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Psychology 111 chapter 7
Terms in this set (17)
Define learning, and identify some basic forms of learning.
Learning is the process of acquiring through experience new information or behaviors. In associative learning, we learn that certain events occur together. In classical conditioning, we learn to associate two or more stimuli (a stimulus is any event or situation that evokes a response). We associate stimuli that we do not control, and we respond automatically. This is called respondent behavior. In operant conditioning, we learn to associate a response and its consequences. These associations produce operant behaviors. Through cognitive learning, we acquire mental information that guides our behavior. For example, in observational learning, we learn new behaviors by observing events and watching others.
Describe behaviorism's view of learning.
Ivan Pavlov's work on classical conditioning laid the foundation for behaviorism, the view that psychology should be an objective science that studies behavior without reference to mental processes. The behaviorists believed that the basic laws of learning are the same for all species, including humans.
Describe who Pavlov was, and identify the basic components of classical conditioning.
Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, created novel experiments on learning. His early twentieth-century research over the last three decades of his life demonstrated that classical conditioning is a basic form of learning.
Classical conditioning is a type of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. In classical conditioning, an NS is a stimulus that elicits no response before conditioning. A UR is an event that occurs naturally (such as salivation), in response to some stimulus. A US is something that naturally and automatically (without learning) triggers the unlearned response (as food in the mouth triggers salivation). A CS is a previously neutral stimulus (such as a tone) that, after association with a US (such as food) comes to trigger a CR. A CR is the learned response (salivating) to the originally neutral (but now conditioned) stimulus.
Summarize the processes of acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery, generalization, and discrimination.
In classical conditioning, acquisition is associating an NS with the US so that the NS begins triggering the CR. Acquisition occurs most readily when the NS is presented just before (ideally, about a half-second before) a US, preparing the organism for the upcoming event. This finding supports the view that classical conditioning is biologically adaptive. Through higher-order conditioning, a new NS can become a new CS.
Extinction is diminished responding when the CS no longer signals an impending US. Spontaneous recovery is the appearance of a formerly extinguished response, following a rest period. Generalization is the tendency to respond to stimuli that are similar to a CS. Discrimination is the learned ability to distinguish between a CS and other irrelevant stimuli.
Explain why Pavlov's work remains so important.
Pavlov taught us that significant psychological phenomena can be studied objectively, and that classical conditioning is a basic form of learning that applies to all species.
Identify some applications of Pavlov's work to human health and well-being, and describe how Watson applied these principles to learned fears.
Classical conditioning techniques are used to improve human health and well-being in many areas, including behavioral therapy for some types of psychological disorders. The body's immune system may also respond to classical conditioning.
Pavlov's work also provided a basis for Watson's idea that human emotions and behaviors, though biologically influenced, are mainly a bundle of conditioned responses. Watson applied classical conditioning principles in his studies of "Little Albert" to demonstrate how specific fears might be conditioned.
Define operant conditioning.
In operant conditioning, behaviors followed by reinforcers increase; those followed by punishers often decrease.
Describe who Skinner was, and explain how operant behavior is reinforced and shaped.
B. F. Skinner was a college English major and aspiring writer who later entered psychology graduate school. He became modern behaviorism's most influential and controversial figure.
Expanding on Edward Thorndike's law of effect, Skinner and others found that the behavior of rats or pigeons placed in an operant chamber (Skinner box) can be shaped by using reinforcers to guide closer and closer approximations of the desired behavior.
Discuss the differences between positive and negative reinforcement, and identify the basic types of reinforcers.
Reinforcement is any consequence that strengthens behavior. Positive reinforcement adds a desirable stimulus to increase the frequency of a behavior. Negative reinforcement removes an aversive stimulus to increase the frequency of a behavior.
Primary reinforcers (such as receiving food when hungry or having nausea end during an illness) are innately satisfying—no learning is required. Conditioned (or secondary) reinforcers (such as cash) are satisfying because we have learned to associate them with more basic rewards (such as the food or medicine we buy with them). Immediate reinforcers (such as a purchased treat) offer immediate payback; delayed reinforcers (such as a weekly paycheck) require the ability to delay gratification.
Explain how the different reinforcement schedules affect behavior.
A reinforcement schedule defines how often a response will be reinforced. In continuous reinforcement (reinforcing desired responses every time they occur), learning is rapid, but so is extinction if rewards cease. In partial (intermittent) reinforcement (reinforcing responses only sometimes), initial learning is slower, but the behavior is much more resistant to extinction. Fixed-ratio schedules reinforce behaviors after a set number of responses; variable-ratio schedules, after an unpredictable number. Fixed-interval schedules reinforce behaviors after set time periods; variable-interval schedules, after unpredictable time periods.
Discuss how punishment and negative reinforcement differ, and explain how punishment affects behavior.
Punishment administers an undesirable consequence (such as spanking) or withdraws something desirable (such as taking away a favorite toy) in an attempt to decrease the frequency of a behavior (a child's disobedience). Negative reinforcement (taking an aspirin) removes an aversive stimulus (a headache). This desired consequence (freedom from pain) increases the likelihood that the behavior (taking aspirin to end pain) will be repeated.
Punishment can have undesirable side effects, such as suppressing rather than changing unwanted behaviors; teaching aggression; creating fear; encouraging discrimination (so that the undesirable behavior appears when the punisher is not present); and fostering depression and feelings of helplessness.
Discuss why Skinner's ideas provoked controversy, and identify how operant conditioning principles might be applied at school, in sports, at work, and at home.
Critics of Skinner's principles believed the approach dehumanized people by neglecting their personal freedom and seeking to control their actions. Skinner replied that people's actions are already controlled by external consequences, and that reinforcement is more humane than punishment as a means for controlling behavior.
At school, teachers can use shaping techniques to guide students' behaviors, and they can use interactive software and websites to provide immediate feedback. In sports, coaches can build players' skills and self-confidence by rewarding small improvements. At work, managers can boost productivity and morale by rewarding well-defined and achievable behaviors. At home, parents can reward desired behaviors but not undesirable ones. We can shape our own behaviors by stating our goals, monitoring the frequency of desired behaviors, reinforcing desired behaviors, and gradually reducing rewards as behaviors become habitual.
Describe how operant conditioning differs from classical conditioning.
In operant conditioning, an organism learns associations between its own behavior and resulting events; this form of conditioning involves operant behavior (behavior that operates on the environment, producing rewarding or punishing consequences). In classical conditioning, the organism forms associations between stimuli—events it does not control; this form of conditioning involves respondent behavior (automatic responses to some stimulus).
Explain how biological constraints affect classical and operant conditioning.
Classical conditioning principles, we now know, are constrained by biological predispositions, so that learning some associations is easier than learning others. Learning is adaptive: Each species learns behaviors that aid its survival. Biological constraints also place limits on operant conditioning. Training that attempts to override biological constraints will probably not endure because animals will revert to predisposed patterns.
Explain how cognitive processes affect classical and operant conditioning.
In classical conditioning, animals may learn when to expect a US and may be aware of the link between stimuli and responses. In operant conditioning, cognitive mapping and latent learning research demonstrate the importance of cognitive processes in learning. Other research shows that excessive rewards (driving extrinsic motivation) can undermine intrinsic motivation.
Discuss how observational learning differs from associative learning, and explain how observational learning may be enabled by mirror neurons.
In observational learning, as we observe and imitate others we learn to anticipate a behavior's consequences because we experience vicarious reinforcement or vicarious punishment. In associative learning, we merely learn associations between different events.
Our brain's frontal lobes have a demonstrated ability to mirror the activity of another's brain. Some psychologists believe mirror neurons enable this process. The same areas fire when we perform certain actions (such as responding to pain or moving our mouth to form words) as when we observe someone else performing those actions.
Discuss the impact of prosocial modeling and of antisocial modeling.
Children tend to imitate what a model does and says, whether the behavior being modeled is prosocial (positive, constructive, and helpful) or antisocial. If a model's actions and words are inconsistent, children may imitate the hypocrisy they observe.
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