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Chapter 7


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Steve Joordens

PSYA01 – CHAPTER 7: LEARNING - Learning involves the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, or responses from experience that result in a relatively permanent change in the state of the learner - Learning is based on experience - Learning produces changes in the organism - These changes are relatively permanent CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER: - Ivan Pavlov was awarded for his work on the salivation of dogs - He studied the digestive processes of laboratory animals by surgically implanting test tubes into the cheecks of dogs to measure their salivary responses to different kinds of foods - His explorations into spit and drool revealed the mechanics of one form of learning which came to be called classical conditioning - Classical conditioning  a neutral stimulus produces a response after being paired with a stimulus that naturally produces a response - in his experiments, Pavlov shwoed that dogs learned to salivate to neutral stimuli such as a bell or a tone after that stimulus had been associated with another stimulus that naturally evokes salivation, such as food THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING PAVLOV’S EXPERIMENT - when dogs were initially presented with a plate of food, they began to salivate - unconditioned stimulus (US)  something that reliably produces a naturally occurring reaction in an organism - dogs salivation was called unconditioned response (US)  reflexive reaction that is reliably produced by an unconditioned stimulus - Pavlov soon discovered that he could make the dogs salivate to stimuli that don’t usually make animals salivate, such as the sound of a buzzer. - conditioned stimulus (CS), or a stimulus that is initially neutral and produces no reliable response in an organism - othing in nature would make a dog salivate to the sound of a buzzer. However, when the conditioned stimulus (CS), in this case the sound of a buzzer, is paired over time with the unconditioned stimulus (US), or the food, the animal will learn to associate food with the sound and eventually the CS is sufficient to produce a response, or salivation. - Pavlov called it the conditioned response (CR), or a reaction that resembles an unconditioned response but is produced by a conditioned stimulus. BASIC PRINCIPLES OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: Acquisition: - learning through classical conditioning requires some period of association between the CS and US. - This period is called acquisition, or the phase of classical conditioning when the CS and the US are presented together. - During the initial phase of classical conditioning, typically there is a gradual increase in learning: It starts low, rises rapidly, and then slowly tapers off - After learning has been established, the CS by itself will reliably elicit the CR Second order conditioning: - Second order conditioning  conditioning where the stimulus that functions as the US is actually the CS from an earlier procedure in which it acquired its ability to produce learning Extinction: - What would happen if they continued to present the CS (tone) but stopped presenting the US (food)? - Extinction  the gradual elimination of a learned response that occurs when the US is no longer presented - the conditioned response is extinguished and no longer observed Spontaneous Recover: - is a single session of extinction sufficient to knock out the CR completely or is there some residual change in the dogs behavior so that the CR might reappear? - Pavlov extinguished the classically conditioned salivation response and then allowed the dogs to have a short rest period - When they were brought back to the lab and presented with the CS again, they displayed spontaneous recovery  the tendency of a learned behavior to recover from extinction after a rest period Generalization and Discrimination: - Generalization  tends to take place in which the CR is observed even though the CS is slightly different from the original one used during acquisition - This means that conditioning generalizes to stimuli that are similar to the CS used during the original training - When an organism generalizes to a new stimulus, two things are happening: - 1) by responding to the new stimulus used during generalization testing, the organism demonstrates that it recognizes the similarity between the original CS and the new stimulus - 2) by displaying diminished responding to that new stimulus, it also tells us that it notices a difference between the two stimuli - In the second case the organism shows discrimination  the capacity to distinguish between similar but distinct stimuli CONDITIONED EMOTIONAL RESPONSES: THE CASE OF LITTLE ALBERT: - Classical conditioning demonstrates that durable, substantial changes in behavior can be achieved simply by setting up the proper conditions - There is no reference to an organisms wanting to elarn the behavior, willingness to do it, thinking about the situation, or reasoning through the available options - Watson enlisted the assistance of 9 month Little Albert - Albert was healthy, well-developed child and by Watsons assessment, stolid and unemotional - Watson wanted to see if such a child could be classically conditioned to experience a strong emotional reaction namely, fear - Watson presented little albert with a variety of stimuli: white rat, dog, rabit - Alberts reactions in most cases were curiosity/indifference/no fear - While albert wasn’t looking, Watson unexpectedly struck a large steel bar with a hammer producing a loud noise - Predictably this caused albert to cry - Watson led little albert through the acquisition phase of classical conditioning - Albert was presented with a white rat and as soon as he reached out to touch it, the steel bar was struck - Pairing occurred again and again for several trials - Eventually the sight of the rat alone caused albert to recoil in terror, crying and clamoring to get away from it - In this situation, a US (loud sound) was paired with a CS (presence of rat) such that the CS all by itself was sufficient to produce the CR (fearful reaction) - Watson proposed that fears could be learned just like any other behavior - This kind of conditioned responses that were at work in little alberts case were also important in the case of Jennifer who experienced fear and anxiety when hearing the previously innocent sound of an approaching helicopter as a result of her experiences in Iraq A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: - Three areas that give us a closer look at the mechanisms of classical conditioning : cognitive, neural, evolutionary elements COGNITIVE ELEMENTS OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING - Why didn’t pavlovs dogs salivate to Pavlov? After all he was instrumental in the arrival of the CS - If Pavlov delivered the food to the dogs, why didn’t they form an association with him? - Somehow pavlovs dogs were sensitive to the fact that Pavlov was not a reliable indiciator of arrival of food - Pavlov was linked with the arrival of food but he was also linked with other activities that had nothing to do with food including checking on apparatus, bringing the dog from the kennel to the laboratory, etc - These observations suggestthat perhaps cognitive components are involved - Classical conditioning only occurs when an animal has learned to set up an expectation (theory by Rescorla and Wagner) - Rescorla-Wagner model introduced a cognitive compoenent that accounted for a variety of classical-conditioning phenomena that were difficult to understand from a simple behaviorist point of view - For example, the model predicted that conditioning would be easier when the CS was an unfamiliar event that when it was familiar Role of Consciousness: - One issue that arises from this cognitive view of classical conditioning concerns the role of consciousness. In the Rescorla-Wagner model, the cognitive elements are not necessarily conscious. Rather, they likely reflect the operation of nonconscious associative mechanisms that do more than just record co-occurrences of events— they link those co-occurrences to prior experiences, generating an expectation. - In delay conditioning, the CS is a tone that is followed immediately by the US, a puff of air, which elicits an eyeblink response. Importantly, the tone and air puff overlap in time—the air puff follows the tone, but the tone remains on when the air puff is delivered. Then, the tone and air puff end at the same time. After a few pairings of the tone and air puff, conditioning occurs and the tone alone elicits an eyeblink response. - In trace conditioning  identical procedures with one difference: in trace conditioning, there is a brief interval of time after the tone ends and the air puff is delivered - Amenesic patients failed to show trace conditioning - Amnesic patients often exhibit intact implicit memory - Several researchers have suggested that classical conditioning draws on implicit but not explicit memory - trace conditioning depends on awareness of the contingency between the CS and the US Implications of Understanding Schizophrenia: - patients exhibit no overt signs of voluntary behavior or consciousness, fMRI studies have shown that some of them exhibit brain activity that may reflect conscious processing of spoken stimuli. The Neural Elements of Classical Conditioning: - the cerebellum is part of the hindbrain and plays an important role in motor skills and learning. - In contrast to the cerebellum, the hippocampus is important for trace conditioning but not delay conditioning. - amnesic patients—who typically have damage to the hippocampus— exhibited intact delay conditioning along with impaired trace conditioning - amygdale, particularly an area known as the central nucleus, is also critical for emotional conditioning - the action of the amygdale is an essential element in fear conditioning and its links with other areas of the brain are responsible for producing specific features of conditioning The Evolutionary Elements of Classical Conditioning: - evolution and natural selection go hand in hand with adaptiveness: Behaviors that are adaptive allow an organism to survive and thrive in its environment. - Any species that forages or consumes a variety of foods needs to develop a mechanism by which it can learn to avoid any food that once made it ill. To have adaptive value, this mechanism should have several properties: - 1) There should be rapid learning that occurs in perhaps one or two trials. If learning takes more trials than this, the animal could die from eating a toxic substance. - 2) Conditioning should be able to take place over very long intervals, perhaps up to several hours. Toxic substances often don’t cause illness immediately, so the organism would need to form an association between food and the illness over a longer term. - 3) The organism should develop the aversion to the smell or taste of the food rather than its ingestion. It’s more adaptive to reject a potentially toxic substance based on smell alone than it is to ingest it. - 4) Learned aversions should occur more often with novel foods than familiar ones. It is not adaptive for an animal to develop an aversion to everything it has eaten on the particular day it got sick. Our psychologist friend didn’t develop an aversion to the Coke he drank with lunch or the scrambled eggs he had for breakfast that day; however, the sight and smell of hummus do make him uneasy. - Cancer patients who experience nausea from their treatments often develop aversions to foods they ate before the therapy. - They gave their patients an unusual food (coconut- or root-beer–flavored candy) at the end of the last meal before undergoing treatment. Sure enough, the conditioned food aversions that the patients developed were overwhelmingly for one of the unusual flavors and not for any of the other foods in the meal - evolution has provided each species with a kind of biological preparedness  a propensity for learning particular kinds of associations over others, so that some behaviors are relatively easy to condition in some species but not others. - most researchers agree that conditioning works best with stimuli that are biologically relevant to the organism OPERANT CONDITIONING: REINFORCEMENTS FROM THE ENVIRONMENT - the study of classical conditioning is the study of behaviors that are reactive - operant conditioning  type of learning in which the consequences of an organisms behavior determine whether it will be repeated in the future - exploration of behaviors that are active THE DEVELOPMENT OF OPERANT CONDITIONING: THE LAW OF EFFECT: - instrumental behaviors  behavior that required an organism to do something, solve a problem, or otherwise manipulate elemtnsm of its environment - overtime, the ineffective behaviors become less and less frequent and the one instrumental behavior(going for the latch) becomes more frequent - (mouse put in puzzle box, when mouse triggers appropriate lever it opens) - Law of effect  which states that behaviors that are followed by a satisfying state of affairs tend to be repeated and those that produce an unpleasant state of affairs are less likely to be repeated B.F SKINNER: THE ROLE OF REINFORCEMENT AND PUNISHMENT: - Operant behavior  behavior that an organism produces that has some impact on the environment - Operant chamber/skinner box allows researchers to study the behavior of small organisms in a controlled environment - Skinners approach to the study of learning focused on reinforcement and punishment - Reinforcer  any stimulus or event that functions to increase the likelihood of the behavior that led to it, whereas a punisher is any stimulus or event that functions to decrease the likelihood of the behavior that led to it - Whether a particular stimulus acts as a reinforce or a punisher depends in part on whether it increases or decreases the likelihood of a behavior - Presenting food is usually reinforcing, producing an increase in the behavior that led to it - Removing food is often punishing leading to a decrease in the behavior - Turning on an electric shock is typically punishing (decrease behavior that led to it) - Turning it off is rewarding (increase behavior that led to it) - positive reinforcement  rewarding stimulus is presented - Negative reinforcement  unpleasant stimulus is removed - Positive punishment  where unpleasant stimulus is administered - Negative punishment  where rewarding stimulus is removed - Positive and negative mean something that is added or something that is taken away - Positive and negative reinforcement increase the likelihood of the behavior and positive and negative punishment decrease the likelihood of the behavior - Punishment signals that an unacceptable behavior has occurred but it doesn’t specify what should be done instead Primary and Secondary Reinforcement and Punishment: - Reinforcers and punishers often gain their functions from basic biological mechanisms - Food, comfort, shelter, warmth are example of primary reinforcers b/c they help satisfy biological needs - Vast majority of reinforcers/punishers have little to do with biology - Handshakes, verbal approval, grin, all serve powerful reinforcing functions yet none help keep you warm at night or taste good - We learn to perform a lot of behaviors based on reinforcements that have little or nothing to do with biological satisfaction - Secondary reinforcers derive their effectiveness fromt heir associations with primary reinforcers through classical conditioning - for example, money starts out as a neutral CS that through its association with primary US’s like acquiring food or shelter, takes on a conditioned emotional element - flashing lights, originally a neutral CS acquire powerful negative elemtns through association with a speeding ticket and a fine - extrinsic reinforcemenet (rewards that come from external sources) don’t always capture the reasons why people engage in behavior int he first place - many times people engage in activities for intrinsic rewards such as the pure pleasure of doing the behavior - overjustification effect  when external rewards undermine the intrinsic satisfaction of performing a behavior - children who received the extrinsic reinforcement of the certificate came to view their task as one that gets rewards - the children who didn’t receive the extrinsic reinforcement continued to perform the task for its own sake - when the extrinsic rewards were later removed, children in the first group found little reason to continue engaging in the task THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF OPERANT CONDITIONING: Discriminating, Generalization and the Importance of Context: - we take off our clothes at least once a day, but usually not in public - we scream at rock concerts but not in libraries - learning takes place in contexts, not in the free range of any plausible situation - most behavior is under stimulus control which develops when a particular response only occurs when an appropriate discriminative stimulus is present - skinner discussed this process in terms of a three-term contingency - in the presence of a discriminative stimulus (students drinking coffee together), a response (joking comment about a prof’s waistline) produces a reinforce (laughter among students) - the same response in a different cotext (prof’s office) would produce a very different outcome - stimulus control shows both discrimination and generalization effects similar to those we saw in classical conditioning Extinction: - as in classical conditioning, operant behavior undergoes extinction when the reinforcements stop - pigeons crease pecking at a key if food is no longer presented following the behavior - extinction of operant behavior looks like that of classical conditioning: the response rate drops off fairly rapidly and, if a rest period is provided, spontaneous recovery is typically seen - in operant conditioning, the reinforcements only occur when the proper response has been made and they don’t always occur even then - not every trip into the forest produces nuts for a squirrel, autosales people don’t sell to everyone who takes a test drive and researchers run many experiments that do not work out and never get published - yet these behaviors don’t weaken and gradually extinguish; they typically become stronger and more resilient - extinction depenmds in part on how often reinforcement is received Schedules for Reinforcement: - in operant conditioning the pattern with which reinforcements appeared was crucial - skinner explored dozens of what came to be known as schedules of reinforcement - the two most important interval schedules, based on the time intervals between reinforcements and ratio schedules based on the ratio of response to reinforcements Interval Schedules: - fixed interval schedule (FI)  reinforcers are presented at fixed time periods, provided that the appropriate response is made - on a 2 minute fixed interval schedule, a response will be reinforced but only after 2 minutes have expired since the last reinforcement - they show little responding right after the presentation of reinforcement but as the next time interval draws to a close, they show a burst of responding - many undergraduates behave like this: no work before exam, lots of work near exam - variable interval schedule (VI)  a behavior is reinforced based on an average time that has expired since the last reinforcement - variable interval schedules typically produce steady, consistent responding because the time until the next reinforcement is less predictable - variable interval schedules are not encountered that often in real life, although one example might be radio giveaways - the reinforcement (getting the tickets) might average out to one an hour across the span of the broadcasting day but the presentation of the reinforcement is variable (different times in day it may be available (tickets) ) - both fixed interval schedules and variable interval schedules tend to produce slow, methodical responding b/c the reinforcements follow a time scale that is independant of how many responses occur - it doesn’t matter if a rat on a fixed interval schedule presses a bar 1 time during a 2 minute period or 100 times: the reinforcing food pellet wont drop out of the shoot until 2 minutes have elapsed, regardless of the number of responses Ratio Schedules: - fixed ratio schedule  reinforcement is delivered after a specific number of responses have been made - one schedule might present reinforcement after every fourth response, a different schedule might present reinforcement after every 20 responses - The special case of presenting reinforcement after each response is called continuous reinforcement - Bookc lubs often give you a freebie after a set number of regular purchases - Variable ratio schedule  the delivery of reinforcement is based on a particular average number of responses - intermittent reinforcement  when only soem of the responses made are followed by reinforcement - in this case, they produce behavior that is much more resistant to extinction that a continuous reinforcement schedule - one way to think about this effect is to recognize that the more irregular the intermittent a schedule is, the more difficult it becomes for and organism to detect when it has actually been placed on extinction - under conditions of intermittent reinforcement, all organisms wills how considerable
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