Psychology Teach Yourself Series Topic 10: Learning Theories

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1 Psychology Teach Yourself Series Topic 10: Learning Theories A: Level 14, 474 Flinders Street Melbourne VIC 3000 T: W: tssm.com.au E: TSSM 2013 Page 1 of 6

2 Contents Learning Theories... 3 As it appears in Unit Classical conditioning... 3 Review Questions... 4 Little Albert experiment... Operant conditioning... B.F Skinner (Operant conditioning)... Trial and error learning... Observational learning... Solutions to Review Questions... 6 TSSM 2013 Page 2 of 6

3 Learning Theories As it appears in Unit 4 Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. There are many theories that explain how learning takes place and these include classical conditioning, operant conditioning, trial and error learning and observational learning. Conditioning is a term that describes a process where behaviours, stimuli and events are associated together. Classical conditioning Classical Conditioning or Pavlovian Conditioning is concerned with learning by association. It is a simple form of learning that occurs through repeated association of two or more different stimuli. Learning is said to occur when a particular stimulus consistently produces a response that it did not previously produce. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian Physiologist of circulation and digestion. Pavlov was most famous for his experiments with his dogs. Pavlov noticed that when a hungry dog sees food he salivates. This is an unconscious, uncontrolled, and unlearned response. Therefore we call the food an "unconditioned" stimulus and the salivation an "unconditioned" response. They are naturally connected. They did not have to be learned, it was already present. Then he started to ring the bell when the food was given. After a while the dog began to associate the sound of the bell with the food. The bell now has the ability to elicit the same salivation response as the food. This is Classic Conditioning. Pavlov started with two things that were already connected (food and salivation). Then he added a third thing (the bell). The third thing became so strongly associated that is was able to produce the old behaviour. The main elements of Classical conditioning Neutral stimulus (NS): The name given to the conditioned stimulus before it becomes conditioned Eg. bell = no response Unconditioned stimulus (US): Produces a natural, automatic response Eg. food Conditioned stimulus (CS): When associated with the US produces the UR eg. bell Unconditioned response (UR): A natural automatic response to US eg. saliva Conditioned response (CR): Same as UR but caused by CS eg. saliva TSSM 2013 Page 3 of 6

4 An example of Classical conditioning with Pavlov s dogs Initially, the dog would salivate when meat powder was put in its mouth or its bowl. Over time, Pavlov realised the dog would salivate at the sight or sound of the lab technician who prepared its food. Pavlov produced an experiment to test this association and found he could make the dog salivate with many stimuli, including the sound of a bell. Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) = FOOD Unconditioned Response (UCR) = SALIVATION Associates this with. Conditioned Stimulus (CS) = SOUND OF BELL Conditioned Response (CR) = SALIVATION Neutral Stimulus (NS) = Sound of bell Classical conditioning always starts with a reflex which is an unconditioned response. Learning or acquisition occurs when a neutral stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus to produce the reflex response or unconditioned response. After repeated pairing of the two acquisition has occurred. Extinction of the conditioned response occurs when the relationship between the neutral stimulus (which has become a conditioned stimulus after acquisition) and the conditioned response is destroyed. Spontaneous recovery occurs with the reappearance of the conditioned response when the conditioned stimulus is presented after a period of extinction. Stimulus generalisation is the name for responding the same way to different situations when the situations or stimuli are similar. Stimulus discrimination is the name for responding differently to distinct stimuli or being able to discriminate between two similar stimuli. Spontaneous recovery If the organism shows the CR in the absence of any reinforcement after extinction has apparently occurred. If the reinforcement is not continued the behaviour will again be extinguished Stimulus generalization Occurs when the correct response is made to another stimulus which is similar to the reinforcing stimulus. Generalized responses are usually slightly weaker Stimulus discrimination Occurs when the correct response is made in response to the original conditioned stimulus and no other TSSM 2013 Page 4 of 6

5 Review Questions 1. Dogs often form an association between going for a walk and the sight of their lead. When Champ the dog sees his lead he gets excited and runs to the front door ready for a walk. a. In the above scenario identify the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. b. If Champ no longer went for a walk when the lead was shown to him, explain using the terms of classical conditioning what would occur. 2. a. In Pavlov s experiment with dogs identify the UCS, UCR, CS and CR. b. Using the terms of classical conditioning explain how Pavlov s dogs could be conditioned to salivate in response to someone clapping their hands. TSSM 2013 Page 5 of 6

6 Solutions to Review Questions 1. a. Conditioned stimulus = the lead Conditioned response = excited behaviour and going to door b. Extinction would occur as the conditioned response would no longer be present when the lead is shown. 2. a. UCS = food UCR = salivation CS = bell CR = salivation b. UCS = food UCR = salivation CS = clapping hands CR = salivation Through repeated association of the CS and UCS 3. Answer: B Explanation: When Pavlov s dogs salivated in response to other bells the dogs were exhibiting stimulus generalization because they salivated in response to similar stimuli. 4. a. Stimulus generaslisation had occurred because Little Albert showed the same conditioned response when shown similar stimuli to the white rat b. Little Albert could be conditioned to associate white rats with a pleasant stimuli thus extinguishing his fear response. 5. Answer : B Explanation: Little Albert was conditioned with an emotional response to white objects because he associated white rats with something fearful such as the loud noise and therefore exhibited fear when shown white rats TSSM 2013 Page 6 of 6

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