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Psychology 1000
Laura Fazakas- De Hoog

Chapter 7 – Learning and Adaptation: Role of Experience  Learning – process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organism’s behaviour or capabilities Adapting to the Environment  Behaviourists focus on how organisms learn, examining the processes by which the experience influences behaviour  Ethology focuses on the functions of behaviour o Adaptive significance – how behaviour influences an organism’s chances for survival o Fixed action pattern – unlearned response automatically triggered by a particular stimulus  Environment shapes behaviour in two fundamental ways: o Personal adaptation (behaviorists) – behaviour is influenced by immediate environment and by capabilities that have been acquired through experience o Species adaptation (ethology) – genetically based features that enhance a species’ ability to adapt to the environment are more likely to be passed on to future generations  Habituation – decrease in strength of response to repeated stimulus o Occurs across nearly all species o Allows organisms to conserve energy by not responding to every stimulus in environment o Occurs within central nervous system, not within sensory neurons (like sensory adaptation) Classical Conditioning  Classical conditioning – learning to associate two stimuli such that one stimulus comes to produce a response that originally was only produced by the other stimulus  Pavlov discovered that when a stimulus is associated with food, dogs will learn to associate the stimulus with food, and will salivate o Before conditioning:  Tone  No salivation  Food (UCS)  Salivation (UCR) o During conditioning:  Tone (CS) + Food (UCS)  Salivation (UCR) o After conditioning:  Tone (CS)  Salivation (CR) Basic principles of classical conditioning  Acquisition o Period during which a response is being learned o CS is paired with UCS to establish a strong CR o Fastest: forward trace pairing (CS appears before UCS) o Slower: simultaneous pairing (CS appears with UCS) o Slowest: backward pairing (CS appears after UCS) o Generally strongest when repeated pairings, intense UCS, and sequence involves forward pairing with a short break between CS and UCS  Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery o Extinction - if CS is presented repeatedly without UCS, CR will weaken and disappear  Repeated extinction trials will speed up extinction o Spontaneous discovery – reappearance of a previously extinguished CR after a rest period, without new learning trials  CR from spontaneous recovery is usually weaker  Extinction occurs more rapidly  Generalization and Discrimination o Stimulus generalization - once CR is acquired, organism will respond to other stimuli that are similar to original CS  Greater chance for CR in more similar CS o Discrimination – when a CR occurs to one stimulus, but not to others  Higher-Order Conditioning o Higher-order conditioning – a neutral stimulus becomes a CS after paired with another CS (rather than the original UCS)  Typically, the new CS is weaker and extinguishes sooner Applications of classical conditioning  Acquiring and Overcoming Fear o Most fears are conditioned o Exposure therapy – technique designed to extinguish anxiety responses by exposing clients to anxiety-arousing stimuli or situations, allowing extinction to occur o Systematic desensitization – patient learns relaxation techniques and then is gradually exposed to the fear-provoking stimulus o Flooding – immediately exposes the person to the phobic stimulus  Conditioned Attraction and Aversion: o Aversion therapy – attempts to condition an aversion to a stimulus that triggers unwanted behaviour by pairing it with a harmful UCS Operant Conditioning  Operant conditioning – type of learning in which behaviour is influenced by its consequences  Law of Effect (Thorndike) – in a given situation, a response followed by an unsatisfying outcome will become less likely to occur  B. F. Skinner viewed operant conditioning as form of natural selection that facilitates personal adaptation o Skinner box – box with lever that, if pulled, drops food into cup o Skinner found that rat will press bar more frequently over time  Several important types of consequences: o Reinforcement – response is strengthened by an outcome that follows it  Caused by reinforcer (such as food) o Punishment – response is weakened by an outcome that follows it  Caused by punisher (electric shock)  Skinner’s analysis of operant behaviour involves three events o Antecedents – stimuli prevented before behaviour occurs o Behaviours – behaviour that the organism emits o Consequences – what follows the behaviour  Discriminative stimulus – signal that a particular response will produce certain consequences (e.g. a light that would signal the rat to pull the lever, but if no light was on, no food would come out) Consequences  Positive reinforcement – a response is strengthened by the presentation of a stimulus (positive reinforcer) o Primary reinforcer – stimuli that an organism finds reinforcing due to biological needs (e.g. water or food) o Secondary/Conditioned reinforcer – stimuli that acquires reinforcing qualities by being associated with a primary reinforcer (e.g. money)  Negative reinforcement – a response is strengthened by the removal or avoidance of a stimulus (negative reinforcer)  Operant extinction – the weakening and eventual disappearance of a response because it is no longer reinforced o Resistance to extinction notes the
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