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Chapter 3

PSY426H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Cumulative Learning, Sensorineural Hearing Loss, Rebar

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Jason Plaks

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So this week’s unit was on epistemic needs; which is essentially the need for knowledge.
The theme presented is the struggle between the motivation for certainty and the
motivation for uncertainty; because while we seek security and certainty in our lives, we
nonetheless look for excitement and variety, as well. There are times when people are
open to uncertainty, while at others they freeze their mind to new views—which is a great
influence on stereotyping and decision-making.
Robert White contributed a lot to the study of this phenomenon, and we are about to
summarize the article in which he proposes a new motivational construct called
“effectance”, or competence, in other words. Unlike previous research and theories that
focused on the basic human drives and dire situations, White’s brought forth the idea that
we also have the latent motivation to influence the environment and explore it.
The previous motivational theories before the 1950s assumed all motivation to be
reducible to the primary and organic needs such as hunger, thirst, sex, etc. But by 1950
there was renewed interest in animals’ exploratory behaviour and the suggestion that
activity and manipulation are independent motives. White was one of the psychologists
that believed that there was more motivators than just the basic drives, and proposed the
motivation for competence; an organism’s capacity to interact effectively with its
environment.” Not only did animals seek to explore their surroundings without organic
reinforcement, but competence is something that must be attained through learning, not
something that simply arrives with maturation.
Exploratory Behaviour
Animals seek out novelty and investigation even when primary needs satiated
Rats, monkeys, and chimpanzees studied: rats would explore maze even with
electrical grid, while monkeys learned a task just to look out a window
Although interest in a novelty fades, enthusiasm is high again once new object
presented (chimpanzee exp.)
Experiment designers suggest exploration as another primary drive
Exploration as a Drive (defence against it)
Exploratory behaviour can be explained by secondary reinforcement
BUT if primary drives are satiated second-hand via examination of novelty,
then quick recovery in curiosity would not be seen in chimpanzee experiment,
as the behaviour would have to end once the primary need is fulfilled
Also, discovery is in opposition to survival as a baby animal, as one must stay
close to mother and familiar places, therefore it goes against primary need
Exploration reinforced by reduction of anxiety
BUT studies show that when fearful, are LESS likely to explore. Ex. Rats in
novel situation; when fear induced, did not venture out
Fear leads to avoidance, while exploration is an approach behaviour
If exploratory behaviour is to be considered a primary drive…
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