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Chapter 7

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Psychology 1000

CHAPTER 7: LEARNING AND ADAPTATION - Learning is a process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organism’s behaviour or capabilities > ADAPTING TO THE ENVIRONMENT - learning is a process of personal adaptation to the ever-changing circumstances of our lives How Do We Learn? - the study of learning guided by two different perspectives: behaviourism and ethology - behaviourists focused on how organisms learn, examining how experience influences behaviour - assumed that there are laws of learning that apply to virtually organisms - believed an organism is born as a tabula rasa upon which learning is inscribed Why Do We Learn? - Ethology focused on animal behaviour within the natural environment - Believed organisms came into the world prepared to act in certain ways - Focused on adaptive significance: how does a behaviour influence chances of survival and reproduction - Believe in instinctive behaviour called fixed action pattern: an unlearned response automatically triggered by a particular stimulus - Some fixed action patterns can be modified by experience Biology, Cognition, and Culture: - two perspectives have merged: behaviour is shaped by personal adaptation and through species adaptation - personal adaptation shaped by interactions with past and immediate environment - environmental conditions faced by each species help shape its biology - human brain developed capacity to learn through evolution - every organism must learn certain things: o which events are, or are not, important to its survival and well-being o which stimuli signal that an important event is about to occur o whether its responses will produce positive or negative consequences - the cognitive perspective and cross-cultural psychology have helped understanding of learning  cognitive theorists challenge the behaviourist assumption that learning does not involve mental processes, and cross-cultural research highlights the impact of culture on what we learn Habituation - habituation: a decrease in the strength of response to a repeated stimulus - possibly the simplest form of learning  even sea snails habituate - by learning not to respond to uneventful familiar stimuli, organisms conserve energy and can attend to other stimuli that are important 1 - different than sensory adaptation  habituation is a simple form of learning that occurs within the central nervous system, not within sensory neurons - you may habituate to a stimulus, but the sensory info is still available if needed > CLASSICAL CONDITIONING - classical conditioning: an organism learns to associate two stimuli in a way that one stimulus comes to produce a response that was originally produced by the other stimulus Pavlov’s Pioneering Research - dogs would salivate to the sound of a tone when it was heard before the presentation of food - this type of learning by association became known as classical or Pavlovian conditioning - alerts organisms to stimuli that signal the impending arrival of an important event Basic Principles of Conditioning Acquisition: - Acquisition refers to the period during which a response is being learned. - Initially, the tone is a neutral stimulus  does not elicit the salivation response - Because no learning is required for the food to produce salivation, the food is called an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) and salivation is an unconditioned response (UCR) - Next the tone and the food are paired in learning trials - Eventually dog salivates to the tone even when there is no food  tone has become the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salivation has become a conditioned response (CR) - A CS typically must be paired multiple times with a UCS to establish a strong CR - When the UCS is intense and aversive conditioning may only require one CS- UCS pairing (one/single trial learning) - Learning usually occurs most quickly with forward short-delay pairing: the CS appears first and is still present when the UCS appears. Forward trace pairing is when the CS goes on then off, then the UCS appears  it is optimal if the UCS is presented no more than 2-3 seconds later - Simultaneous pairing produces less rapid conditioning, and it is slowest when the CS is presented after the UCS (backward pairing) Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery: - Extinction: if the CS is presented repeatedly in the absence of the UCS, the CR weakens and eventually disappears - Each presentation of the CS without the UCS is called an extinction trial - Key to extinction is not the mere passage of time, but repeated presentation of the CS without the UCS  CR can persist forever if CS is not presented with UCS 2 - Spontaneous recovery: defined as the reappearance of a previously extinguished CR after a rest period, and without new learning trials  usually weaker than the initial CR and extinguishes more rapidly in the absence of the UCS Generalization and Discrimination: - once a CR is acquired, the organism often responds not only to the original CS, but also to stimuli similar to it  greater the similarity, greater chance of a CR - stimulus generalization: stimuli similar to the initial CS elicit a CR - Serves critical adaptive functions  An animal that ignores the sound of rustling bushes and then is attacked by a hidden predator will become alarmed by the sound of a rustling bush in the future. If stimulus generalization did not occur, the next time the animal would only be alarmed by an identical rustling - Must learn to distinguish between irrelevant sounds and those that may signal damage  discrimination Higher-Order Conditioning: - higher-order conditioning: a neutral stimulus becomes a CS after being paired with an already established CS - typically, a higher-order CS produces a CR that is weaker and extinguishes more rapidly than the original CR Applications of Classical Conditioning Acquiring and Overcoming Fear: - Pavlov’s discoveries enabled behaviourists to challenge Freud’s psychoanalytic view of the causes of anxiety disorders - Fear does not need to involve unconscious conflicts or repressed traumas, but rather involves the pairing of certain things with negative consequences - Behavioural treatments partially based on classical conditioning principles are among the most effective psychotherapies for phobias  if phobias are “learned,” they can be “unlearned” - Exposure therapies: basic goal is to expose the phobic patient to the feared stimulus (CS) without any UCS, allowing extinction to occur - Systematic desensitization: the patient learns muscular relaxation techniques and then is gradually exposed to the fear-provoking stimulus - Flooding: immediately exposes the person to the phobic stimulus Conditioned Attraction and Aversion - much of what attracts and pleasurably arouses us is influenced by classical conditioning - originally neutral stimuli can trigger sexual arousal after they have been paired with a naturally arousing UCS - classical conditioning can also decrease our arousal and attraction to stimuli - aversion theory: attempts to condition a repulsion to a stimulus that triggers unwanted behaviour by pairing it with a harmful UCS such as electric shocks 3 - conditioned attraction and aversion also play a role in attitude formation  neutral stimuli acquire favourable or unfavourable meaning by being paired with other stimuli that already elicit positive or negative attitudes > OPERANT CONDITIONING: LEARNING THROUGH CONSEQUENCES Thorndike’s Law of Effect - built a puzzle box  animal must step on lever or pull string to open - through trial-and-error, the animal eliminated responses that failed to open door - called this instrumental learning because an organism’s behaviour is instrumental in brining about certain outcomes - law of effect: in a given situation, a response followed by a “satisfying” consequence will become more likely to occur, and vice versa - law of effect became the foundation for the school of behaviourism Skinner’s Analysis of Operant Conditioning - coined term operant behaviour, meaning an organism operates on its environment - operant conditioning: a type of learning in which behaviour is influenced by its consequences  those which produce favourable consequences will be repeated - facilitates personal adaptation  learn to increase behaviours that benefit them - Skinner box: rat put into a chamber and accidentally presses a button to release a food pellet  over time, rat learns to press button more frequently - Reinforcement: a response is strengthened by an outcome that follows it. The outcome (a stimulus or event) that increases the frequency of a response is called a reinforcer - Punishment: occurs when a response is weakened by outcomes that follow it. Punisher is a consequence that weakens behaviour ABCs of Operant Conditioning - three kinds of events: o antecedents: (A) stimuli that are present before a behaviour occurs o behaviours: (B) the behaviours an organism emits o consequences: (C) the consequences that follow behaviour - IF antecedent stimuli are present, AND behaviour is emitted, THEN consequence will occur  IF I say “sit,” AND my dog sits, THEN she gets a treat - The relations between A and B, and B and C, are called contingencies - Key differences between classical and operant conditioning: o In classical, the organism learns an association between two stimuli – the CS and the UCS. In operant, the organism learns an association between behaviour and its consequences o Classical focuses on elicited behaviours. Operant focuses on emitted behaviours 4 Antecedent Conditions: Identifying when to respond - discriminative stimulus: a signal that a particular response will now produce certain consequences - “set the occasion” for us to make certain responses Consequences: Determining how to respond Positive Reinforcement - a response is strengthened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus  the stimulus that follows and strengthens the response is called a positive reinforcer - behaviourists use the word positive reinforcement rather than reward because in many cases rewards do not function as a positive reinforcer Primary and Secondary Reinforcers - Primary reinforcers: stimuli, such as food and water, that an organism naturally finds reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs - Secondary/conditioned reinforcers: stimuli that acquire reinforcing qualities by being associated with a primary reinforcer (money, performance feedback) - Eg, dog training  “good dog” becomes a secondary reinforcer when said before presenting food Negative Reinforcement - a response is strengthened by the subsequent removal or avoidance of a stimulus - the stimulus that is removed or avoided is called a negative reinforcer - helps us learn to escape from and avoid aversive situations Operant Extinction - the weakening and eventual disappearance of a response because it is no longer reinforced - we are likely to abandon and replace behaviours that no longer pay off Positive Punishment - also called aversive punishment  a response is weakened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus (eg, spanking or scolding a child) - though positive punishment often works, it suppresses behaviour, but does not cause the organism to forget how to make the response. Also, this suppression may not generalize to other relevant situations Negative Punishment - a response is weakened by the subsequent removal of a stimulus (monetary fines, loss of privileges, groundings, etc) - less likely to create strong fear or dislike than with positive punishment Immediate versus Delayed Consequences - reinforcement or punishment that occurs immediately after a behaviour has a st
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