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Psychology Core Concepts, fifth edition, by Philip G. Zimbardo, Robert L. Johnson, and Ann L. Weber. Chapter 6: Learning


A lasting change in behavior or mental processes that results from experience


Learning not to respond to the repeated (unimportant) presentation of a stimulus

Mere exposure effect

A learned preference for stimuli to which we have been previously exposed
example: effectiveness of advertisement

Behavioral learning

Forms of learning, such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning, that can be described in terms of stimuli and responses

Classical conditioning

A form of behavior learning in which a previously neutral stimulus acquires the power to elicit the same innate reflex produced by another stimulus

Neutral stimulus

Any stimulus that produces no conditioned response prior to learning. When it is brought into a conditioning experiment, the researcher will call it a conditioned stimulus (CS). The assumption is that some conditioning occurs after even one paring of the CS and UCS

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS)

In classical conditioning, the stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response

Unconditioned response (UCR)

In classical conditioning, the response elicited by an unconditioned stimulus without prior learning


The initial learning stage in classical conditioning, during which the conditioned response comes to be elicited by the conditioned stimulus

Conditioned stimulus (CS)

In classical conditioning, a previously neutral stimulus comes to elicit the conditioned response. Customarily, in a conditioning experiment, the neutral stimulus is called a conditioned stimulus when it is first paired with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS)

Conditioned response

In classical conditioning, a response elicited by a previously neutral stimulus that has become associated with the unconditioned stimulus

Extinction (in classical conditioning)

The weakening of a conditioned response in the absence of an unconditioned stimulus
ex) stop giving food when ringing bell and dog learn not to come later

Spontaneous recovery

The reappearance of an extinguished conditioned response after a time delay

Stimulus generalization

The extension of a learned response to stimuli that are similar to the conditioned stimulus
ex) dog salivates in response to a tone similar like a bell

Stimulus discrimination

Learning to respond to a particular stimulus but not to stimuli that are similar
ex) One tone was followed by food while the another was not, the dog gradually learned to discriminate between the tones

Taste-aversion learning

A biological tendency in which an organism learns, after a single experience, to avoid a food with a certain taste, if eating it is followed by illness


An observable, voluntary behavior that an organism emits to "operate" on, or have an effect on, the environment

Operant conditioning

A form of behavioral learning in which the probability of a response is changed by its consequences - that is, by the stimuli that follow the response

Law of effect

The idea that responses that produced desirable results would be learned, or "stamped" into the organism


A condition (involving either the presentation or removal of a stimulus) that occurs after a response and strengthens that response

Positive reinforcement

A stimulus presented after a response and increasing the probability of that response happening again

Negative reinforcement

The removal of an unpleasant or aversive stimulus, contingent upon a particular behavior

Operant chamber

A boxlike apparatus that can be programmed to deliver reinforcers and punishers contingent on an animal's behavior. The operant chamber is often called a "Skinner box"

Reinforcement contingencies

Relationships between a response and the changes in stimulation that follow the response

Continuous reinforcement

A type of reinforcement schedule by which all correct responses are reinforced


An operant learning technique in which a new behavior is produced by reinforcing responses that are similar to the desired response

Intermittent reinforcement

A type of reinforcement schedule by which some, but not all, correct responses are reinforced; also called partial reinforcement

Extinction (in operant conditioning)

A process by which a response that has been learned is weakened by the absence or removal of reinforcement

Schedules of reinforcement

Programs specifying the frequency and timing of reinforcements

Ratio schedule

A program by which reinforcement depends on the number of correct responses

Interval schedule

A program by which reinforcement depends on the time interval elapsed since the last reinforcement

Fixed ration schedules

Programs by which reinforcement is contingent upon a certain, unvarying number of responses

Variable ratio schedules

Reinforcement programs by which the number of responses required for a reinforcement varies from trial to trial

Fixed interval schedules

Programs by which reinforcement is contingent upon a certain, fixed time period

Variable interval schedules

Programs by which the time period between reinforcements varies from trial to trial

Primary reinforcers

Reinforcers, such as food and sex, that have an innate basis because of their biological value to an organism

Conditioned reinforcers or secondary reinforcers

Stimuli, such as money or tokens, that acquire their reinforcing power by a learned association with primary reinforcers

instinctive drift

The tendency of an organism's innate responses interfere with learned behavior.

Token economy

A therapeutic method, based on operant conditioning, by which individuals are rewarded with tokens, which act as secondary reinforcers. The tokens can be redeemed for a variety of rewards and privileges

Premack principle

The concept, developed by David Premack, that a more-preferred activity can be used to reinforce a less-preferred activity


An aversive stimulus which, occurring after a response, diminishes the strength of that response

Positive punishment

The application of an aversive stimulus after a response

Negative punishment

The removal of an attractive stimulus after a response

Insight learning

A form of cognitive learning, originally described by the Gestalt psychologists, in which problem solving occurs by means of a sudden reorganization of perceptions

Cognitive map

A mental representation of physical space

Observational learning

A form of cognitive learning in which new responses are acquired after watching others' behavior and the consequences of their behavior

Long-term potentiation

A biological process, involving physical changes that strengthen the synapses in groups of nerve cells, which is believed to be the neural basis of learning

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