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Chapter 6

Chapter 6 - Learning

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 1001
Professor
Elaine Waddington Lamont
Semester
Winter

Description
Chapter 6 - Learning ● Learning - Is any relatively durable change in behaviour or knowledge that is due to experience ● Superstitions are often the result of obtaining a reward after engaging in some behaviour ○ Type of learning known as operant conditioning ● Phobias - Intense fears such as flying, snakes, etc ○ Often result of classical conditioning ○ Phobias can be treated but also sometimes come to an abrupt end on their own ● Learning is not just a human process, it is pervasive in the animal kingdom ○ ex. training a dog ● The principles that explain learned responses in animals explain much of human learning ● Conditioning - Involves learning connections between events that occur in an organism’s environment ● Classical Conditioning - Is a type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another experience ○ Described around 1900 by Ivan Pavlov, thus often called Pavlovian Conditioning ○ Pavlov’s Demonstration: “Psychic Reflexes” ■ Pavlov changed psychology research from research focussing on subjective accounts of experience, introspection, to a more objective, rigorous, scientific approach ■ Why studying saliva in the digestion of dogs, he came across what he called “psychic reflexes”. He was conducting an experiment where he presented meat powder to dogs, and collected the resulting saliva, he noticed that dogs accustomed to the procedure would start salivating before the meat powder was presented ■ Studied further and found pairing a tone with the meat powder, after a while the dog would start salivating just from the tone ■ The tone started out as a neutral stimulus. That is, it did not originally produce the salivation response, but Pavlov changed it by pairing it with meat powder ■ Learned associations are formed by events in an organism’s environment ○ Terminology and Procedures ■ Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) - A stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response without previous conditioning ■ Unconditioned Response (UCR) - An unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without previous conditioning ■ Unconditioned association at this point ■ When link between stimulus and response is established it is called conditioned association ■ Conditioned Stimulus (CS) - A previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a conditioned response ■ Conditioned Response (CR) - A learned response to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of previous conditioning ■ The unconditioned response and conditioned response often consist of the same behaviour but there might be a subtle difference between them ● Ex. in Pavlov’s experiment, the UCR and CR were salivation ■ Pavlov’s “psychic reflex” came to be called the conditioned reflex ■ Conditioned responses are said to be elicited (drawn forth) because most are automatic or involuntary ■ A trial in classical conditioning consists of any presentation of a stimulus or pair of stimuli ■ Number of trials needed to form an association varies ○ Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life ■ Conditioned Fear and Anxiety ● Many irrational fears/phobias can be traced back to experiences that involve classical conditioning ● Ex. Cringing (CR) at the sound of a dentist drill (CS) because it is paired with the pain experienced ■ 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 ○ Involves acquiring likes, dislikes, or preferences through classical conditioning ○ Ex. Pleasant music paired with an unknown brand of root beer resulted in the person liking the drink more ● Evaluative conditioning can shape people’s attitudes ■ Conditioning and Physiological Responses ● The functioning of the immune system can be influenced by psychological factors including conditioning ○ Body release antibodies when infectious agent enters body ● Immunosuppression - A decrease in the production of antibodies ○ Can result from classical conditioning ● Classical conditioning can elicit allergic reactions, grow drug tolerance, and influence sexual arousal ■ Conditioning and Drug Effects ● Research shows that classical conditioning contributes to drug tolerance ● Stimuli that are consistently paired with the administration of drugs can acquire the capacity to elicit conditioned responses ● The conditioned responses are physiological reactions that are the opposite of the normal effects of the drugs ○ Seen as result of conditioning with narcotics, stimulants, and alcohol and are called compensatory CRs because they partially compensate for some drug effects ■ Help maintain homeostasis (internal balance) ■ Neutralize more and more of the drugs pleasurable effects, increasing tolerance ○ Counterbalance some potentially dangerous effects of drug ● If the drug is taken in a new way or in a new setting, the usual compensatory CRs may not occur, eliminating counterbalancing effects and causing drug to have stronger impact than normal ● Compensatory CRs also lead the drug craving making it hard to quit and easy to relapse ○ Basic Processes in Classical Conditioning ■ Acquisition: Forming new responses ● Acquisition - Initial stage of learning something ● Pavlov theorized that the acquisition of a conditioned response depends on stimulus contiguity (together in time and space) ● Stimuli that are novel, unusual, or more intense, have more potential to become CSs than routine stimuli (stand out more) ■ Extinction: Weakening conditioned responses ● Extinction - Gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency ● Time it takes to extinguish a conditioned response varies based on a number of factors, but particularly the strength of the conditioned bond when extinction begins ● Some extinguish quickly while others are more difficult to weaken ■ Spontaneous Recovery: Resurrecting Responses ● Spontaneous Recovery - Reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of nonexposure to the conditioned stimulus ● Renewal Effect - If 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 took place ● Extinction suppresses a conditioned response rather than erasing a learned association ■ Stimulus Generalization and the Mysterious Case of Little Albert ● Stimulus Generalization - An organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus responds in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus ● The more similar new stimuli are to the original CS, the greater the generalization ● Contribute to the development of panic disorder ● John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner made a little boy fear a white rat by hitting a loud gong while exposing the boy to the rat. The youngster showed fear when exposed to other white and furry stimuli ■ Stimulus Discrimination ● Stimulus Discrimination - An organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus does not respond in the same way to new stimuli that are original to the new stimulus ● Opposite of stimulus generalization ● Organisms can discriminate between original stimulus and a new stimulus if they have experience with both ● The less similar new stimuli are to the original CS, the greater the likelihood of discrimination ○ If 2 stimuli are very similar, it is difficult to discriminate ■ Higher-Order Conditioning ● Higher-Order Conditioning - A conditioned stimulus functions as if it were an unconditioned stimulus ● Shows classical conditioning does not depend on a genuine, natural UCS. An already established CS will do just fine ● Ex. In Pavlov’s experiment, once conditioning has occurred and the tone reliably elicits salivation, the tone itself can be paired with another stimulus such as a red light, and eventually the light itself will elicit salivation ● Operant Conditioning - A form of learning in which responses come to be controlled by their consequences ○ Christened by B.F. Skinner in the 1930’s ○ Ex. Study before an exam/test because of influence from stimulus events that follow the response called consequences ○ Thorndike’s Law of Effect ■ Instrumental learning is another termed introduced for operant conditioning by Edward L. Thorndike ■ Put cats in a “puzzle box” and if they could escape, they were rewarded. He reasoned that if cats could think, there would be a sudden drop in the time required to escape as they recognized the solution. The nature of the decline in time was gradual instead of sudden, suggesting that this learning did not depend on thinking and understanding, but instead the 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 ○ Skinner’s Demonstration: It’s all a matter of consequences ■ Trained pigeons to guide missiles, as part of WWII project, using reinforcement principles ■ Skinner demonstrated that organisms tend to repeat those responses that are followed by favourable consequences ■ Reinforcement - Occurs when an event following a response increases an organism’s tendency to make that response ○ Terminology and Procedures ■ 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 response are systematically controlled ■ Since operant responses are voluntary, they are emitted (sent forth) instead of elicited ■ Reinforcement Contingencies - The circumstances or rules that determine whether responses lead to the presentation of reinforcers ■ The key dependant variable in operant conditioning is often the subjects response rate over time ■ Cummulative Recorder - Creates a graphic record of responding and reinforcement in a Skinner box as a function of time ● A rapid response rate produces a steep slope whereas a slow response rate produces a shallow slope ○ Basic Processing in Operant Conditioning ■ Some of the same processes are involved in both operant and classical conditioning ■ Acquisition and Shaping ● Acquisition - Initial stage of learning ● Procedures used to emit an operant response are different from those used to create the typical conditioned response ● Operant responses are usually established through shaping ● Shaping - Consists of the reinforcement of closer and closer approximations of a desired response ○ Ex. rewarding rat when it walks towards lever, but then the rat has to gradually get closer and closer and eventually pull the lever before it’s rewarded ■ Extinction ● Extinction - Gradual weakening and disappearance of a response tendency because the response is no longer followed by a reinforcer ● Begins when previously available reinforcement is stopped ● Resistance to Extinction - Occurs when an organism continues to make a response after delivery of the reinforcer has been terminated ○ Greater the resistance, the longer the responding will occur ● Renewal effect is also true for extinction of a response acquired as a result of operant conditioning ■ Stimulus Control: Generalization and Discrimination ● Stimuli that precede a response can exert considerable influence over operant behaviour ● When a response is consistently followed by a reinforcer in the presence of a particular stimulus, that stimulus tends to serve as a “signal” indicating the response is likely to lead to the reinforcer ● Discriminative Stimuli - Cues that influence operant behaviour by indicating the probable consequences of a response ○ Ex. food only dropped when pull lever, if red light also is on ● Generalization - responding to new stimulus as if it were the original ● Discrimination - Occur if learned to respond to only the original stimuli and not the new stimuli ○ Reinforcement: Consequences that Strengthen Responses ■ The central process in reinforcement is the strengthening of a response tendency ■ Reinforcement is defined after the fact in terms of its effect on behaviour ■ Primary Reinforcers - Events that are inherently reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs ● In humans: food, water, sleep, sex, etc ■ Secondary or Conditioned Reinforcers - Events that acquire reinforcing qualities by being associated with primary reinforcers ● In humans: money, good grades, praise, applause ■ Reinforcement and Superstitious Behaviour ● Reinforcement is key to developing superstitions in athletes ● Superstitious behaviour is extremely common and accidental reinforcement may contribute to these superstitions ○ Ex. Scoring hat-trick while wearing a black turtle-neck ○ Schedules of Reinforcement ■ A Schedule of reinforcement determines which occurrences of a specific response result in the presentation of a reinforcer ■ Simplest schedule of reinforcement pattern is continuous reinforcement ■ Continuous Reinforc
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