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Chapter

Principles of Learning (Psych 2330) Chapter Summaries


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 2330
Professor
Francesco Leri

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Principles of Learning Chapter
Summaries
Chapter 1: Introduction
Learning is one of the biological processes that facilitate adaptation to one‟s environment
Learning to withhold responses is just as important as learning to make responses
Historical Antecedents
Rene Descartes recognized that many things people do are automatic reactions to external
stimuli, but he did not entirely abandon the idea of free will and conscious control,
therefore he formulated a dualistic view of human nature known as Cartesian dualism
According to Cartesian dualism, there are two classes of human behaviour:
o Involuntary behaviour: consists of automatic reactions to external stimuli and is
mediated by a special mechanism called a reflex
o Voluntary behaviour: occurs because of people‟s conscious intent to act in that
particular manner
Descartes assumed that the involuntary mechanism of human behavior was the only one
available to animals, other than humans = all animal behaviour occurs as reflex responses
to external stimuli
o Animals lacked free will and voluntary behaviour, conscious action
o These aspects were uniquely human attributes, he believed
o Only humans beings were thought to have a mind, a soul
The mind was assumed to be a nonphysical entity
o Voluntary behaviour was initiated in the mind and occurs independently of
external stimulation
Historical developments in the Study of the Mind
Nativism:
o Descartes believed that some of the contents of the mind came from sense
experiences
o However, he also believed that the mind contained ideas that were innate and
existed in all human beings independent of personal experience
Ex. he believed that all humans were born with the concept of God, the
concept of self etc.
o The philosophical approach that assumes we are born with innate ideas about
certain things is called nativism
Empiricism:
o The British philosopher John Locke believed that all the ideas people had were
acquired directly or indirectly through experiences after birth
o He believed that human beings were born without any preconceptions about the
world
o The mind started out as a clean slate (tabula rasa) to be gradually filled with ideas
and information as the person had various sense experiences

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Hedonism:
o British philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that the mind operated just as
predictably and lawfully as a reflex
o He proposed that voluntary behaviour was governed by the principle of hedonism
o According to this principle, people do things in the pursuit of pleasure and the
avoidance of pain
Association
o An important aspect of how the mind works
o British empiricists proposed that simple sensations were combined into more
complex ideas by associations
o Connections or associations became established between the word and other
attributes of the word
Rules of Association
The British empiricists accepted 2 sets of rules for the establishment of associations
o Primary
Originally set forth by Aristotle
Proposed 3 principles for the establishment of associations
Contiguity: states that if two events repeatedly occur together in
space or time, they will become associated
o Ex. encountering spaghetti with the smell of tomato sauce
will activate the memory of both with just the smell of
tomato sauce
Similarity: states that two things will become associated if they are
similar in some respect
o Ex. both things are red
Contrast: states that two things will become associated if they have
some contrasting characteristics
o Ex. one is really tall, while another is really short
o Secondary
Set forth by Thomas Brown
He proposed that a number of factors influence the formation of
associations between two sensations
These include intensity of the sensations and how frequently or recently
the sensations occurred together
It also depends on the number of other associations in which each
event was already involved and the similarity of these past
associations to the current one being formed
The Dawn of the Modern Era
Darwin attempted to characterize the evolution of physical traits, and psychological or
mental abilities
He argued that the human mind is a product of evolution and that animals shared the
same abilities as humans

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Functional Neurology
Nervism means that all the key physiological functions are governed by the nervous
system
Animal Models of Human Behaviour
The belief that research with animals can provide information that may help us better
understand human behaviour
Model systems have been developed based on research with a variety of species,
including several species of primates, pigeons, rats and mice
In generalizing from research with rats and pigeons to human behaviour, one does not
make the assumption that rats and pigeons are just like people
Animal models are used as we use other types of models
They permit investigation of certain aspects of what they represent under the conditions
that are simpler, more easily controlled and less expensive
However, they must be comparable to its target referent in terms of the feature or
function under study called relevant feature or relevant function
Animal models permit investigating problems that are difficult, if not impossible, to
study with humans
The important thing is similarity between the animal model and the human behaviour in
relevant features for the problem at hand
Animal Models and Drug Development
Drug development is not possible without animal models
Animal models of learning and memory are playing a central role in the development of
new drugs, for the development of antianxiety medications and drugs that facilitate the
progress of behaviour and cognitive therapy
They are also helpful for the evaluation of the potential for drug abuse
Animal Models and Machine Learning
Animal models of learning and behaviour are also of considerable relevance to robotics
and intelligent artificial systems (machine learning)
Robots are machines that are able to perform particular functions or tasks
The goal in robotics is to make the machines as „smart‟ as possible
The Definition of Learning
Learning is an enduring change in the mechanisms of behaviour involving specific
stimuli and/or responses that results from prior experience with those or similar stimuli
and responses
The Learning-Performance Distinction
Whenever we see evidence of learning, we see the emergence of a change in behaviour:
the performance of a new response or the suppression of a response that occurred
previously
Learning is attributed to change in the mechanisms of behaviour because behaviour is
determined by many factors in addition to learning
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