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Psychology Vocab for ch. 8


a relatively permanent change in an organism's behavior due to experience.

associative learning

learning that certain events occur together. The events may be two stimuli (as in classical conditioning) or a response and its consequences (as in operant conditioning).

classical conditioning

a type of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. A neutral stimulus that signals an unconditioned stimulus (US) begins to produce a response that anticipates and prepares for the unconditioned stimulus. Also called Pavlovian or respondent conditioning.


the view that psychology (1) should be an objective science that (2) studies behavior without reference to mental processes. Most research psychologists today agree with (1) but not with (2).

unconditioned response (UCR)

in classical conditioning, the unlearned, naturally occurring response to the unconditioned stimulus (UCS), such as salivation when food is in the mouth.

unconditioned stimulus

in classical conditioning, a stimulus that unconditionally—naturally and automatically—triggers a response.

conditioned response (CR)

in classical conditioning, the learned response to a previously neutral conditioned stimulus (CS).

conditioned stimulus

in classical conditioning, an originally irrelevant stimulus that, after association with an unconditioned stimulus, comes to trigger a conditioned response


The initial stage in classical conditioning; the phase associating a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus so that the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a conditioned response. In operant conditioning, the strengthening of a reinforced response.


the diminishing of a conditioned response; occurs in classical conditioning when an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) does not follow a conditioned response (CR); occurs in operant conditioning when a response is no longer reinforced.

spontaneous recovery

the reappearance, after a rest period, of an extinguished conditioned response


the tendency, once a response has been conditioned, for stimuli similar to the conditioned stimulus to elicit similar responses


in classical conditioning, the learned ability to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and stimuli that do not signal an unconditioned stimulus

operant conditioning

a type of learning in which behavior is strengthened if followed by a reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher

respondent behavior

behavior that occurs as an automatic response to some stimulus; Skinner's term for behavior learned through classical conditioning

operant behavior

behavior that operates on the environment, producing consequences

law of effect

Thorndike's principle that behaviors followed by favorable consequences become more likely, and that behaviors followed by unfavorable consequences become less likely

operant chamber (Skinner box)

a chamber containing a bar or key that an animal can manipulate to obtain a food or water reinforcer, with attached devices to record the animal's rate of bar pressing or key pecking. Used in operant conditioning research.


an operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behavior toward closer and closer approximations of a desired goal


in operant conditioning, any event that strengthens the behavior it follows

primary reinforcer

an innately reinforcing stimulus, such as one that satisfies a biological need.

conditioned reinforcer

a stimulus that gains its reinforcing power through its association with a primary reinforcer; also known as secondary reinforcer.

continuous reinforcement

reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs.

partial (intermittent) reinforcement

reinforcing a response only part of the time; results in slower acquisition of a response but much greater resistance to extinction than does continuous reinforcement.

fixed-ratio schedule

in operant conditioning, a schedule of reinforcement that reinforces a response only after a specified number of responses.

variable-ratio schedule

in operant conditioning, a schedule of reinforcement that reinforces a response after an unpredictable number of responses.

fixed-interval schedule

in operant conditioning, a schedule of reinforcement that reinforces a response only after a specified time has elapsed.

variable-interval schedule

in operant conditioning, a schedule of reinforcement that reinforces a response at unpredictable time intervals.


an event that decreases the behavior that it follows

cognitive map

a mental representation of the layout of one's environment. For example, after exploring a maze, rats act as if they have learned a cognitive map of it.

latent learning

learning that occurs but is not apparent until there is an incentive to demonstrate it.

overjustification effect

the effect of promising a reward for doing what one already likes to do. The person may now see the reward, rather than intrinsic interest, as the motivation for performing the task.

intrinsic motivation

a desire to perform a behavior for its own sake and to be effective.

extrinsic motivation

a desire to perform the behavior due to promised rewards or threats of punishment.

observational learning

learning by observing others


the process of observing and imitating a specific behavior

mirror neurons

frontal love neurons that fire when performing certain actions or when observing another doing so. The brain's mirroring of another's action may enable imitation, language learning, and empathy.

prosocial behavior

positive, constructive, helpful behavior. The opposite of antisocial behavior.

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