Section 5: High Order Conditioning
• Higher-order conditioning - the established CS is now paired with a new stimulus, allowing
the new stimulus to become another CS capable of creating a CR.
• The CR used in higher-order conditioning is typically weaker and more vulnerable to extinction
compared to the original CR
- Example: As a child Joe had a fear of being injected with a needle at the doctor’s office. Just
the sight of the needle (CS) caused Joe to experience fear; in time the sight of the doctor’s
office the familiar route there and the word “doctor” came to create a fear response.
Generalization and Discrimination
Stimulus generalization - The process of applying what has been learned with a particular set
of stimuli to a similar response.
- Example: Consider an experiment in which a rat experiences a mild electric shock (US) that is
paired with a tone (CS) a particular pitch. When tested the rat will typically show the strongest
fear CR to test of the same pitch; will also show a fear CR to tones to similar pitch.As the test
tone becomes more and more different from the pitch of the original CS, the created CR will be
• The pattern of responding is often represented in graph showing what is called a generalization
gradient. (Important adaptive function served by stimulus generalization)
- Example: Amouse may ignore rustling sounds coming from behind a bush only to be
confronted by a cat. If he survives the learning trial, stimulus generalization will allow the
mouse to develop an alarm response if a similar situation were to occur.
Can be an adaptive response b/c it allows the learning organism to apply previous
learning to new, but similar situations (Tendency to uniformly generalize what has
been learned does not always work to the learning organism's benefit).
Stimulus discrimination – reflects an organism's ability to fine-tune its responding such that a CR
occurs to one stimulus but no to other similar stimuli.
Example: Generalizing your experience with hot pots on a stove to the point that you are unwilling to
handle any round objects without mitts)
Discrimination Training- Restricting the range of CSs that can create a CR.
Example: Acertain sound (CS) signals that a phone has received a text message (US) which leads to
the individual checking their phone (UR and CR). If another similar sound is repeatedly presented
without the arrival of a text message, then the individual would stop expecting a text message in
response to the similar sound. (C.C)
TemporalArrangement of the CS and US
Temporal arrangement explores the stimuli (how the stimuli are related in terms of time) in more
detail, as this can show how much learning will take place in any given conditioning procedure; the optimal arrangement is short-delay conditioning.
Where onset of the CS occurs first, followed by the onset of the US.
The interval between CS onset and US onset is generally in the range of half a second to a few
Short-delay conditioning is considered to be the most effective arrangement and acquisition of
the CR will reach an asymptote following fewer conditioning trials than would be the case with
any other temporal arrangement of CS and US. When the interval between CS and US
presentation is too great, conditioning tends to become less effective. (also drops sharply if the
CS-US interval is made too brief)
Contiguity vs. Contingency
Pavlov's view of classical conditioning emphasized contiguity – the CS and US must occur close in
Pavlov implies that contiguity is necessary for learning to happen and is all you need to learn.
- Although recent research suggests contiguity itself is not a sufficient condition for learning.
Contingency - Association formed between two stimuli after acquisition has occurred.
If the presentation of one stimulus reliably leads to the presentation of another stimulus, a
contingency can be formed.
Pavlov’s Example – a contingency is formed between the sound of the bell and the presentation of
Classical Conditioning and Physiological regulation
Claude Bernard observed that every organism has an internal environment that interacts with a larger
Internal environment consists of all the body's physiological functions including blood oxygen and
glucose levels, ion concentrations and core temp.
To meet the challenge of maintaining an internal equilibrium, the process of homoeostasis
initiates changes in behaviour and internal adjustments (Ex. Drop in temperature = shivering >
seeks warmth > sweater)
- Classical Conditioning is an important homoeostatic mechanism that helps maintain
Section 6: Instrumental Conditioning
Classical Conditioning allows you to anticipate biologically important events – these types of leaning
involve behaviours that are automatically triggered – no conscious decision making that takes place.
- You can also behave in ways that produce environmental changes and have consequences.
Example: Mary inserts a coin into a vending machine and receives a snack – Behaviours are initiated
by and are under the control of, the organism Thorndike's Law of Effect
Thorndike investigated a different type of learning with cats.
Example of Cats in a Box – placing a hungry cat inside a puzzle box with a latched door and food
available just outside the door. The door could be opened to reach the food if the cat preformed a
simple action such as pulling a string or pressing a lever. The cat then would be placed back into the
box for another learning trial and observed to see how long it took to master this escape response
- Cats and humans solve the puzzle differently – cats show a decline across repeated trials; this
pattern would not be expected from a human (Solve it quicker and consistently)
Law of Effect - Aresponse followed by a satisfying effect is strengthened and likely to occur again in
that situation, while a response followed by a unsatisfying effect is weakened and less likely to occur
again in that situation.
Behaviours with positive consequences become stamped in.
Example: Reaching for the cookie jar at the top of the fridge is a positive behaviour if the
reward is a cookie. Behaviours with negative consequences are stamped out. Ex. If you were
blamed and punished for taking cookies form the cookie jar, then you probably won’t repeat the
Skinner and Operant Behaviour
Thorndike is the father of instrumental conditioning B.F Skinner was the uncle.
Skinner popularized the Law of Effect and pushed instrumental conditioning to the forefront of
In instrumental conditioning the association forms between a stimulus and a behavioural
Skinner used the term operant to describe voluntary actions that operate on the environment to
produce change leading to a specific consequence (instrumental conditioning referred to as operant
DIFFERENCE: Instead of 'satisfying' or 'reward' that followed responses, Skinner preferred the term
Reinforcer was an objective descriptor of behaviour – Following a response a reinforcer is defined as
anything that increases the probability of response being emitted in the future.
Primary reinforcers – essentials (access to food, water or a mate)
Secondary reinforcers – “extras”; only come to be reinforcing through previous learning
Good example is money: Paper rectangles, round pieces of metal and small plastic cards have little
intrinsic value but can be used to obtain items that are natural reinforcers.
Secondary reinforcers can be powerful motivators of behaviour – grades, air miles, gold stars may
influence your behaviour but only to the extent that they have been associated with other primary
Operant chamber – design of an apparatus which he used for the experimental study of operant
conditioning (“Skinner Box”)
Instrumental conditioning, the more pairings there are between an operant response and its
consequence the stronger the acquired learning. If conditions change and the operant response is no longer paired with its consequence the
result is a decline in resp