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process by which humans and animals acquire behavior patterns; experience or practice results in a relatively permanent change in behavior or potential behavior; more broad than studying


a natural stimulus that evokes a natural response; acquisition of specific patterns of behavior in the presence of well defined stimuli; general term for humans and animals; basic form of learning

Classical Conditioning

expanded by John Watson and Rosalie Rayner; Learning where a response, normally elicited by one stimulus, is taught to respond to another, normally, neutral stimulus; AKA Pavlovian; pairing an involuntary response

Unconditioned Stimulus

US or UCS; a stimulus that causes an organism to respond in a natural manner; in Pavlov's experiment, the meat powder

Conditioned Stimulus

CS; ordinarily a neutral stimulus paired with a unconditioned stimulus to achieve a desired result and eventually produces the desired response in an organism when presented alone; in Pavlov's experiment, the bell

Unconditioned Response

UR or UCR; a natural response that occurs when the UCS occurs, like salivating in Pavlov's experiment

Conditioned Response

CR; a response (after conditioning) that occurs after the CS; in Pavlov's experiment, salivation

Desensitization Therapy

created by Joseph Wolpe; Wolpe adapted Mary Cover Jones's method of unlearning fears (of children) to treat certain kinds of anxiety; a conditioning technique designed to gradually reduce anxiety about a particular object or situation; thought is that if a person can associate relaxation with the fearful stimulus then they could change human behavior

Backward Conditioning

when the natural stimulus is presented and terminated before the conditioned stimulus is presented. If Pavlov had presented the food and then, after the dog ate, presented the sound of the bell, the tone alone would not elicit much salivation, since it no longer signals that food is imminent. Backward conditioning is controversial because many psychologists argue that it does not work.

Interstimulus Interval

time between two stimulus; best used in the eyeblink conditioning experiment; Max Wertheimer did experiments with two stationary, flashing lights that at some

Intermittent Pairing

pairing the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus on only a portion of learning rituals; this procedure reduces both the rate of learning and the final level of learning achieved

Conditioned Food Aversion

AKA taste aversion; discovered by John Garcia by accident during an experiment using rats and radiation; learned association between a food (taste) and nausea/revulsion; avoiding a particular food because it was paired with a bad experience


a decrease in the frequency of a conditioned response because of a failure to continue pairing the US and CS (in classical conditioning) or withholding of reinforcement (operant conditioning)

Spontaneous Recovery

the reappearance of an extinguished response after the passage of time, without further training

Stimulus Generalization

the transfer of behavior (learned response) from one stimulus to another stimulus that is similar in nature; in Little Albert's case, Little Albert was afraid of not only white, furry rats but any white and furry objects.


Learning to respond to only one stimulus and to inhibit the response to all other stimuli; when Little Albert was able discern between a white rat and a white rabbit

Higher Order Conditioning

conditioning based on previous learning; the CS serves as an US for further training

Operant Behavior

expanded by BF Skinner; learning based on rewards or punishment; not automatic reflexes

Vicarious Learning

AKA observational learning or modeling; component of social learning theory; expanded by Albert Bandura; states that people pay attention to a model and convert the learning into action


reinforcing successive approximations to desired behavior; example: Skinner box, tiger jumping through a hoop; teaching dog to pee outside, teach a penguin to do a figure 8, driving, etc

Law Of Effect

Thorndike; used in an experiment with cats and a puzzle box; principle of reinforcement; behavior consistently rewarded will be 'stamped in' as learned behavior, and behavior that brings about discomfort will be 'stamped out'; satisfying effect (reinforcement) is likely to be performed again, whereas behavior that brings about negative effect (punishment) is likely to be suppressed

Negative Reinforcer

the removal of an unpleasant stimulus that increases the likelihood that behavior will continue; is more effective in learning than punishment

Positive Reinforcer

a reward; any event whose presence increase the likelihood that behavior will continue

Primary Reinforcer

reinforcer such as water, food, or sex

Secondary Reinforcer

reinforcer whose value allows an individual to acquire other reinforcers like food and water; examples: money, credit cards

Schedules Of Reinforcement

the rule for determining when and how often reinforcers will continue; Four types of schedules: fixed ratio, variable ratio, fixed interval, and variable interval; interval means over a time and ratio means an act; partial reinforcement is on a variable schedule whereas continuous reinforcement is on a fixed schedule; variable schedules are more effective in learning


any event whose presence decreases the likelihood that behavior will occur

Response Generalization

giving a response that is somewhat different from the response originally learned to that stimulus; when Little Albert responds the same way to a white rat or a white coat

Cognitive Learning

impossible to observe and measure; learning that depends on processes which are not directly observable; learning is inferred from the behavior

Latent Learning

pioneered by Edward Chace Tolman; learning that is not immediate in behavior; knowledge that is used when needed, like riding a bike or using a cognitive map

Cognitive Map

example of a cognitive learning; mental image of a spatial environment that is used to problem solve when stimulated


learning resulting from rapid understanding of all elements of a problem; sudden 'coming together'; an 'A HA' moment

Learning Set

used by Harry Harlow in an experiment using Rhesus monkeys; ability to become increasingly more effective in solving problems as problems are solved; learning how to learn; Köhler's chimps, Epstein's pigeons

Contingency Set

Robert Rescorla shock and tone experiment; an "if then" (informative) relationship between stimuli


determined by Leon Kamin; when a second stimulus does not elicit desired behavior because behavior occurs with the first stimulus

Learned Helplessness

experiment by Martin Seligman and dogs; when an individual gives up because any behavior causes the same ill result; punishment is unrelated to a child's behavior (in abused families) often develop feelings of powerlessness

Social Learning Theory

learning by observing without firsthand experience; often used as an argument against violent video games or immoral television shows.

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