is weakened by the subsequent removal of a stimulus (taking something away that the organism desires) -similar to the “time out” (operant extinction) because both processes weaken behaviour by depriving the individual of some he or she desires  Difference is that operant extinction would take away the specific stimulus (attention) Negative punishment would take away a different stimulus that he desired (TV) Immediate vs. Delayed Consequences: -reinforcement or punishment that occurs immediately after the behaviour has a stronger affect than when it’s delayed -the timing of consequence often has less effect on human behaviour because we are able to imagine future consequences and weigh them against current ones Delay of gratification: the ability to forego an immediate but smaller reward for a delayed but mor
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