CHAPTER 6: LEARNING
- Phobias: Irrational fears of specific objects or situations.
o Usually the result of classical conditioning
- Learning: Refers to a relatively durable change in behaviour or knowledge that is due to
- Conditioning: Involves learning associations between events that occur in an organisms
- Classical Conditioning: A type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to
evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus
o First described around 1900 by Ivan Pavlov
o Conditioning comes from Pavlovs determination to discover the conditions
that produce this kind of learning.
Pavlovs Demonstration: Psychic Reflexes
- While investigating the role of saliva in the digestive process in dogs, he stumbled upon
psychic reflexes (now known as classical conditioning)
o While presenting the dogs with food to measure the saliva, he found that some
would start salivating before the food in response to the device that presented
o He testing this theory with other things, such as a tone, and he got the same results
eventually the dogs would start salivating to the tone alone.
The tone started out as a neutral stimulus; it did not originally produce the
response of salivation, however he managed to change that by pairing it
with a stimulus (meat) that did produce the salivation response
Terminology and Procedures
- Unconditioned Stimulus: (UCS) Is a stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response
without previous conditioning.
o Meat Powder - Unconditioned Response: (UCR) An unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus
that occurs without previous conditioning.
o Causing the dog to salivate
- Conditioned Stimulus: (CS) A previously neutral stimulus that has, through
conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a conditioned response
o The tone
- Conditioned Response: (CR) A learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs
because of previous conditioning
o Salivating to the tone
- Important to note that the unconditioned response and the conditioned response often
consist of the same behaviour, although there may be subtle differences between them.
- Conditioned Reflex: Pavlovs psychic reflex became known as a conditioned reflex.
o Classically conditioned responses have traditionally been characterized as reflexes
and are said to be elicited (drawn forth) because most of them are relatively
autonomic or involuntary
- A trial in Classical Conditioning: Involves any presentation of a stimulus or pair of
o Classical Conditioning can occur quite rapidly, sometimes in just one pairing of
the CS and UCS
Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life
- Classical conditioning plays a key role in shaping emotional responses such as fears.
Conditioning and Physiological Responses
- Research has revealed that classical conditioning procedures can lead to
immunosuppression a decrease in the production of antibodies.
- Studies suggest that classical conditioning can also elicit allergic reactions and also
contributes to the growth of drug tolerance, and the experience of withdrawal symptoms.
Conditioning and Drug Effects
- Stimuli that are consistently paired with the administration of drugs can acquire the
capacity to elicit conditioned responses in both humans and laboratory animals o In many instances, the conditioned responses are physiological reactions that are
just the opposite of the normal effects of the drugs.
o These responses are called compensatory CRs because they partially compensate
for the drugs effects.
Acquisition: Forming New Responses
- Acquisition: Refers to the initial stage of learning something.
o Acquisition of a conditioned response depends on stimulus contiguity. Stimuli are
contiguous if they occur together in time and space
Extinction: Weakening Conditioned Responses
- Extinction: The gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response
o The consistent presentation of the conditioned stimulus alone without the
unconditioned stimulus leads to extinction
Spontaneous Recovery: Resurrecting Responses
- Spontaneous Recovery: The reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of
non-exposure to the conditioned stimulus.
o Research has shown that if a response is extinguished in a different environment
than it was acquired, the extinguished response will reappear if the animal is
returned to the original environment where acquisition took place.
o Extinction does not appear to lead unlearning
Even if you manage to rid yourself of an unwanted conditioned response,
there is an excellent change that it may make a surprise reappearance later
- Stimulus Generalization: Occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a
specific stimulus responds in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original
o The likelihood and amount of generalization to a new stimulus depend on the
similarity between the new stimulus and the original conditioned stimulus
o The more similar new stimuli are to the original CS the greater the generalization