Psychology 1000 Chapter 7 Notes (Learning and Adaptation: The Role of Experience)
Learning is the process by which experience produces a change in an organism’s behaviour or
o Experiences may produce immediate knowledge to use and comprehend, but in science
we must measure learning by changes in performance.
o There are many basic learning processes:
Habituation and Sensitization is a change in behaviour that results from
repeated exposure to stimuli.
Classic Conditioning is where two stimuli become associated with each other.
Operative Conditioning is where we associate responses with specific
Adapting to the Environment
Learning can be viewed as a process of personal adaptation to the ever-changing circumstances
of our lives.
Behaviourists are concerned on how organisms learn.
o Individuals are treated as tabula rasa, or a blank tablet where experiences can be
o Behaviourists explain learning in terms of observable events and try to avoid speculating
about an organism’s mind set.
o Learning behaviour is not always adaptive.
Habituation is the decrease of strength of response to repeated stimuli.
o Habituation is different from sensory adaptation.
Sensitization is the opposite of habituation; the strength of the response increases rather than
Classical Conditioning is where an organism learns to associate two stimuli with each other;
associating stimuli that was produced only by the original stimuli
o It involves learning an association by stimuli.
There are some factors that affect the basic processes of conditioned responses:
Acquisition is the period of time where the response is being learnt.
During acquisition, to condition, a UCS (unconditioned stimuli) must
illicit a UCR (unconditioned response) before the subject can be
condition with a NS (neutral stimuli).
Through association, the NS has become a CS (conditioned stimuli)
invoking a CR (conditioned response)
When the UCS is intense and aversive, conditioning may only require one trial
whereas others may require many. Learning usually occurs most quickly via forward short-delay pairing, where CS
appears and is still present with UCS.
In forward trace pairing, the CS would be present and disappear, and
then the UCS is given.
o The best interval of time between stimuli is 0.5s
In simultaneous pairing, is where CS and UCS are presented at the same
In backward pairing, is where CS is presented after UCS
o Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery
If a CS is repeated in the absence of the UCS, the CR is weakened and eventually
disappears and this process is called extinction
Every time the CS is presented with the UCS it is called an extinction
When a CR goes away, it does not mean it goes away completely. The sudden
reappearance of the extinguished CR is called spontaneous recovery.
Spontaneous recovery is weaker than the initial CR and goes away more
rapidly without the UCS.
o Generalization and Discrimination
Stimuli similar to the original CS elicit a similar but not exactly the same; called
It serves several critical adaptive functions.
To prevent stimuli generalization from running amok, organisms must be able to
discriminate between differences in stimuli.
Discrimination is where a CR occurs to one stimuli and not another.
Organisms can be taught to discriminate two stimuli that were treated
the same way.
o Higher-Order Conditioning
A neutral stimulus can become a CS if it is paired up with an already existing CS.
o Acquiring and Overcoming Fear
Exposure therapy exposes the individual to patients with a phobia to the
phobia, hoping to cause the stimuli to slowly ‘extinct’ itself.
o Conditioned Attraction and Aversion
Classical conditioning can both cause and decrease arousal and attraction to
Sometimes an allergic response can be triggered by CS after conditioning.
o Don Byrne: Reinforcement-Affect Model
Arousing stimuli conditions a person with a stranger
May and Hamilton:
Female students listened to music
o Neutral o Positive
Rated attractive ness of male photos
o Listening to positive music= higher rating
Thorndike proposed a ‘law of effect’ where in given situations, a response with a good
consequence will become more likely and a response with a bad consequence is less likely to
Operant behaviour, termed by Skinner, is learning where behaviour is influence by its
consequences. There are several types of consequences:
o Reinforcement is a response that is strengthened by an outcome that follows it
o Punishment is where a response is weakened by outcomes that follow it.
Reinforcement-response bonds are important; responses that get reinforced are
more likely to occur
Operant behaviour involves 3 events:
o Antecedent, which is stimuli that is present before a behaviour is present
o Behaviours, which is a behaviour that the organism exhibits (duh…)
o The relations between A,B and C are called contingencies.
o Discriminative stimuli cause settings for operant Reponses.
Behaviour is governed by consequences; two types of reinforcement strengthen them and two
types of punishment weaken them as well as the disappearance of a response due to no
o Positive Reinforcement:
A response is strengthened by the presentation of stimulus
Rewards are not positive reinforcement
o Negative Reinforcement:
A response is strengthened by the removal or avoidance of a stimulus
Punishment is not negative reinforcement; reinforcement strengthens a
response, it does not weaken a response
o Operant Extinction:
A response eventually disappears due to lack of reinforcement
The effect to which the response lasts is called resistance to extinction.
o Positive Punishment:
A response is weakened due to the presentation of a stimulus
Usually produces fast results
It arouses negative emotions
o Negative Punishment:
A response is weakened by the removal of a stimulus Even though negative punishment may arouse negative emotions, it does not
cause fear and aggression towards the punishing agent
o Primary and Secondary Consequences:
Primary reinforcers are stimuli that the subject finds reinforcing because they
satisfy biological need