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Chapter 9

PSYC85H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Classical Conditioning, Jacques Loeb, Behaviorism

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Gerald Cupchik

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Chapter 9: Behaviourism
Behaviourism was, and in some ways still is, one of the most dominant approaches to psychology,
particularly in the United States
Some psychologists who thought of themselves as behaviourists, such as John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner
argued that behaviour could be explained without recourse to either introspection or physiology
However, others, such as Karl Lashley and Ivan P. Pavlov, believed that physiology and psychology were
All behaviourists regarded behaviour as the only proper subject for psychology and rejected subjective
experience as a legitimate topic
Behaviourism originated independently in America and in pre-Revolutionary Russia
In both countries one of the sources was animal research
Ivan P. Pavlov
Became famous for his work on so-called conditional reflexes
Like Thorndike, Pavlov began his work with animals and often took them home with him because of a lack
of facilities at the university
His work on the physiology of the central nervous system using the procedure he called conditioned
reflexes seemed to fit the temper of the times
Conditioned Reflexes
Pavlov thought of himself as a physiologist, not a psychologist
I.M. Sechenov had proposed that mental life should be understood entirely in physiological terms and that
the reflex was the appropriate unit of explanation
Inspired Pavlov
Pavlov characterized Thorndike’s work as focusing on behaviour to the exclusion of the causes of behaviour
in the central nervous system
By contrast, Pavlov regarded his approach as a more balanced blend of both the study of behaviour and
He believed that it was best to approach psychological questions through physiology, rather than to do
psychology first and then try to find physiological explanations
The experiments that made Pavlov a household word developed as a result of something he noticed while
observing the action of salivary glands
Saliva would be secreted not only in the presence of food, but also by the dish in which it is presented,
the furniture upon which it is placed, the room, the person accustomed to bring it, and the noises
produced by him
The connection between food and salivation seems natural and inevitable
To understand such phenomena, Pavlov made a distinction between unconditioned reflexes and
conditioned reflexes
Unconditioned reflex: a response that always occurs unconditionally in the presence of the same
Salivation after food is presented
Conditioned reflex: depends upon learning
The saliva the tone elicits
Unconditioned stimulus: a stimulus that elicits a particular response unconditionally
Conditioned stimulus: a previously neutral stimulus that comes to elicit a fraction of the response
elicited by an unconditioned stimulus
Unconditioned means that the connection is unconditional
Here are three important facts about conditioning
1. A conditioned response is usually smaller in magnitude than an unconditioned one
2. If a conditioned reflex has been formed and then the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented
by itself, in the absence of the unconditioned stimulus, then the conditioned response will eventually cease
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-This phenomenon is called extinction
3. Suppose that a conditioned response has been extinguished and the animal has been returned to its home
cage. If the animal is then brought back to the experimental situation after a rest, the previously
extinguished conditioned response may return
-This phenomenon is called spontaneous recovery
Unconditioned reflexes are not by themselves sufficient to ensure the survival of the organism
Function of conditioned stimuli: they are signals that guide the animal to an unconditioned stimulus
As long as these signals are reliable, the animal continues to respond to them
However, the environment is always changing
The essence of adaptability is the ability to change one’s responses as the environment changes
Thus, when conditioned stimuli fail to lead to unconditioned stimuli, extinction occurs
The key thing about conditioned stimuli is that they form temporary connections that are inhibited when
they become unreliable signals
However, just as a reliable signal may become unreliable, so an unreliable signal may once again become
reliable as the environment fluctuates
Spontaneous recovery provides the organism with an opportunity to check out a signal that may have
become reliable again
Although conditioning is often portrayed as a rigid, mechanical process, it is important to see that Pavlov’s
view was that conditioning enables the organism to form an adaptive, flexible relationship with its
Higher-order conditioning occurs when a second conditioned stimulus is paired with a conditioned
stimulus that has already been established
This procedure leads to two levels of signals
Primary signalling system: sensory stimuli; such as a tone
Secondary signalling system: signals for signals; wordsthey name primary signals
It is speech that most differentiates humans from other animals and gives them their greater flexibility with
and power over the environment
Temperaments and Psychopathology
Pavlov believed that the fundamental cortical processes were excitation and inhibition
In order to be properly adjusted to the environment, it is necessary to inhibit all but those responses
that are appropriate to the current situation
Pavlov observed great individual differences between animals in the ease with which they formed
conditioned reflexes
At one extreme was an excitatory group, which is easily conditioned
At the other extreme is an inhibitory group, which is difficult to condition
Pavlov regarded (ippocrates’ four temperaments choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic as
being arranged on a scale from extreme excitatory (choleric) to extremely inhibitory (melancholic)
Vivisection and Anti-vivisectionism
Pavlov often performed surgery on his animals
The dissection of live animals is called vivisection, and the movement against the use of live animals in
research was called anti-vivisectionism
Pavlov supported vivisection, by saying that there was no other way to understand how the nervous system
Vladimir M. Bekhterev
Reflexology: an extremely ambitious attempt to explain all behaviour, from the individual to the social, in
terms of the reflex concept
Bekhterev regarded the individual as a system of energy transformation and exchange, in much the same
way as did Freud
However, he rejected the study of subjective aspects of the mind in favour of studying its observable
products, such as speech and social behaviour
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