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the process by which experience or practice results in a relatively permanent change in behavior or potential behavior


the acquisition of specific patterns of behavior in the presence of well-defined stimuli

Classical or Pavlovian conditioning

type of learning in which a response naturally elicited by one stimulus comes to be elicited by a different, neutral stimulus

Operant or instrumental conditioning

type of learning in which behaviors are emitted to earn rewards to avoid punishments

Unconditioned stimulus US

stimulus that invariably causes an organism to respond in a specific way

Unconditioned response (UR)

response that takes place in an organism whenever an unconditioned stimulus occurs

Conditioned stimulus

originally neutral stimulus that is paired with an unconditioned stimulus and eventually produces the desired response in an organism when presented alone

Conditioned response

after conditioning, the response an organism produces when only a conditioned stimulus is presented

Desensitization therapy

conditioning technique designed to gradually reduce anxiety about a particular object or situation

Taste aversion

conditioned avoidance of poisonous food

Operant behavior

behavior designed to operate on the environment in a way that will gain something desired or avoid something unpleasant


a stimulus that follows a behavior and increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated


a stimulus that follows a behavior and decreases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated

Law of effect

Thorndike's theory that behavior consistently rewarded will be 'stamped in' as learned behavior

Positive reinforcer

Any event whose presence increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will recur

Negative reinforcer

Any event whose reduction or termination increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will recur

Avoidance training

Learning a desirable behavior to prevent an unpleasant condition such as punishment from occurring

Response acquisition

'building phase' of the conditioning during which the likelihood or strength of the desired response increases

Intermittent pairing

pairing the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus on only a portion of the learning trials

Skinner box

box that is often used in operant conditioning of animals. It limits the available responses and thus increases the likelihood that the desired response will occur


reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behavior


decrease in the strength or frequency of a learned response due to failure to continue pairing the US and CS or the withholding of reinforcement

Spontaneous recovery

the reappearance of an extinguished response after the passage of time

Stimulus generalization

transfer of a learned response to different but similar stimuli

Stimulus discrimination

learning to respond to only one stimulus and to inhibit the response to all other stimuli

Response generalization

giving a response that is somewhat different from the response originally learned to that stimulus

Primary reinforcer

reinforcer that is rewarding in itself, such as food, water, and sex

Secondary reinforcer

reinforcer whose value is learned through association with other primary or secondary reinforcers


a reliable 'if-then' relationship between two events such as a CS and US


prior conditioning prevents conditioning to a second stimulus even when the two stimuli are presented simultaneously

Schedule of reinforcement

in partial reinforcement, the rule for determining when and how often reinforcers will be delivered

Fixed-interval schedule

reinforcement schedule that calls for reinforcement of a correct response after a fixed length of time

Variable-interval schedule

reinforcement schedule in which a correct response is reinforced after varying lengths of time after the last reinforcement

Fixed-ratio schedule

reinforcement schedule in which the correct response is reinforced after a fixed number of correct responses

Variable-ratio schedule

reinforcement schedule in which a varying number of correct responses must occur before reinforcement is presented

Cognitive learning

learning that depends on mental processes that are not directly observable

Latent learning

learning that is not immediately reflected in a behavior change

Cognitive map

a learned mental image of a spatial environment that may be called on to solve problems when stimuli in the environment change

Learning set

ability to become increasingly more effective in solving problems as more problems are solved

Social learning theory

view of learning that emphasizes the ability to learn by observing a model or receiving instructions, without firsthand experience by the learner

Observational learning

learning by observing other people's behavior

Vicarious reinforcement/punishment

performance of behaviors learned through observation that is modified by watching others who are reinforced or punished for their behavior

Token economy

a behavioral technique in which rewards for desired acts are accumulated through tokens, which represent a form of money

Cognitive map

a mental image of where one is located in space

Cognitive approach

a way of learning based on abstract mental processes and previous knowledge

Learning curve

gradual upward slope representing increased retention of material as the result of learning

State-dependent learning

the fact that material learned in one chemical state is best reproduced when the same state occurs again

Transfer of training

a learning process in which learning is moved from one task to another based on similarities between the tasks

Positive transfer

a transfer of learning that results from similarities between two tasks

Negative transfer

an interference with learning due to differences between two otherwise similar tasks

Information processing

the methods by which we take in, analyze, store, and retrieve material


an organized and systematic approach to answering questions or solving problems


the process of attaching a maximum number of associations to a basic concept or other material to be learned so that it can be retrieved more easily

Mnemonic devices

unusual associations made to material to aid memory

Principle learning

a method of learning in which an overall view (principle) of the material to be learned is developed so that the material is better organized


putting things into clusters or 'chunks' so that items learned are in groups, rather than separate


an increase in errors when trying to bring material back from memory


the process of learning something beyond one perfect recitation so that the forgetting curve will have no effect; the development of perfect retention.

Forgetting curve

graphic representation of speed and amount of forgetting that occurs


the ability to bring back and integrate many specific learned details


the ability to pick the correct object or event from a list of choices

Interference theory

the belief that we forget because new and old material conflict with one another


the blocking of older memories and/or the loss of new ones

Short-term memory

the memory system that retains information for a few seconds to a few minutes

Long-term memory

the memory system that retains information for hours, days, weeks, months, decades

Sensory memory system

direct receivers of information from the environment - for example, iconic, acoustic

Iconic memory

a very brief visual memory that can be sent to the STM

Acoustic memory

a very brief sound memory that can be sent to the STM

Eidetic imagery

an iconic memory lasting a minute or so that keeps images 'in front of the person' so objects can be counted or analyzed, also called 'photographic memory'

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