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Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Notes

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Western University
Psychology 1000

CHAPTER 7: LEARNING AND ADAPTATION - Learning is a process by which experience produces a relatively enduring change in an organisms 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 Pavlovs 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: - Pavlovs discoveries enabled behaviourists to challenge Freuds psychoa
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