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Chapter 6

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Dan Dolderman

PSY100 LEARNING CHAPTER 6 Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner - The person who arguably had the greatest influence on contemporary psychological science - Was inspired by B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov - Pursued his interest in the human condition (behaviour) - At Harvard he differed with his professors about what psychologists should study; had disdain for their efforts to analyze the mind through introspection, a common approach, which is the process of thinking about one’s own thoughts and feelings and then talking about them as a way of making them public and available for others to study - The main objection was that this research method was not very reliable - Skinner believed that psychologists had to study observe actions- the behaviours that people and animals display - Skinner believed he could dramatically change an animal’s behaviour by providing incentives to the animal for performing particular acts - He conducted studies of animals, usually pigeons or rats, to discover the basic rules of learning HOW DID THE BEHAVIOURAL STUDY OF LEARNING DEVELOP? Learning: An enduring change in behaviour, resulting from experience - Occurs when animals benefit from experience so that their behaviour is better adapted to the environment - Learning is central to almost all aspects of human existence, from basic abilities to much more complex ones - The essence of learning is understanding how events are related; for example, you might associate going to the dentist with being in pain - Associations develop through conditioning; a process in which environmental stimuli and behavioural responses become connected o Two types of conditioning:  Classical conditioning/Pavlovian Conditioning: occurs when we learn that two types of events go together- example when we watch scary movie and our hearts beat faster  Operant conditioning/instrumental conditioning: occurs when we learn that a behaviour leads to a particular outcome, such as that studying leads to better grades o Other types include learning by observing others- ex, learning about new fashions by paying attention to what celebrities are wearing - Rise of the learning theory was due to the dissatisfaction among some psychologists with the widespread use of introspection, in which verbal reports are used to access mental states - Freud and his followers used verbal report techniques such as dream analysis and free association to assess the unconscious mental processes they believed were behaviour’s primary determinants - Watson believed observable behaviour was the only valid indicator of psychological activity; he believed thoughts and beliefs could not be studied using scientific methods - Watson founded behaviourism, a school of thought based on the belief that animals and humans are born wit the potential to learn just about anything o Behaviourism was the dominant psychological paradigm, affects the methods and theories of every area within psychology BEHAVIOURAL RESPONSES ARE CONDITIONED - Watson developed his ideas about behaviourism after reading the world of Ivan Pavlov who was interested in the salivary reflex, the automatic and unlearned response that occurs when a food stimulus is presented to a hungry animal, including a human o Created an apparatus that collected saliva from dogs so that he could measure differences in salivary output when he placed various types of food into a dogs mouth Pavlov’s Experiments - In a typical experiment, a neutral stimulus unrelated to the salivary reflex, such as the clicking of a metronome, is presented along with a stimulis that reliably produces the reflex, such as food - This pairing, a conditioning trial is repeated a number of times, then on critical trials the metronome sound is presented alone and the salivary reflex is measured - Found that the sound of the metronome was on its own produced salivation - Classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning: a type of earned 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 o Unconditioned response (UR): a response that does not have to be learned, such as a reflex (eg. Salivation) o Unconditioned stimulus (US): A stimulus that elicits a response, such as a reflex, without any prior learning (eg. The food) o Conditioned stimulus (CS): A stimulus that elicits a response only after learning has taken place (eg. metronome producing salvia after training) o Conditioned response (CR): a response to conditioned stimulus that has been learned (eg. The salivary reflex that occurs when only the conditioned stimulus is present) - The conditioned response is usually weaker than the unconditioned response, such that the metronome sound produces less saliva then the food does - Eg. A study showed that the CS (music) produces a somewhat different emotional response then the US (scary scene)- it may be less intense; however if you hear this music in some other context again, you will feel the same tense and anxious feeling previously felt eve if you aren’t watching the movie. You have been classically conditioned to be anxious when you hear the music Acquisition, Extinction, and Spontaneous Recovery - Pavlov was greatly influenced by Darwin and believed that conditioning was the basis for how animals learn to adapt to their environments - By learning to predict what objects bring pleasure or pain, animals acquire new adaptive behaviours - Acquisition: the gradual formation of an association between the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli - The critical element in the acquisition of a learned association is that the stimuli occur together in time, a bond referred to as contiguity - Research has shown that the strongest conditioning actually occurs when there is a very brief delay between the CS ad the US o Will develop stronger conditioned response to a piece of music if it comes just before scary part whereas during or after o The music’s role in predicting the frightening scene is an important part of the classical conditioning - Animals sometimes have to learn when associations are no longer adaptive - If metronome is presented many times and food does not arrive, the animals learn that the metronome is no longer a good predictor of food and therefore the salivary response gradually disappears o Extinction: a process in which the conditioned response is weakened when the conditioned stimulus is repeated without the unconditioned stimulus o The conditioned response is extinguished when the conditioned stimulus no longer predicts the unconditioned stimulus - An analogous situation occurs when the conditioned stimulus is presented a long time after extinction o Sounding the metronome will once again produce the conditioned response of salivation o Spontaneous recovery: a process in which a previously extinguished response re-emerges following presentations of the conditioned stimulus o Even a single pairing of the CS with the US will re-establish the CR, which will then diminish if CS-US pairings do not continue; extinction inhibits/reduces strength of the associative bond but does not eliminate it - Extinction is a form of learning that overwrites the previous associational what is learned is that the original association no longer holds true Generalization, Discrimination, and Second-Order Conditioning - In any learning situation, hundreds of possible stimuli can be associated with the unconditioned stimulus to produce the conditioned response - Stimulus generalization: occurs when stimuli that are similar but not identical to the conditioned stimulus produce conditioned response o After the CR is established, tones similar to 1000Hz will also produce salivation, but the farther the tones are from 1000 Hz, the less the dog will salivate - Generalization is adaptive because in nature the CS is seldom experienced repeated in an identical fashion, slight differences in variables lead to slightly different perception of the CS, so animals learn to respond to variations in the CS - Stimulus discrimination: A differentiation between two similar stimuli when only one of them is consistently associated with the unconditioned stimulus - Sometimes a conditioned stimulus becomes directly associated not with an unconditioned stimulus but rather with other stimuli associated with the US, a phenomenon known as second-order conditioning o First session; tone leads to salivation o Second session; a black square presented at same time as the tone and also produced salvia when presented alone after - Eg. Money is just paper and cheap metal, but it means something entirely different and is a feeling or rewarding for those who have it or want it - Second-order conditioning powerfully influences many of our beliefs and attitudes, most of it occurs implicitly, without our awareness or intention PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS HAVE LEARNED COMPONENTS Phobias and their treatment Phobia: an acquired fear that is out of proportion to the real threat of an object or of a situation - Develop through the generalization of fear experience - Animals ca be classically conditioned to fear neutral objects, a process known as fear conditioning - Most important brain structure for fear conditioning is the amygdala, without the amygdala, fear conditioning would not happen - An early study demonstraiong the role of conditioning in the development of phobias was John B. Watson’s teaching of an infant named Albert o Proposed phobias could be explained by smple learning principles, such as classical conditioning o Presented different objects to infant and got neutral responses, then presented them with a loud hammer smash and after a few times of this within 5 days, the infant would whimper and cringe when the objects were presented alone o The US (smashing sound) lead to a UR (fear), and eventually the pairing of the CS (rat) and the US (smashing sound) led to the object producing fear (CR) on its own o Also became frightened of thing that are similar to the objects o Therefore, classical conditioning was shown to be an effective method of inducing phobia - Reconditioning however, was a method of continually presenting the feared items to albert paired with more pleasant things, such as candy - Such classical-conditioning techniques have been proven valuable for developing very effective behavioural therapies to treat phobias - Exposing people to small doses of the fear stimulus while having them engage in a pleasurable task, a technique called counterconditioning can help people overcome a fear - Behavioural therapist Joseph Wolpe has developed a treatment based on counterconditioning, Behavioural therapist Joseph Wolpe has developed a treatment based on counterconditioning, systematic desensitization, after patients are taught how to relax their muscles, they are asked to think of the fear while continuing relaxation exercises - It is now believed that repeated exposure to the feared stimulus is more important than relaxation in breaking the fear connection Drug addiction - Conditional drug effects are common and demonstrate conditioning’s power - When former heroin addicts are exposed to environmental cues associated with their drug use, they often experience cravings - Such cues lead to activation of the prefrontal cortex and various regions of the limbic system, areas of the brain involved in the experience of reward (eg. Anticipating enjoying your tasty meal) - Shepard Siegel: according to him it is therefore important that treatment for addiction includes exposing addicts to drug cues o Such exposure helps extinguish responses, in the brain and rest of the body, to those cues o Thus the cues are prevented from triggering cravings in the future - Siegel’s findings imply that if addicts take their usual large doses in novel settings, they are more likely to overdose, because their bodes will not respond sufficiently to compensate for the drugs CLASSICAL CONDITIONING INVOLVES MORE THAN EVENTS OCCURRING AT THE SAME TIME - Pavlov’s original explanation for classical conditioning was that an two events presented in contiguity would produce a learned association Evolutionary significance - Any object of phenomenon could be converted into a conditioned stimulus during conditioning trials - However not all stimuli are equally effective in producing learning - Psychologist John Garcia showed that certain pairings of stimuli are more likely to become associated than others - Likewise most people can recall a time when they ate something and it made them ill, whether or not it was caused by the food; most people respond to this sequence of events with a conditioned food aversion, especially if the food was not part of the diet - Martin Seligman has argued that animals are genetically programmed to fear specific objects; refers to this programming as biological preparedness - Just like people more easily associate negative stimuli with outgroup members - The adaptive value of a certain response varies according to the animal’s evolutionary history - Different types of stimuli cause different reactions even within a species - Such differences in learned adaptive responses may reflect the meanings of, and potential danger associated with, auditory and visual stimuli in particular environments Gender differences in learning - One area that has generated considerable research and controversy is how differently men and women learn their ways around a given environment - In addition, the argument goes, since women spent much of their adult lives pregnant or nursing, they did not travel as much as men, and thus women generally did not develop the ability to learn their way through an environment as well as men did - Their studies suggest that when females learn a route, either from a map or form direct experience, they tend to keep track of the compass direction In which they are travelling - Thus women will more likely use landmarks and memorize a series of terms when navigating through space; males will more likely keep track of cardinal directions (north, south, etc) **Critical thinking: one basic principle in psychology is that if two events occur close together in time or space, people will for an association between them- a person or animal is conditioned to expect that when one event occurs, the associated event will occur  Virtue by association is one reason political dynasties exist in many countries throughout the world The cognitive perspective - Classical conditioning is a means by which animals come to predict the occurrence of events - Increasing consideration of mental processes such as prediction and expectancy is called cognitive perspective on learning - Robert Rescorla conducted one of the first studies highlighting cognition’s role is earning o Argued that for learning to take place, the conditioned stimulus must accurately predict the unconditioned stimulus o A stimulus that occurs before the US is more easily conditioned than one that come after it o The first stimulus is more easily learned because it predicts the US o Some delay between the CS and the US is optimal for learning o Length of delay varies depending on the natures of the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli o Eg. Conditioned food aversions often take many hours, since the ill effects of consuming poisons of food that has gone bad may not be felt for hours after eating - Rescorla-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 unexpected o the greater the surprise of the US, the more effort an organism puts into trying to understand its occurrence so that it can predict future occurrences o the result is greater classical conditioning of the event (CS) that predicted the US o novel stimuli are more easily associated with the unconditioned stimulus than are familiar stimuli o a conditioned stimulus can prevent the acquisition of a new conditioned stimulus, a phenomenon known as the blocking effect o a stimulus associate with a CS can act as an occasion setter, or trigger for the CS HOW DOES OPERANT CONDITIONING DIFFER FROM CLASSICAL CONDITIONING? - Classical conditioning is a relatively passive process in which a person or animal associates events that occur together In time, regardless of what the person or animal does beyond that - Many of our actions are instrumental- done for a purpose - We learn that behaving in certain ways leads to rewards or keeps us from punishment; known as operant conditioning or instrumental conditioning o A learning process in which the consequences of an action determine the likelihood that it will be performed in the future - “Operant” to express the idea that animals operate on their environments to produce effects - Study of this began by Edward Thorndike, who built a puzzle box, a small cage with a trap door o used cats for his study to see if cat could figure out to keep repeatedly pulling on a string to open the trap door, and developed a general theory of learning called the law of effect: Thorndike’s general theory of learning: any behaviour that leads to a “satisfying state of affairs” will more likely occur again, and any behaviour that leads to an “annoying state of affairs” will less likely recur REINFORCEMENT INCREASES BEHAVIOUR - Skinner developed a more formal learning theory based on the law of effect - Coined the term reinforce to describe an event that produces a learned response - Reinforcer: is a stimulus hat occurs after a response and increases the likelihood that the response will be repeated The skinner box - to assess operant conditioning, skinner developed a small cage in which one lever or response key is connected to a food supply, another to a water supply - developed the operant chamber (known as skinner box) because he got tired of fetching rats in the maze - with this box, he could expose rats or pigeons to repeated conditioning trials without having to do anything but observe Shaping Shaping: a process of operant conditioning; it involves reinforcing behaviours that are increasingly similar to the desired behaviour - When performing operant conditioning, you cannot provide the reinforce until the person or animal displays the appropriate response - This powerful process involves reinforcing behaviours that are increasingly similar to the desired behaviour - Reinforcing successive approximations eventually produces the desired
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