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difference between operant and classical conditioning

Classical Conditioning - deals with respondent behavior - actions that are automatic responses to stimuli
Operant Conditioning - organisms learn to associate their own actions with consequences - behavior acts on an environment to produce a rewarding or punishing stimuli

Edward L. Thorndike

creator of the puzzle box
Creator of law of effect

law of effect

Edward L. Thorndike created it and it basically states that responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation-- Rewards strengthen stimulus response connections - punishments stamp them out

B.F. Skinner

-created the Skinner Box
- Skinner box showed that food increases possibility that rat will press lever again - the food is a reinforcement for lever pressing


Rewarding an organism for successively closer approximations of the desired behvaior


teaching a subject to perform a number of repsonses succseivly in order to recieve a reward

Discriminative Stimulus

Signals that a response will be reinforced - act as cues

What is a reinforcer?

any even that strengthens (increases the frequency of) a preceding response
- can be tangible: food, water, money or intangable: activities, attention
-vary with cirumstances

Positive Reinforcer

Strengthens a response by presenting something pleasurable, after that response

Negative Reinforcer

strengthens a response by reducing or removing something that is unpleasant.

Primary Reinforcer

Food, water, warmth

Secondary Reinforcer

Get their powers through learned associations with primary reinforcers - money

-some reinforcers are more powerful then others

Premack Principle

A more valued activity can be used to reinforce the performance of a less valued activity.

Reinforcement Schedules

Continuous Reinforcement, Partial/intermittent Reinforcement

Continuous reinforcement

Every time the desired action is performed, a reward is given

Partial/intermittent Reinforcement

Responses are sometimes reinforced, sometimes not - takes longer to learn, but lasts longer

Fixed Ratio Schedule

reinforce behavior after a set number of responses

Variable Ratio Schedule

provide reinforcement after an unpredictable amount of responses.

Fixed Interval Schedule

provide reinforcement after predictable amount of time

Variable interval/ schedule

provide reinforcement after unpredictable amount of time,

Positive Punishment

Decrease the probability of a behavior by administering an unpleasant stimulus when that behavior occurs.

Negative Punishment

decreases the probability of a behavior by removing a pleasant stimulus when the behavior occurs.

Drawbacks of Positive Punishment

A. Behavior is repressed but not forgotten
B. can teach fear
C. increase aggressive behavior if the punishment is physical
D. Increase anger and hostility

Positive Punishment can work if

A. delivered swiftly
B. delivered consistently
C. accompanied by an explanation
D. Child must know that behavior it is engaging in is wrong

Extending Skinner's Understanding

Behaviorists believe that organisms will only aquire responses for which they have been reinforced

Edward Chase Toleman

Showed that rats only learn about their environments in the absence of reinforcement - the unrewarded rats had developed a cognitive map and the learning would remain hidden until the rat was motivated to run the maze as quickly as possible - latent learning

Latent Learning

The type of learning that occurs, but you don't really see it (it's not exhibited) until there is some reinforcement or incentive to demonstrate it. - Edward Chase Toleman

Wolfgang Kohler

This is an extension of the term, insight which was identified by Wolfgang Kohler while studying the behavior of chimpanzees. He said that insight learning is a type of learning or problem solving that happens all-of-a-sudden through understanding the relationships various parts of a problem rather than through trial and error.

Martin Seligman

learned helplessness - belief that no matter what one does nothing can be done to change the situation.

Biological Predisposition

animals natural predispositions will constrain its capacity for operant conditioning
-animals are predisposed to learn associations that are biologically adaptive.

Instinctive Drift

An animal's reversion back to biologically predisposed behaviors.

Programmed learning

programmed learning -breaking down a complex learning task into a series of small steps - each step can be shaped individually and then combined sequentially into a behavioral chain.

Token Economics

ppl receive tokens for performance of desirable behavior- these tokens can be exchanged for rewards.


A unit of cultural knowledge that is transmitted- likes genes, memes are selectively passed on from one generation to the next - however unlike natural selection, which takes 1000's of years, memes spread quickly
- usually spread via observational learning - the acquisition or modification of a behavior after exposure to at least one performance of that behavior.
-bobo doll

Albert Bandera and Bobo Doll Experiment

Grown up hits doll when angry - kids hit doll when angry


- can be transmitted via observational learning


the imitation of an observed behavior

who do we model

- Physically attractive
- In a high Position
- Similar to Us

-Modeling is only effective if the observer is physically able to imitate.

Vicarious Learning

learning about actions and consequences by watching others being rewarded or punished for their actions.


learning a behavior


actually performing the behavior you learned

Mirror Neurons

Every time you observe another person ongoing in an action, similar neurons appear to be firing in your brain and the other persons - thus mirror neurons appear to be the neurological basis of observational learning - some neuro scientists believe mirror neurons help us explain ans predict other people's behavior and better understand their activities.

Positive reinforcement

- provides subjective experience of pleasure
-increases want for object or event that produces reward

Pete Milner and James Olds

Intercranial Self Stimulation (ICSS) - referred to brain regions that supported ICSS as pleasure centers


Acts on the same brain regions that are activated by natural reinforcers - food, water, sexual activity - key neurotransmitter: dopamine - neurochemical reason for positive reinforcement

Nuclear Accumbus

brain's main pleasure center - in limbic system - reward results when dopamine receptors in the nuclear Accumbus are activated.

How is the value of the reinforcer set?

by how much dopamine it releases
-Drugs that block dopamine's effect disrupt operant conditioning


the inability to experience pleasure


results in relativity permanent changes in the brain - changes will result from exposure to environmental events

Richard Semon

Memories are stored through changes in the nervous system - he believed that learned material was stored neural circuits called engrams - Karl Loshley looked for engrams but never discovered them.

Donald Hebb

Proposed that learning is the result of alterations in synaptic connections.
- the connections between neurons were strengthened
- once this happens the firing of the post-synaptic neuron
"neurons that fire together wire together"

Eric Kandel

did experiments that supported Hebb's theory - studied the aplysia (sea slug) - used two types of single learning on them
- Habituation - a decrease in behavioral response after repeated exposure to nonthreatening stimuli
-Sensitization - An increase in behavioral response after exposure to a threatening stimulus. - this leads to a hightend response to other stimuli also.

Habituation - reduced release of neurotransmitters by presynatpic neurons
Sensitization - the opposite.

Long Term Potentiation (LTP)

A presynaptic neruons is given 100 pulses of electricity in 5 seconds - then a single pulse is readminasterd to the presynaptic neuron - after this the presynaptic neuron fires faster and the post synaptic neuron also fires faster

long-term potentiation (LTP) is a long-lasting enhancement in signal transmission between two neurons that results from stimulating them synchronously. It is one of several phenomena underlying synaptic plasticity, the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength.
-more efficiant
- connections strengthend
-ltp's effects are more easily seen in brain ares known to be involved in learning and memory - hippocampus


one of the main neurotransmitters involved in ltp - post synaptic neurons have glutamate receptors called NMDA receptors more sensitive in mice(doogie mice)
- phobias cause ltp in amygadala

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