Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 20: Basic Learning Concepts and Classical Conditioning
How do we learn?
What is learning, and what are some basic forms of learning?
• We learn to expect and prepare for significant events such as food or pain (classical conditioning).
• We typically learn to repeat acts that bring rewards and to avoid acts that bring unwanted results (operant
• We learn new behaviours by observing events by watching others, and through language we learn things
we have neither experienced nor observed (cognitive learning).
• 200 years ago, John Locke and David Hume echoed Aristotle’s conclusion from 2000 years earlier: We
learn by association.
• Learned associations operate subtly – using red pens spot more errors; voters more likely to support taxes
to aid education
o Feed habitual behaviours – behaviours that become associated with contexts (popcorn watching
movies, running before dinner). Behaviours became habitual after about 66 days.
o The process of learning associations is conditioning and takes two main forms:
Classical conditioning – learn to associate two stimuli and thus to anticipate a flash of
lightning signals an impending crack of thunder; when lightning flashes, we tend to brace
Operant conditioning – learn to associate a response (our behaviour) and its consequence.
o Cattle ranch, electronic pagers and a cell phone. Beep on pager means arrival of food, learning to
associate their hustling to the food trough with the pleasure of eating (operant)
o Observational learning (one form of cognitive learning) – learn behaviours by watching others
Why are habits, such as having something sweet with that cup of coffee, so hard to break?
Habits from when we repeat behaviours in a given context and, as a result, learn associations – often without our
awareness. For example, we may have eaten a sweet pastry with a cup of coffee often enough to associate the
flavour of the coffee with the treat, so that the cup of coffee alone just doesn’t seem right anymore.
What are the basic components of classical conditioning, and what was behaviourism’s view of learning?
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) explored classical conditioning.
Pavlov’s work laid foundation for John B. Watson’s ideas; Watson urged colleagues to discard reference to inner
thoughts, feelings, and motives. Watson called behaviourism. Pavlov and Watson shared both a disdain for
“mentalistic” concepts (such as consequences) and a belif that the basic laws of learning were the same for all
• Pavlov’s Experiments
o Pavlov – father was Russian Orthodox priest; received medical degree at age 33; spent 20 years
studying digestive system; earned Russia’s first Nobel Prize in 1904.
o Dog salivating – respondent behaviours
Unconditioned stimulus (food in mouth) produced unconditioned response (salivation) (US = UR)
Neutral stimulus produces no salivation response (NS = no UR)
Unconditioned stimulus is repeatedly present just after the neutral stimulus. The unconditioned stimulus continues
to produce an unconditioned response. (US x ? after NS = UR)
Now, NS = conditioned response thereby becoming a conditioned stimulus.
*Salivation, in response to the tone, is learned; it is conditional upon the dog’s associating the tone and the food –
call this response the conditioned response. The stimulus that used to be neutral is the conditioned stimulus.
Conditioned = learned; unconditioned = unlearned. An experimenter sounds a tone just before delivering an air puff to your blinking eye. After several repetitions, you
blink to the tone alone. What is the NS? The US? The UR? The CS? The CR?
NS = tone before procedure; US = air puff; UR = blink to air puff; CS = tone after procedure; CR = blink to tone.
In classical conditioning, what are the processes of acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery,
generalization, and discrimination?
• Acquisition – initial learning. How much time should elapse between presenting the neutral stimulus and
the unconditioned stimulus. Conditioning normally doesn’t happen with the NS follows the US. Remember,
classical conditioning is biologically adaptive because it helps humans and other animals prepare for good
or bad events. Original NS became a CS after the arrival of food (US); deer in the forest, napping of a twig
(CS) may signal a predator’s approach (US); Japanese quail shows how a CS can signal another important
biological event. Just before presenting a sexually approachable female quail, researchers turned on a red
• Humans – smells and sights associated with sexual pleasure can become conditioned stimuli for sexual
• Conditioning helps an animal survive and reproduce – by responding to cues that help it gain food, avoid
dangers, locate mates, and produce offspring.
• Through higher-order conditioning, a new NS can become a new CS. All that’s required is for it to become
associated with a previously conditioned stimulus
If the aroma of a cake baking sets your mouth to watering, what is the US? The CS? The CR?
US: aroma and taste of the cake, CS: associated aroma, CR, watering mouth to the aroma
o Pavlov – what would happen, after conditioning, the CS occurred repeatedly without the US?
Response would be less and less, becoming extinct.
o Spontaneous Recovery – after a delay, the dogs would begin salivating again to the tone;
reappearance of a weakened CR; this spontaneous extinction was suppressing CR rather than
The first step of classical conditionin