Chapter 6: Learning
Learning = an enduring change in behavior, resulting from experience.
Conditioning = a process in which environmental stimuli and behavioral processes
Two types of conditioning that scientists study:
1) Classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning – occurs when we learn that
two types of events go together. A type of learning response that occurs
when a neutral object comes to elicit a reflexive response when it is
associated with a stimulus that already produces that response.
2) Operant conditioning or instrumental conditioning – occurs when we learn
that a behavior leads to a particular outcome. Consequences of an action
determine the likelihood that it will be performed in the future.
Unconditioned response (UR) = a response that does not have to be learned, such as
Unconditioned stimulus (US) = a stimulus that elicits a response, such as a reflex
without any prior learning.
Conditioned stimulus (CS) = a stimulus that elicits a response only after learning has
Conditioned response (CR) = a response to a conditional stimulus that has been
Acquisition = the gradual formation of an association between the conditioned and
Extinction = a process in which the conditioned response is weakened when the
conditioned stimulus is repeated without the unconditioned stimulus.
Spontaneous recovery = a process in which a previously extinguished response re-
emerges following presentation of the unconditioned stimulus.
Stimulus generalization = occurs when stimuli that are similar but not identical to
the conditioned stimulus produce that conditioned response.
Stimulus discrimination = a differentiation between two similar stimuli when only
one of them is consistently associated with the unconditioned stimulus.
Phobia = an acquired fear that is out of proportion to the real threat of an object or
of a situation. Scientific method: Watson’s “Little Albert” Experiment
Hypothesis: Phobias can be explained with classical conditioning.
1) Little Albert was presented with neutral objects, such as a white rate and
costume masks, that provoked a neutral response.
2) During conditioning trials, when Albert reached for the white rat (CS) a loud
clanging sound (US) scared him (UR)
Results: Eventually, the pairing of the rat (CS) and the clanging sound (US) led to the
rat producing fear (CR) on its own. The fear response generalized to other stimuli
presented with the rat initially, such as the costume masks.
Conclusion: Classical conditioning can cause participants to fear neutral objects.
Rescoria-Wagner model = a cognitive model of classical conditioning; it states that
the strength of the CS-US association is determined by the extent to which the
unconditioned stimulus is expected.
Blocking effect = once learned, a conditional stimulus can prevent the acquisition of
a new conditioned stimulus.
Law of effect = Thorndike’s general theory of learning: Any behavior that leads to a
“satisfying state of events” will be more likely to occur again, and any behavior that
leads to an “annoying state of affairs” will less likely occur again.
Reinforcer = a stimulus that follows a response and increases the likelihood that the
response will be repeated. Primary reinforcers are those that satisfy biological
Shaping = a process of operant conditioning; it involves reinforcing behaviors that
are increasingly similar to the desired behavior.
Premack’s Theory = reinforcer’s value could be determined by the amount of time
an organism engages in a specific associated behavior when free to do anything. It
can account for differences in individual’s values.
Premack’s Principle = the more valued activity can be used to reinforce the
performance of a less valued activity.
Positive reinforcement = the increase in the probability of a behavior’s being
repeated following the administration of a stimulus. Negative reinforcement = the increase in the probability of a behavior’s being
repeated through the removal of a stimulus.
Positive punishment = punishment that occurs with the administration of a stimulus
and thus decreases the probability of a behavior’s recurring.
Negative punishment = punishment that occurs with the removal of a stimulus and
thus decreases the probability of a behavior’s recurring.
Continuous reinforcement = a type of learning in which the desired behavior is
reinforced each time it occurs.
Partial reinforcement = a type of learning in which behavior is reinforced
Ratio schedule = a schedule in which reinforcement is based on the number of times
the behavior occurs.
Interval schedule = a schedule in which reinforcement is available after a specific
unit of time.
Fixed schedule = a schedule in which reinforcement is consistently provided after a
specific number of occurrences or a specific amount of time.
Variable schedule = a schedule in which reinforcement is applied at different rates
or at different times.
Partial-reinforcement extinction effect = refers to the greater persistence of
behavior under partial reinforcement than under continuous reinforcement.
Behavior modification = the use of operant-conditioning techniques to eliminate
unwanted behaviors and replace them with desirable ones.
Cognitive map = a visual/spatial mental representation of an environment.
Latent learning = learning that takes place in the absence of reinforcement.