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Chapter 7

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Psychology 1000

Chapter 7: Learning and Adaptation 1. Historically, how have behaviorists and ethologists differed in their study of learning? - Learning is a process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organism’s behavior or capabilities (independent of the effects of maturation and temporary factors such as fatigue or sensory adaptation) o Some will be very connectionist while other will be more cognatavistic o However, all will tend towards abstraction in order to gain generality - Two major classes of theories o Single factor and Two factor o Single factor theories: assertion is that one type of learning is predominant  One basic process or principle underlies all forms of learning such as principle of contiguity and principle of reinforcement  Principle of contiguity: response in the presence of a particular stimuli leads to learning through the formation of an association (strongly linked to Classical or Pavlovian conditioning)  However, it is not entirely absent from the operant paradigm which may also be interpreted via contiguity  Principle of reinforcement: Clark Hull’s original operant learning paradigm  Contention is that drive reduction is the motivating factor in learning o Hunger – eat – reduction of drive to eat  However, an unconditioned stimulus may also be interpreted as setting up a drive reduction situation o Two factor theories: most notable theorists who used the combination of contiguity and reinforcement are E.L. Thorndike and B.F. Skinner  Law of Effect: behavior followed by a satisfying consequence will become more likely to occur while a behavior followed by an unsatisfying outcome will become less likely to occur  This is the basis of Thorndike’s instrumental learning (also became foundation of behaviorism) - In connectionist terms, the hypothetical unit ‘learned’ is either an ‘association’ or a ‘habit’ or a ‘stimulus-response bond’ o The view of association varies across theories; some see it as gradual while others see it as a single trial (all or none) event - Another term is extinction (gradual weakening of an association) o Other theories view an association as a permanent formation o However, people still tend to refer to the cessation of a behavior in terms of the behavior having become extinguished  Rather than a process of gradual weakening, some theories postulate that what appears to be extinction is actually a consequence of counter conditioning (existing association is replaced by a newly formed association which produces a behavior that is incompatible with the behavior produced by the original association) - Gestalt theories: Edward Chase Tolman is the father of this approach o Tolman postulated the theory of purposive learning (where behavior is organized around a specific goal) o Consequently, behavior is controlled by cognitive processes o Latent learning: possibility that learning may occur unobserved  Under certain changes in conditions the unobserved learning may manifest itself as a sudden increased efficiency in performance  This view challenges or qualifies all views which rely on drive reduction as the basis of learning - Cognitive approaches focus upon thoughts, ideas, and images o Direct opposition to the view of a permanent association o Also calls into question views of extinction as a weakening of habit or association strength o Suggests importance of cognitive reorganization - Primary function of classical and operant conditioning is to understand and modify behavior - Behaviorists focused on how organisms learn, examining the process by which experience influences behavior o They believe that there are laws of learning that apply to virtually all organisms o Each species they studied responded in predictable ways to patterns or rewards or punishment o Treated organisms as tabula rasa, or blank tablet, upon which learning experiences were inscribed - Ethologists focused on animal behavior within the natural environment o Ethologists viewed the organism as anything but tabula rasa, arguing that because of evolution every species comes into the world biologically prepared to act in certain ways 2. Explain the concept of adaptive significance - Ethologists focused on the functions of behavior o How does behavior influence an organism’s chances for survival and reproduction? - The manner in which a particular behavior enhances an organism’s chances of survival and reproduction - Fixed action pattern: an unlearned response automatically triggered by a particular stimulus o Some fixed action patterns can be modified by experience o What appears to be instinctive behavior actually involved learning 3. What role does the environment play in personal and species adaptation? - Environment shapes behavior in two ways (personal and species adaptation) - Personal adaptation occurs through the laws of learning that the behaviorists examined, and it results from our interactions with immediate and past environments o When you go on a date, your behavior is influenced by the immediate environment (traffic, your date’s smiles, etc.) - Through the process of evolution, environmental conditions faced by each species help shape its biology o Through natural selection, genetically based features that enhance a species’ ability to adapt to the environment are more likely to be passed onto the next generation o Learning does not modify an organism’s genes  However, the ability to learn can be passed down to generations; the brain structure and function that allows learning are under genetic control  In essence, we have become prewired to learn 4. What is habituation, and what is its adaptive significance? - Habituation is a decrease in the strength of response to a repeated stimulus - Habituation allows organisms to conserve energy and attend to other stimuli that are important o It is a simple form of learning that occurs within the central nervous system (not within sensory neurons); you may habituate to a stimulus, but that sensory information is still available if it becomes relevant 5. How do you create a conditioned salivation response in a dog? - Classical conditioning: organism learns to associate two stimuli such that one stimulus comes to produce a response that originally was produced only by the other stimulus o Unlike habituation, classical conditioning involves learning an association between stimuli o Developed Ivan Pavlov; what is paramount is the underlying principle being demonstrated, not the specific findings o Classical conditioning alerts organisms to stimuli that signal the impending arrival of an important event - Present a stimulus that ordinarily does not cause salivation in a dog before the food is presented - The presence of that stimulus eventually makes the dog salivate 6. Under what circumstances are CRs typically acquired most quickly? - Acquisition: period during which a response is being learned - Conditioned responses (CR) are acquired most quickly when they are associated with intense and aversive unconditioned stimulus o Unconditioned response is a natural, unlearned reflex (when dog salivates to food) o Conditioned response is a learned response (when dog salivates to tone) - During acquisition, a CS typically must be paired multiple times with a UCS to establish a strong CR - One trial learning occurs when a CS after only one pairing with an intense UCS produces a CR o Emily saw a snake and slammed the door on her hand; fear became a CR triggered by the sight of snakes - Learning usually occurs most quickly with forward short-delay pairing (the CS appears first and is still present when the UCS appears) - In forward trace pairing, the CS would come on and off o In forward pairing, it is often optimal for the CS to appear no more than two or three seconds before the UCS o It has adaptive value because the CS signals the impending arrival of the UCS - Simultaneous pairing produce less rapid conditioning - Learning is slowest or does not occur at all when the CS is presented after the UCS (backward pairing) - Learning is most effective when there are repeated CS-UCS pairings, the UCS is more intense, the sequence involves forward pairing, and the time interval between the CS and UCS is short 7. Explain the key factor in producing extinction of a CR - The key ingredient to extinction is not the mere passage of time, but repeated presentation of the CS without the UCS (CR weakens and eventually disappears) o Each presentation of CS without UCS is called an extinction trial - Even when CR extinguishes, no all traces of it are erased o Spontaneous recovery: reappearance of a previously extinguished CR after a rest period  Spontaneously recovered CR usually is weaker than the initial CR and extinguishes more rapidly in the absence of the UCS 8. Explain the adaptive significance of stimulus generalization and discrimination - Stimulus generalization: stimuli similar to the initial CS elicit a CR - Animal develops an alarm response to a range of rustling sounds (avoid predators) - Discrimination: demonstrated when a CR occurs to one stimulus but not to others o Emily’s fear of snakes was widespread, but it did not occur when she saw other animals 9. Explain the process of higher-order conditioning - Counter conditioning: when the CS is paired with another (new or different) UCS which leads to a UCR (eventually becoming a CR) incompatible with the originally elicited CR - Higher order conditioning: a neutral stimulus becomes a CS after being paired with an already established CS o This produces a CR that is weaker and extinguishes more rapidly than the original CR 10. How does classical conditioning explain fear acquisition? - Exposure to an environmental stimulus (CS) is paired with an aversive event (UCS), and as a result the originally neutral stimulus comes to elicit an emotional reaction of anxiety or fear - Experiments show that animals become afraid of neutral stimuli that are paired with electric shock o Albert developed fears for rats when it was associated with loud noise - Exposure therapies: basic goal is to expose the phobic patient to the feared stimulus (CS) without any UCS, allowing extinction to occur 11. How is classical conditioning used in society to increase or decrease our arousal/attraction to stimuli? - Originally neutral stimuli can trigger arousal after they have been paired with a naturally arousing UCS (increasing arousal) - Originally neutral stimuli can trigger repulsion after they have been paired with a noxious UCS (decreasing arousal) - Aversion therapy: attempts to condition an aversion to a stimulus that triggers unwanted behavior by pairing it with a noxious UCS (induction of nausea when alcoholics drink alcohol) o Often produce short terms changes that extinguish o
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