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A relatively permanent change in behavior, knowlege, capability, or attitude that is acquired through experience and cannot be attributed to illness, injury, or maturation.


A relatively permanent change in behavior, knowledge, capability, or attitude that is acquired through experience and cannot be attributed to illness, injury, or maturation.

classical conditioning

A type of learning through which an organism learns to associate one stimulus with another.


Any event or object in the environment to which an organism responds: plural is stimuli.


An involuntary response to a particular stimulus, such as the eyeblink response to a puff of air or salivation when food is placed in the mouth.

conditioned reflex

Learned involuntary responses.

unconditioned response (UR)

A response that is elicited by an unconditioned stimulus without prior learning.

unconditioned stimulus (US)

A stimulus that elicits a specific unconditioned response without prior learning.

conditioned stimulus (CS)

A neutral stimulus that, after repeated pairing with an unconditioned stimulus, becomes associated with it and elicits a conditioned response.

higher-order conditioning

Conditioning that occurs when conditioned stimuli are linked together to form a series of signals.


In classical conditioning, the weakening and eventual disappearance of the conditioned response as a result of repeated presentation of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus.

spontaneous recovery

The reappearance of an extinguished response (in a weaker form) when an organism is exposed to the original conditioned stimulus following a rest period.


In classical conditioning, the tendency to make a conditioned response to a stimulus that is similar to the original conditioned stimulus.


The learned ability to distinguish between similar stimuli so that the conditioned response occurs only to the original conditioned stimulus but not to similar stimuli.

taste aversions

The intense dislike and/or avoidance of particular foods that have been associated with nausea or discomfort.

trial-and-error learning

Learning that occurs when a response is associated with a successful solution to a problem after a number of unsuccessful responses.

law of effect

One of Thorndike's laws of learning, which states that the consequence, or effect, of a response will determine whether the tendency to respond in the same way in the future will be strengthened or weakened.

operant conditioning

A type of learning in which the frequency of a voluntary behavior changes because of the consequences that the behavior produces.


Anything that follows a response and strengthens it or increases the probability that it will occur.


an operant conditioning technique that consists of gradually molding a desired behavior (response) by reinforcing any movement in the direction of the desired response, thereby gradually guiding the responses toward the ultimate goal.

skinner box

a soundproof chamber with a device for delivering food to an animal subject: used in operant conditioning experiments.

successive approximation

A series of gradual steps, each of which is more similar to the final desired response.


In operant conditioning, the weakening and eventual disappearance of the conditioned response as a result of the withholding of reinforcement.


In operant conditioning, the tendency to make the learned response to a stimulus similar to that for which the response was originally reinforced.

discriminative stimulus

A stimulus that signals whether a certain response or behavior is likely to be rewarded, ignored, or punished.


An increase in the frequency of a behavior that occurs as the result of the consequence that the behavior produces.

positive reinforcement

An increase in a behavior that occurs as the result of an added consequence.

negative reinforcement

An increase in a behavior that occurs because increasing the behavior results in the termination of an unpleasant condition or stimulus.

primary reinforcer

A reinforce that fulfills a basic physical need for survival and does not depend on learning.

secondary reinforcer

A reinforce that is acquired or learned through association with other reinforcers.

continuous reinforcement

Reinforcement that is administered after every desired or correct response; the most effective method of conditioning a new response.

partial reinforcement

A pattern of reinforcement in which some but not all correct responses are reinforced.

schedules of reinforcement

Systematic processes for administering partial reinforcement that produce distinct rates and patterns of responses and degrees of resistance to extinction.

fixed-ratio schedule

A schedule in which a reinforce is given after a fixed number of correct, nonreinforced responses.

variable-ratio schedule

A schedule in which a reinforce is given after a varying number of nonreinforced responses, based on an average ratio.

fixed-interval schedule

A schedule in which a reinforcer is given following the first correct response after a specific period of time has elapsed.

variable-interval schedule

A schedule in which a reinforcer is given after the first correct response that follows a varying time of non-reinforcement, based on an average time.

partial-reinforcement effect

The greater resistance to extinction that occurs when a portion, rather than all, of the correct responses are reinforced.


A decrease in the frequency of a behavior caused by some kind of consequence.

positive punishment

A decrease in behavior that results from an added consequence.

avoidance learning

Learning to avoid events or conditions associated with aversive consequences or phobias.

learning helplessness

A passive resignation to aversive conditions that is learned through repeated exposure to inescapable or unavoidable aversive events.


The use of sensitive equipment to give people precise feedback about internal physiological processes so that they can learn, with practice, to exercise control over them.

behavior modification

A method of changing behavior through a systematic program based on the learning principles of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, or observational learning.

token economy

A program that motivates socially desirable behavior by reinforcing it with tokens that can be exchanged for desired items or privileges.

cognitive processes

Mental processes such as thinking, knowing, problem solving, remembering, and forming mental representations.


The sudden realization of the relationship between elements in a problem situation, which makes the solution apparent.

latent learning

Learing that occurs without apparent reinforcement and is not demonstrated until the organism is motivated to do so.

cognitive map

A mental representation of a spatial arrangement such as a maze.

observational learning (modeling)

Learning by observing the behavior of others and consequences of that behavior; learning by imitation.


The individual who demonstrates a behavior or whose behavior is imitated.

modeling effect

Learning a new behavior from a model through the acquisition of new responses.

elicitation effect

Exhibiting a behavior similar to that shown by a model in an unfamiliar situation.

disinhibitory effect

Displaying a previously suppressed behavior because a model does so without receiving punishment.

inhibitory effect

Suppressing a behavior because a model is punished for displaying the behavior.

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