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Chapter 1

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Anneke Olthof

Learning –Chapter 1  Introduction o Learning  Biological process that facilitates adaptation to one’s environment o Integrity of life depends on successfully accomplishing a number of biological functions such as respiration, digestion and resisting disease  Reproduction significantly improved by learning o Learning involves acquisition of new behaviour, but also the decrease or loss of a reaction  Withholding responses is as important as making them o Two types of learning  Procedural learning  Does not require awareness  Declarative/episodic learning  More accessible to conscious report  Many aspects of human behaviour occur without awareness  People are typically inaccurate with reporting their own behaviour  Historical Antecedents o Roots from Descartes o Before Descartes  Human behaviour determined by free will  Not considered to be controlled by external stimuli or mechanistic natural laws  Our actions were a result of our intent o Recognized that many people do are automatic reactions to external stimuli  Developed dualistic view of human behaviour – dualism o Dualism  Two classes of human behaviour  Voluntary o Does not have to be triggered by external stimuli and occurs because of person’s conscious intent to act in that particular manner  Involuntary o Consists of automatic reactions to external stimuli and mediated by reflexes o Reflexive behaviour o Stimuli in environment are detected by sense organs  Relayed to brain through nerves  From brain, impetus for action sent through nerves to muscles that create involuntary response  Sensory input is reflected in response output  Involuntary => reflexive o Free will and voluntary behavior to be uniquely human attributes  Only humans thought to have a mind/soul o Mind-body dualism  Stimulated two intellectual traditions  Mentalism o Concerned with contents and workings of mind  Reflexology o Concerned with mechanisms of reflexive behaviour o Historical developments in the study of the mind  Nativism  Assumption that people are born with innate ideas about certain things  John Locke  All ideas people had were acquired directly or indirectly through experiences after birth  Mind starts as clean slate (tabula resa), gradually being filled o Contents of the mind due to empiricism 1 Learning –Chapter 1  Concept accepted by group of philosophers known as the British Empiricists  Descartes believed that the mind did not function in a predictable and orderly manner  Thomas Hobbes  Accepted that there were voluntary and involuntary behaviours, but proposed that voluntary behaviour governed by hedonism o People do things to increase pleasure and decrease pain  Hedonism was simply a fact of life  Association  Empiricisms assumes all ideas originate from sense experiences  Words will activate memories/aspects of the concept to explain how the mind works  Rules of associations  Two sets of rules o Primary  Set by Aristotle  Contiguity  If two events repeatedly occur together, they will become associated  Similarity  Two things will become associated with one another if they are similar  Contrast  Two things will be associated if they have some contrasting characteristic o Secondary  Set by Thomas Brown  Many things influence formation of associations o Intensity of the sensations o Frequency/ how recent sensations occurred together o Also depends on how many previous associations there are  Ebbinghaus o Invented nonsense syllables to see how someone may react to them o Historical development in the study of reflexes  Descartes  Believed sensory messages from sense organ to brain/motor messages from brain to muscles travelled along the same nerves  Thought nerves were hollow tubes and transmission involved gases – animal spirits  Animal spirits released by pineal gland, flowed through neural tubes, ad entered muscles causing them to swell and creating movement  Considered all reflexive movement to be innate and fixed by anatomy of nervous system  All were proven to be incorrect  Charles Bell / Francois Magendie  Separate nerves involved in transmission of sensory information from sense organs to central nervous system/ motor information from central nervous system to muscles  Sensory nerve cut => can still move muscles  Motor nerve cut => can still register sensory information  Involvement of a gas was disproved after the death of Descartes  Descartes assumed that reflexes were responsible for simple reactions to stimuli  Energy in a stimulus thought to be translated directly into energy of elicited response by neural connections o More intense the stimulus, more vigorous the resulting response  Sechenov proposed stimuli did not always elicit reflex responses directly  Some could release response from inhibition 2 Learning –Chapter 1  Suggested that complex forms of behaviour that occurred in absence of obvious eliciting stimulus were in fact reflexive responses  Voluntary behaviour and thoughts are actually elicited by inconspicuous, faint stimuli  Reflexes thought to depend on a prewired neural circuit connecting the sense organs to relevant muscles  Pavlov  Showed that not all reflexes are innate  New reflexes can be established through mechanisms of association  Pavlov and Ebbinghaus both concerned with establishing laws of associations through empirical research  Modern behaviour theory built on reflex concept of stimulus-response unit (S-R Unit) and concept associations  Continue to play prominent roles in contemporary behaviour theory  The dawn of the modern era o Research in animal learning came from three primary sources: o Comparative cognition and evolution of intelligence  Darwin took Descartes’ theory to a new level  Argued “man is descended from some lower form, notwithstanding that connecting-links have not hitherto been discovered”  Attempted to characterize not only physical evolution traits but also evolution of psychological or mental abilities  Argued human mind is product of evolution  Did not deny that human beings had mental abilities, but suggested that nonhuman animals also had these abilities  Collected anecdotal evidence of various forms of intelligent behaviour in animals in effort to support his claims  Highly influential proposal for a criterion offered by George Romanes – Animal Intelligence  Intelligence identified by determining whether an animal learns “to make new adjustments or to modify old ones in accordance with results of its own individual experience”  Defined intelligence in terms of ability to learn th th o Widely accepted by comparative psychologists at end of 19 and start of 20 century and served to make study of animal learning key to obtaining information about the evolution of intelligence o Functional Neurology  Pavlov became committed to the principle of nervism  All key physiological functions are governed by nervous system  1902 Bayliss and Starling  Claimed that pancreas was partially controlled by hormones and not only by neural control  Pavlov stopped studying the digestive physiology to studying conditioning of reflexes  Studied conditioning as a way to obtain information about functions of nervous system  well accepted by neuroscientists  behavioural studies of learning can provide clues about machinery of nervous system o Animal Models of Human Behaviour  Research of nonhuman behaviour can provide information about humans  Drawing inferences about human behaviour can be hazardous and controversial  Hazardous if they are unwarranted  Controversial if rationale is poorly understood  Animal models are used similar to how other models are used  Models are commonly used because they permit investigation of certain aspects and makes things simpler, more easily c
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