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Psychology, Seventh Edition
Douglas A. Bernstein, University of South Florida and University of Southampton
Louis A. Penner, University of South Florida
Alison Clarke-Stewart, University of California, Irvine
Edward J. Roy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Chapter Outline
Chapter 6: Learning

  1. LEARNING
    Learning is the process through which experience modifies pre-existing behavior and understanding. The ability to adapt to changing environments appears to varying degrees in members of all species, especially humans. Many forms of animal and human adaptation follow the principles of learning. Learning plays a central role in the development of most aspects of human behavior, from motor skills to language skills. People learn primarily by experiencing events, observing relationships between those events, and noting regularity in the world around them.
    1. Psychologists ask three questions about learning.
      1. Which events and relationships do people learn about?
      2. What circumstances determine whether and how people learn?
      3. Is learning a slow cumulative process requiring lots of practice, or does it involve sudden flashes of insight?
        EXAMPLE: When you first learn to drive a car, you have trouble staying in your lane. With practice, your behavior is altered and you learn to control the car consistently.
        EXAMPLE: A student studies very hard and yet does poorly on his psychology exam. But the learning that took place during his studying may be observable in the future on another exam.
        EXAMPLE: If you find a shortcut from your dorm to class, you can consistently take it to save time. You do not have to rediscover this shortcut each day.
        EXAMPLE: If a hyperactive child is taught to stay in his seat by placing him on a repetitive, precise, training program, the child has learned to stay in his seat. If the child stays in his seat because of drugs, then no learning has occurred.
        NOTE:Instinctual behaviors are NOT learned behaviors. Instinctive behaviors have two characteristics: individual animals perform the behavior successfully the first time; and many animals display these behaviors without ever having seen them, species-specific behavior.
        According to the theory of evolution, species acquired their differing instinctive behaviors through natural selection. Those individuals in a species whose appearance and patterns of action allows them to successfully survive will produce offspring with similar characteristics. Natural selection produces instinctual responses that are adaptive under many circumstances, but these responses change only very slowly over generations.
  2. LEARNING ABOUT STIMULI
    1. People appear to be genetically tuned to attend to and orient toward certain kinds of events such as loud sounds, special tastes, or pain.
      1. Novel stimuli attract attention. Unchanging stimuli decrease our responsiveness; we adapt to such stimuli. This adaptation is a simple form of learning called habituation. Habituation is the result of just one particular stimulus acting on the organism (non-associative learning). Sensitization is another form of non-associative learning in which people and animals show exaggerated responses to unexpected, potentially threatening sights or sounds.
      2. According to Solomons opponent process theory, the pleasurable reaction to a particular dose of a drug begins to decrease with repeated doses. This habituation occurs because the initial pleasurable reaction to the drug is eventually followed by an unpleasant, opposing reaction that counteracts the drugs primary effects. The opposing reaction becomes quicker and stronger the longer the drug is taken. So, as drug users become habituated, they have to take higher doses of the drug to achieve the same high.
        1. Solomon believes that this explains the development of drug tolerance and addiction. It may also explain some accidental drug overdoses. If the unpleasant reaction that counteracts a drugs initial effects becomes linked to environmental stimuli that are regularly present when the drug is taken, those stimuli may become capable of triggering the counteracting process by themselves, allowing tolerance of larger doses. If the drug is taken in a new environment, the counteracting process might be diminished, leading to a stronger drug reaction. This involves learned associations.
  3. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: LEARNING SIGNALS AND ASSOCIATIONS
    1. PAVLOVS DISCOVERY
      1. Pavlovs classic experiment taught a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell.
        1. First, he noted that a dog normally salivates when meat is put on its tongue (unlearned, natural reflex), but not when a tone sounds (neutral stimulus).
          1. A reflex is a swift, unlearned automatic response to a stimulus.
          2. A neutral stimulus is a stimulus that initially does not trigger the reflex being studied.
        2. Second, he repeatedly paired the tone and the meat. Each time he sounded the bell, he put a bit of meat powder in the dogs mouth. The tone predicted that meat powder was coming.
        3. Eventually, the dog salivated to the tone alone even, if no meat powder was given.
      2. Pavlovs experiment showed classical conditioning, in which a neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with a stimulus that already triggers a reflexive response until the neutral stimulus alone evokes a similar response.
        EXAMPLE: A naval ship warning siren may occur just prior to an attack. After many such pairings (siren plus attack), sailors may feel fear if the siren sounds, even if no attack occurs.
        1. The stimulus that already elicits a response without learning is the unconditioned stimulus (UCS), and the unconditioned response (UCR) is the automatic, unlearned reaction to the UCS.
        2. The conditioned stimulus (CS) begins as a neutral stimulus, but after pairing with the UCS it acquires the capacity to elicit the learned conditioned response (CR).
          PHASE I: Before conditioning has occurred
          UCS
          (meat powder)
          --------------------------------------------->UCR
          (salivation)
          Neutral stimulus
          (tone)
          --------------------------------------------->Orienting response
          PHASE II: The process of conditioning
          Neutral stimulus
          (tone)
          ----------->followed by UCS ----------->
          (meat powder)
          UCR
          (salivation)
          PHASE III: After conditioning has occurred
          CS
          (tone)
          --------------------------------------------->CR
          (salivation)

          NOTE: Classical conditioning occurs only if there first exists a UCS to elicit a reflexive, unlearned, UCR.
          One of the most famous examples of classical conditioning occurred when J. B. Watson classically conditioned a 9-month-old-child, Albert, to fear white rats. Unfortunately Watson published several versions of this experiment. It appears that there was not really as much generalization to the white rat as Watson originally reported. Watson also knew that Albert, who was in a hospital at the time of the experiment, was going to be released one month before he was actually released and yet made no attempt to extinguish Alberts fear. The basic paradigm is as follows.
          Loud noise
          (UCS)
          --------->fear
          (UCR)
          White rat + loud noise
          (Neutral stimulus) + (UCS)
          --------->Fear
          (UCR)
          White rat
          (CS)
          --------->Fear
          (CR)

          REFERENCE: Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to little Albert. American Psychologist, 34(2), 151-160.
    2. CONDITIONED RESPONSES OVER TIME: EXTINCTION AND SPONTANEOUS RECOVERY.
      1. In extinction, the CS occurs repeatedly without the UCS. As the association between the CS and UCS weakens, the CR gradually disappears.
        EXAMPLE: After sailors have learned a fear response to a siren, if a practical joker sets the siren off a few times when there is no real threat, the siren may no longer elicit fear in the sailors. The CR has been extinguished.
        1. Extinction does not simply erase learning; a neural remnant of the original learning may persist.
          1. Reconditioning, the relearning of a CR after extinction, requires fewer pairings than the original learning.
            NOTE: This phenomenon is called savings.
      2. Spontaneous recovery is the sudden reappearance of the CR after extinction but without further CS-UCS pairings.
        1. In general the longer the time between extinction and the re-presentation of the CS, the stronger the recovered conditioned response. Spontaneous recovery is at work when a person hears a song or smells a scent associated with a long-lost lover and experiences a ripple of emotiona conditioned response.
    3. STIMULUS GENERALIZATION AND DISCRIMINATION
      1. Stimuli that resemble the CS may also trigger a CR, a condition called stimulus generalization. The greater the similarity between a new stimulus and the conditioned stimulus, the stronger the conditioned response.
        EXAMPLE: If sailors learn fear responses to the battle alert siren, they may also feel fear after hearing a police or ambulance siren.
      2. Stimulus discrimination complements generalization. Organisms learn to differentiate among similar stimuli. Thus, organisms are discriminating between different stimuli.
        EXAMPLE: When presented with different but similar sirens, a sailor may be more likely to feel fear from the sirens most similar to the battle alert siren. The more similar the siren is, the stronger the fear response.
    4. THE SIGNALING OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: What is learned in classical conditioning seems to be whether the CS can predict or signal the UCS. This leads to the development of mental representations of the relationships between important events in the environment and expectancies about when such events will occur.
      1. The timing of the CS relative to the UCS affects the speed of conditioning.
        1. Classical conditioning works best with forward conditioning, where the CS precedes (i.e., predicts) the UCS.
          1. The optimal interval between CS onset and UCS onset ranges from a fraction of a second to a few seconds to more than a minute, depending on the particular CS, UCS, and UCR involved. Delays greater than a few seconds seldom produce CRs. It is logical that the brain should be wired to form associations most easily between things that occur in a tight time sequence.
        2. Classical conditioning works most slowly, if at all, in backward conditioning, when the CS follows the UCS.
        3. In simultaneous conditioning, the CS and UCS begin and end at the same time. Conditioning is much less likely to occur with simultaneous conditioning than with forward or backward conditioning.
          NOTE: Simultaneous conditioning is inefficient because the CS does not predict the appearance of the UCS and because attention will probably be directed to the most salient cue, usually the UCS.
      2. Predictability. It is insufficient that a CS and UCS are contiguous in timemerely occurring together. They must occur together reliably before classical conditioning occurs. Conditioning is quicker when the CS always signals the UCS and only the UCS.
        EXAMPLE: In Pavlovs experiment, the person who fed the dog might become a CS. The CS-UCS association would be stronger if the person fed the dog every time he appeared, so that his appearance would always predict food. If the dog feeder was also the dog groomer, the cage cleaner, and the night watchman, then his appearance would not always predict food, weakening the CS-UCS association, and, therefore, weakening the CR.
      3. Signal strength. A CR is learned faster when the UCS is strong than if it is weak. This makes adaptive sense, because you will be more ready to respond to the most impactful events of your environment. The speed with which a CR is learned also depends on the strength or salience of the CS.
      4. Attentionplays a role in classical conditioning. The stimulus most closely attended to, most fully perceived at the moment, dominates the others in later triggering a conditioned response.
        NOTE: If a CS has already been paired with a UCS, it is hard to learn to associate a new CS with that UCS. This is called blocking. Once people have a useful predictor of a UCS, they fail to attend to others that might be just as good. For example, if a bell very reliably precedes a bit of food in your mouth, you will learn to salivate to the bell alone. Later, if a flashing light also (i.e., along with the reliable bell) precedes the food, you will be slow to develop a salivation CR to the light alone.
      5. Second order conditioning occurs when a CS is paired with a new stimulus until the new stimulus elicits the CR. This learning produces typically weaker CRs that are more vulnerable to extinction. One of the most important adaptive characteristics of classical conditioning is the ability to prepare the organism for damaging or life-threatening events (a UCS) when these are predictably signaled by a CS.
        EXAMPLE: If Pavlovs dogs learn a salivation response to the sight of the dog feeder, and the feeder later begins wearing a particular aftershave, the dogs may then learn to salivate to the smell of the aftershave.
      6. Biopreparedness. It was once believed that any CS had an equal chance of being associated with any UCS. This equipotential view appears to be incorrect. Some stimuli are more easily associated with each other, perhaps because organisms are genetically tuned or biologically prepared to develop certain conditioned associations.
        1. An example of such biopreparedness may be conditioned taste aversion. If you become ill after tasting a certain food, you may later develop a learned nausea from that same taste.
          1. A taste paired with nausea will lead to an aversion to the taste. A light and/or sound paired with nausea produces no aversion, no learning. Possibly this is because something eaten is more likely to naturally cause nausea than an audio-visual stimulus.
          2. A taste paired with electric shock will not produce an aversion or learning. An audio-visual stimulus, such as lights and bells paired with an electric shock produces aversion. Again, in real life a shock is more likely to be a product of the external environment than a product of something eaten.
          3. Learned taste aversions can occur after a single pairing of the taste and something causing sickness. They can also occur even if several hours pass between the taste and the feelings of sickness.
          4. The ease with which this learning occurs suggests a special, perhaps biological, readiness for forming such associations.
            NOTE: While studying the effects of radiation, John Garcia discovered that rats refused to drink water in the radiation chamber but did drink water in their home cage. Experiments found that the rats had come to associate the unique taste of water in the radiation chamber (from a plastic container) with the nausea caused by the radiation.
    5. SOME APPLICATIONS OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING
      1. Extreme fears of objects or situations that do not reasonably warrant such intense fears are called phobias. Some phobias (e.g., fear of seeing a car) may be classically conditioned fears to a stimulus (e.g., a car) that had earlier been paired with an objectively fearful stimulus (e.g., a serious car accident). Some phobias can seriously disrupt a persons life. Dangerous situations can produce classical conditioning of very long-lasting fears, which characterize posttraumatic stress disorder.
        1. Phobias are often treated with systematic desensitization, a procedure that extinguishes the classically conditioned fear response through harmless exposure to the feared stimulus, and the procedure also associates a new response, such as relaxation, with a previously feared stimulus.
          NOTE: Pavlov produced experimental neurosis in dogs (snarling, barking, erratic behavior, reduced life expectancy) by giving the animals very difficult, confusing, or conflicting stimuli to predict a UCS.
      2. Predator control. Western ranchers lace mutton with lithium chloride which makes wolves and coyotes ill after they eat it. The dizziness and severe nausea caused by the lithium becomes associated with the smell and taste of mutton, thus making sheep an undesirable food.
      3. Diagnosis of Alzheimers Disease. A puff of air in the eye paired with a flash of light will result in a blink in response to the light alone through classical conditioning. Research shows that elderly people who showed an impairment in this eye blink conditioning were most at risk for developing Alzheimers disease because the hippocampus is involved both with the eye blink conditioning and Alzheimers disease.
        NOTE: Research shows that immune responses can be classically conditioned to decrease to certain tastes and odors. The hope is that classical conditioning can be used to increase immune responses, so that less medication or even placebos can be used.
  4. INSTRUMENTAL AND OPERANT CONDITIONING: LEARNING THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEHAVIOR.
    People also learn associations between responses and the stimuli that follow them, between behavior and its consequences.
    1. FROM THE PUZZLE BOX TO THE SKINNER BOX
      1. Thorndike devised an elaborate cage, a puzzle box, in which an animal was placed and had to learn some response in order to unlock the door and get out. When the animal succeeded, it was rewarded with food.
        1. The animal solved the problem slowly. There was no evidence that the animal experienced a sudden understanding of the task or insight.
        2. The law of effect. Thorndike believed that learning is governed by the law of effect, i.e., if a response made in the presence of a particular stimulus is followed by satisfaction (a reward), that response is more likely to be made the next time the stimulus is encountered. Responses that produce discomfort are less likely to be performed again. Thorndike described this kind of learning as instrumental conditioning because responses are strengthened when they are instrumental in producing rewards.
          EXAMPLE: A child in a park may show many behaviors: throwing sand, jumping from trees, or pushing the swing for a friend. But she is most likely to continue those behaviors that produce the most positive reactions from others.
          NOTE: Unlike classical conditioning, in which learning requires a pre-existing UCR, the law of effect allows organisms to learn any behavior (even new or randomly occurring actions), as long as the behavior is followed by good things.
      2. Skinner emphasized that an organism learns a response by trying actions that operate on the environment, so he called this operant conditioning. His primary aim was to analyze how behavior is changed by its consequences.
        1. Skinner devised the Skinner box to study operant conditioning. In the puzzle box, learning was measured in terms of whether an animal successfully completed a trial, whereas in the Skinner box, learning is measured in terms of how often an animal responds during a specified period of time.
    2. BASIC COMPONENTS OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
      1. An operant is a response that affects the world; it is a response that operates on the environment.
      2. A reinforcer increases the probability that an operant behavior will occur again.
        1. Positive reinforcers are events that strengthen a response if they are experienced after that response occurs (roughly equivalent to rewards).
          1. Positive reinforcement is presenting a positive reinforcer after a response.
            EXAMPLE: After Joey cleans his room, Mom gives him his favorite ice cream. If Joey did not like ice cream, it would not be a positive reinforcer.
            EXAMPLE: Stickers on childrens papers, clapping following a presentation, verbal praise for attempting a new task, and smiles are examples of potential positive reinforcers.
        2. Negative reinforcers are unpleasant stimuli that strengthen a response if they are removed after the response occurs.
          1. Negative reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior by following it with the removal of an aversive stimulus.
            EXAMPLE: People learn to take aspirin when they have a headache because aspirin-taking is followed by pain relief.
      3. Escape conditioning occurs when an organism learns to make a response in order to end an aversive stimulus, or negative reinforcer. An organism learns to make a response to stop an aversive stimulus.
        EXAMPLE: You may have learned to terminate intense cold by turning up the heat or wearing more clothing after you feel cold.
      4. Avoidance conditioning occurs when an animal or person responds to a signal in a way that avoids exposure to an aversive stimulus. An organism learns to make a response to prevent the aversive event from occurring.
        EXAMPLE: You may have learned to avoid the intense cold by flying to a warmer environment before you feel cold.
        1. Avoidance conditioning is the result of both classical and operant conditioning. For example, the first step involves classical conditioning (pairing a signal with a coming shock), and the second step involves operant conditioning (learning to make a response to avoid the shock). Avoidance conditioning is one of the most important influences on everyday behavior.
        2. Avoidance is a very difficult habit to break, partly because avoidance responses are often reinforced by fear reduction. Avoidance also prevents the learning of alternative behaviors. Phobias are maintained in this manner.
          EXAMPLES: You do not go to places where you are likely to run into someone you cant tolerate. You do not go to the tops of mountains if you are afraid of heights.
      5. Discriminative stimuli are stimuli that signal whether reinforcement is available if a certain response is made. Stimulus discrimination occurs when an organism learns to make a particular response in the presence of one stimulus but not another. This is described as the response being under stimulus control.
        EXAMPLE: You may be joking and informal with your friendsyou have learned that they will reward you with social praise for this. But, your behavior would likely change drastically with a police officer who is giving you a traffic ticket. The two situations carry with them a different set of signals as to which behaviors are likely to be reinforced, and which are not.
        EXAMPLE: A traditional traffic signal has three very similar stimuli3 round circles. However, each round circle evokes very different behaviors on the part of drivers (e.g., red evokes stopping and green proceeding).
        EXAMPLE (Stimulus control): Some people who overeat report eating in front of the TV or while reading. By allowing eating only at a designated area, such as the kitchen table, the TV and living room will become dissociated with eating and make eating behavior easier to control.
        1. Stimulus generalization occurs in operant conditioning when organisms perform a response in the presence of a stimulus that is similar, but not identical, to the one that previously signaled the availability of reinforcement.
          EXAMPLE: A person reinforced with a cold drink for putting money into a Coke machine will probably produce the same response in the presence of a Pepsi machine.
        2. Stimulus discrimination and stimulus generalization often complement each other in operant conditioning. We discriminate one stimulus from another and then, through generalization, respond similarly to all those we perceive to be in a particular category. This process is closely related to the development of concepts and prejudice and discrimination.
    3. FORMING AND STRENGTHENING OPERANT BEHAVIOR
      1. Shaping involves reinforcing successive approximations, responses that come successively closer to the desired response.
        EXAMPLE: The goal is to have a hyperactive child sit in his seat for ten minutes. This probably would never occur spontaneously. To shape this behavior, you reward the child first for sitting, then progressively and slowly set longer and longer times the child must remain sitting for a reward. Eventually the child will sit in his seat for 10 minutes.
        EXAMPLE: The goal is to have a child make his bed. First you reward the child for pulling the covers up. Then the child must pull the covers up smoothly, then the bedspread, and then without wrinkles. Eventually the child will competently make his bed.
      2. Reinforcers can be primary reinforcers, stimuli that are already inherently reinforcing, or secondary reinforcers, rewards that people or animals learn to like.
        EXAMPLE (Primary reinforcers): The pigeon pecks the disk and receives a food pellet. A child imitates a sound correctly and receives an M & M.
        1. Secondary reinforcers are previously neutral stimuli that have been paired with already reinforcing stimuli. Thus, secondary reinforcers may be thought of as conditioned reinforcers because they are the CSs associated with the primary reinforcers or UCSs.
          EXAMPLE: If your grandmother sang a certain song just before she gave you a cookie (a primary reinforcer), eventually the song alone will evoke positive feelings; it could reinforce your responses that preceded it.
          EXAMPLE: Sally first makes money so that she can eat. But after a while, money alone becomes reinforcing, and she begins to hoard money to the point of starving herself, rather than using the money for food.
        2. Secondary reinforcement greatly expands the power of operant conditioning. However, what becomes a secondary reinforcer can vary a great deal from person to person and culture to culture.
      3. The delay and size of reinforcement affects operant conditioning.
        1. Consequences of behaviors are more impactful when they occur with less delay.
          EXAMPLE: Right after you clean your dorm room, your roommate compliments you and buys you a pizza. This will affect your room cleaning behavior more strongly than a pizza thank-you a week later.
        2. Conditioning proceeds faster as reinforcers become larger.
          EXAMPLE: If your grandmother gave you $20 every time you hugged her, the hugging would become an established behavior faster than if she gave you $1 per hug.
      4. Schedules of reinforcement.
        1. A continuous reinforcement schedule is when a reinforcer is delivered every time a particular response occurs.
        2. A partial, or intermittent, reinforcement schedule occurs when reinforcement is administered only some of the time. There are four basic types of intermittent reinforcement based on a) whether reinforcement is contingent on the number of responses or the time elapsed since the last reinforcer and b) whether the delivery schedule is fixed or variable.
          1. Fixed ratio (FR)schedules provide reinforcement following a fixed number of responses.
            EXAMPLE: In a glove factory, workers are paid $1 for every 5 pairs of gloves produced.
            EXAMPLE: You receive $15 for every craft product that you sell.
          2. Variable ratio (VR)schedules provide reinforcement after a given number of responses, but that number varies from one reinforcement to the next.
            EXAMPLE: You keep putting quarters into a slot machine until it pays off. Sometimes it takes 20 quarters, before a payoff, sometimes 60, and sometimes 10.
            EXAMPLE: You reward your sister for practicing piano, but sometimes she has to practice 4 times and sometimes 2 times before she is rewarded.
          3. Fixed interval (FI)schedules provide reinforcement for the first response that occurs after some fixed time has passed since the last reward.
            EXAMPLE: Only allowing radio contestants to win once every 30 days.
          4. Variable interval (VI)schedules reinforce the first response after some period of time, but the amount of time varies.
            EXAMPLE: A friend wants to reinforce your studying behavior, so she comes to your room and gives you a piece of chocolate candy (your favorite) if you are studying. She comes in after 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, etc.
        3. Different schedules of reinforcement produce different patterns of responding.
          1. Both fixed and variable ratio schedules produce very high rates of responding.
          2. Under a fixed interval schedule, the rate of responding typically drops dramatically immediately after reinforcement and then increases as the time for another reward approaches.
          3. A variable interval schedule typically generates slow but steady responding.
      5. Extinction weakens the relationship between a behavior and its consequences. Thus, failure to reinforce a behavior should reduce its frequency.
        EXAMPLE: When a child throws temper tantrums, she may be rewarded with parental attention. But when her parents stop paying attention to the tantrums, the tantrums may first intensify but will eventually stop.
        1. The partial reinforcement extinction effect states that behaviors learned under a partial reinforcement schedule are more difficult to extinguish than those learned on a continuous reinforcement schedule.
        2. Accidental reinforcement, when a reinforcer happens to follow a behavior by chance, may explain learned superstitious behavior. Superstitious behavior can result from accidental reinforcement.
          EXAMPLE: If you get an A on a quiz and a raise at work on a day when you wear red socks, you may think that these positive consequences are due to the red socksthat they bring good luck.
    4. WHY REINFORCERS WORK
      1. What makes primary reinforcers inherently reinforcing?
        1. Some believe that primary reinforcers are stimuli that satisfy physiological needs basic to survival. However, many see this as an incomplete explanation.
        2. Activity preference. Premack believes that each person has a hierarchy of behavioral preferences at each moment and the higher on the hierarchy an activity is, the greater its power as a reinforcer. Preference hierarchies differ from person to person and occasion to occasion. This is known as the Premack principle.
          NOTE: The Premack principle is also known as Grandmas law.
          An activity low on the preference hierarchy can become reinforcing for a more preferred activity if it is held below baseline level, or if engagement in the behavior is restricted.
          Understanding activity preferences and natural baseline distribution of activities over time can help establish effective reinforcers in token economies and other behavioral treatments.
          EXAMPLE: If a child prefers playing with friends over doing homework, make playing with friends contingent on completing ones homework first.
          EXAMPLE: If a child loves chocolate cake but is not fond of peas, make receiving chocolate cake contingent on eating the peas first.
        3. The disequilibrium hypothesis states that virtually any activity can become a reinforcer if access to that activity has been restricted. Thus, different activities will be reinforcing at different times and in different situations. A disequilibrium can be created even when the reinforcers do not involve basic survival needs.
          1. This explains why money is such a powerful reinforcer because it can be exchanged for whatever a person finds reinforcing at the moment.
        4. Reinforcement in the brain. Olds and Milner discovered that mild electrical stimulation of certain areas of the hypothalamus activates stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain.
          1. Particularly important are brain regions whose neurons use the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with the pleasure of many stimuli, including food, sex, and addictive drugs.
    5. Punishment is the presentation of an aversive stimulus or the removal of a pleasant stimulus that decreases the frequency of the immediately preceding response. Withdrawal of a pleasant stimulus is called penalty or Punishment II. Punishment decreases the chances that the behavior will occur in the future.
      1. Students often confuse negative reinforcement with punishment. Reinforcement always strengthens behavior; punishment weakens it.
      2. Using punishment has many drawbacks.
        1. Like extinction, punishment merely suppresses behavior; it does not erase it.
        2. It often produces unwanted side effects, for example, associating the punisher with the punishment.
        3. Punishment is often ineffective unless it is given immediately after the response and each time the response is made.
        4. Physical punishment can become aggressive, even abusive, if administered in anger. Children may imitate the aggressiveness of some forms of punishment.
        5. Punishment conveys information that inappropriate behavior occurred, but does not specify correct alternatives.
      3. There has been an ongoing debate about parents using spanking and other forms of punishment as a means of controlling childrens behavior. New studies suggest that spanking can be an effective behavior control technique with children 3 to 13 years of age. When combined with other disciplinary practices, such as requiring the child to pay some penalty for his actions, having him provide some sort of restitution to the victims, and making him aware of what he did that was wrong, an occasional spanking is not detrimental to childrens development.
      4. Punishment is most effective when the following guidelines are observed:
        1. The punisher specifies why punishment is being given and that the behavior, not the person, is being punished.
        2. Without being abusive, punishment should be immediate and severe enough to eliminate the response.
        3. More appropriate responses should be identified and positively reinforced.
          NOTE: Sometimes students find it easier to understand reinforcement and punishment if it is presented in a 2 x 2 box.
              STIMULUS
              PresentedWithdrawn
          STIMULUSPositivePositive ReinforcementPenalty (Punishment II)
          NegativePunishment INegative Reinforcement

          EXAMPLES: Punishment I is presentation of a negative or unpleasant stimulus following a behavior, such as spanking a child after he steals candy from the grocery store. Penalty, or punishment II, is removal of a pleasant stimulus to decrease the probability of a behavior recurring. Grounding or taking away TV privileges after an adolescent stays out past curfew are examples of penalty.
    6. OPERANT CONDITIONING OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR: People learn how to be civilized partly through positive and negative responses from others. Differing patterns of rewards and punishments for boys and girls also underlie the development of behaviors that fit culturally approved gender roles.
      1. Treating problematic behavior. Combining the use of rewards for appropriate behaviors and extinction (or carefully administered punishment) for inappropriate behaviors have helped many people to develop the behavior patterns they need to live happier and more productive lives.
        1. By altering discriminative stimuli, people can be helped to change their behavior.
          EXAMPLE: It may be easier to quit drinking alcohol if you avoid the places in which your drinking was most often reinforced.
          EXAMPLE:Stimulus control therapy is used to help insomniacs use their beds only for sleeping.
  5. COGNITIVE PROCESSES IN LEARNING.
    Behaviorists tried to identify the stimuli and responses that build and alter overt behavior without any consideration of conscious mental activity. Cognitive psychologists argue that both classical and operant conditioning help animals and people to detect causalityto understand what causes what. This means that the conscious mental processes that organisms use to understand their environments and to interact with them adaptively are important. How people represent, store, and use information is important in learning.
    NOTE: Cognitive factors influence operant conditioning. Superstitious behavior, when an organism associates an unrelated stimulus to the outcome or consequences, is one example of a cognitive factor. Also, the fact that people focus more attention on (and remember better) occasions when rewards follow their actions points to a cognitive factor. Cognitive factors are often important in altering the impact of reinforcement.
    1. LEARNED HELPLESSNESS is a tendency to give up any effort to control the environment. People learn through operant conditioning that in most situations, they have at least some control over their environment. However, learned helplessness occurs when people or animals give up any effort to control their environment after finding that their behaviors do not influence consequences.
    2. FOCUS ON RESEARCH METHODS: A two-factor experiment on human helplessness.
      What was the researchers question?
      Will people develop learned helplessness after either experiencing lack of control or simply being told that their control was limited?
      How did the researcher answer the question?
      One-third were subjected to random bursts of loud obnoxious noise with no way to stop it. One-third were subjected to the noise, but could stop it. And one-third were not presented with the noise.
      In the second phase, all participants were presented with the noise and all could stop it by moving a lever to the left or right, but they didnt know which lever position would be correct for each trial. One-half of the participants were told that avoiding or escaping the noise depended on their skill; the other half were told that no matter how hard they tried, success would be a matter of chance. The independent variables were control and expectation. This is a two-factor experiment because the dependent variablethe degree to which participants acted to control the noisecould be affected by either or both of the two independent variables.
      What did the researcher find?
      Results showed that those with a previous lack of control failed to control noise on almost four times as many trials as did those who had earlier been in control. Regardless of previous control experience, those who expected control to depend on their skill exerted control on significantly more trials than did those who expected chance outcomes.
      What do the results mean?
      When peoples prior experience leads them to believe that nothing they do can change their lives or control their destiny, they generally stop trying to improve their lot. They tend to passively endure aversive situations and to attribute negative events to their own enduring and widespread shortcomings, rather than to changeable external circumstances.
      What do we still need to know?
      A pessimistic explanatory style often arises from learned-helplessness experiences, and this style can produce depression and other mental disorders. Such people believe that good things that happen to them are transitory and due to external factors, while the bad things are permanent and due to internal factors. More research is needed to understand the mechanism for the development of this style and for understanding how pessimistic explanatory styles can lead to negative consequences.
      EXAMPLE: A school child who consistently receives failing grades no matter how hard he tries will stop trying to pass, even when presented with an exam he could pass.
    3. LATENT LEARNING AND COGNITIVE MAPS.
      1. Tolman had three groups of rats. Group A was rewarded for learning a maze by finding food at the end. The rats gradually improved performance until they were making only one or two mistakes in the whole maze. Group B received no such reward and continued to make many errors throughout the experiment. Group C received no reinforcement for running the maze and made many mistakes. On the 11th day, Group C also received a food reward. After that, they demonstrated the same knowledge of the maze as Group A that had been rewarded from the beginning of the experiment. Tolman argued that organisms acquire latent learning, learning that is not evident when it first occurs. He further argued that organisms develop cognitive maps, mental representations of the particular spatial arrangements encountered. These cognitive maps are developed naturally through experience, even in the absence of any response or reinforcement.
        EXAMPLE: Children watch a film demonstrating how to check a book out of the library and learn the behavior. However, they do not demonstrate the learned behavior until they are in the library ready to check out books.
      2. These forms of learning do not result from reinforcing overt responses. They imply that some forms of learning require higher mental processes and depend on how the learner attaches meaning to events.
    4. INSIGHT AND LEARNING. Kohler, a Gestalt psychologist, placed chimpanzees in a cage and placed a piece of fruit so that it was visible but out of the animals reach. Many of the chimps overcame obstacles to reach the food easily. Kohler introduced more difficult tasks that they again solved. Kohler did not believe that the chimps were demonstrating the results of previously formed associations.
      1. He pointed to three observations that supported his concept of insight.
        1. Once a chimpanzee solved a particular problem, it would immediately do the same thing if faced with a similar situation.
        2. The chimpanzees rarely tried a solution that did not work.
        3. They often reached a solution quite suddenly.
      2. Kohler believed that the chimpanzees suddenly saw new relationships that were never learned in the past; they had insight into the problem as a whole.
      3. Some cognitive psychologists today think insight results only after a mental trial and error process in which people and some animals envision a course of action, mentally simulate its results, compare it to the imagined outcome of other alternatives, and settle on the course of action most likely to aid complex problem-solving and decision-making.
    5. OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING: LEARNING BY IMITATION. Observational learning, or social learning, is the process of learning by watching others.
      1. Lessons of the Bobo Doll. Bandura and his colleagues studied nursery school children who watched a film showing an adult and a large, inflatable, bottom-heavy Bobo doll. The adult in the film displayed aggressive behavior toward the Bobo doll. Some children saw the adult rewarded for the behavior, some children saw the adult punished, and others saw neither rewards nor punishments. The conclusions were:
        1. The children who had seen the adult rewarded imitated the aggressive adult the most. They learned through vicarious conditioning, learning by seeing or hearing about the consequences of other peoples actions.
        2. The children who saw the adult punished tended not to perform aggressive behaviors, but they still learned those behaviors.
        3. The children learned and imitated the behavior whether or not there was reward or punishment.
      2. Observational learning is a powerful source of the socialization process through which children learn about behaviors that are and arent appropriate in their culture.
        RESOURCE: Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
        NOTE: There are four requirements for observational learning to occur: Attention, you cannot learn unless you pay attention to what is happening around you; Retention, you must remember the observed behavior; Ability to reproduce the behavior, you must be capable of performing the act; and Motivation, people are most likely to imitate those whom they see rewarded for their behavior and whom they like. Liking is enhanced if the model is attractive or powerful.
    6. THINKING CRITICALLY: DOES WATCHING VIOLENCE ON TELEVISION MAKE PEOPLE MORE VIOLENT?
      Estimations are that the average child in the U.S. has spent more time watching television than attending school and that prime-time TV programs present an average of five violent acts per hour (Saturday morning cartoons include nearly 20 per hour). Before graduating from elementary school, the average American child will have watched about 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 other acts of televised violence. Psychologists speculate that watching televised violence might be emotionally arousing, making it more likely that viewers will react violently to frustration in the environment and the violence might also provide models that viewers imitate. Recent research suggests that exposure to media violence can trigger or amplify viewers aggressive thoughts and feelings, thus increasing the likelihood that they will act aggressively. Television violence might provide models that viewers imitate, particularly if the violence is carried out by the good guys. In addition it might desensitize viewers, making them less distressed when seeing others suffer and less disturbed about inflicting pain on others.
      What am I being asked to believe or accept?
      Watching violence on television causes violent behavior in viewers.
      What evidence is available to support the assertion?
      Some evidence comes from anecdotes and case studies showing people imitate violence on TV.
      Longitudinal studies have found a strong link between watching violent television programs and later acts of aggression and violence.
      Experiments have supported the view that TV violence increases aggression among viewers.
      Are there alternative ways of interpreting the evidence?
      Anecdotal reports and case studies are open to different interpretations.
      A correlation does not imply that one variable caused another. People who tend to be aggressive may prefer to watch more violent TV programs and behave aggressively toward others. Personality may account for the correlation.
      The results of controlled experiments on the effects of televised violence may lack generality to the real world.
      What additional evidence would help to evaluate the alternatives?
      Further evidence from controlled experiments, in which equivalent groups of people are given different doses of TV violence and its effect on their subsequent behaviors are observed, would be helpful but might create an ethical dilemma.
      What conclusions are most reasonable?
      On the basis of current evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that watching TV violence may be one cause of violent behavior, especially in some children. Parents, peers, and other environmental influences, along with personality factors, may dampen or amplify the effect of watching televised violence.
    7. LINKAGES: NEURAL NETWORKS AND LEARNING.
      1. Learning involves more than simple associations, but associations play an important role even in the mental processes that allow us to understand which events predict which other events.
      2. Associations are likely stored in the brain in a network of neural connections. These networks can be very complex.
      3. In distributed memory or distributed knowledge models, knowledge does not reside in a single location or node in the brain. Instead, knowledge is represented extensively as a pattern of associations between the nodes or units of the network.
      4. Neural network models of learning focus on how connections are laid down as a function of experience. These connectionist models of learning predict how much the strength of each linkage grows each time the two things are experienced together.
      5. The weaker the connection between two items, the greater the increase in connection strength when they are experienced together.
  6. USING RESEARCH ON LEARNING TO HELP PEOPLE LEARN
    Teaching and training in skills or specific bodies of knowledge are major parts of cultural socialization.
    1. CLASSROOMS ACROSS CULTURES. Formal school education in the U.S. has been compared to that in other countries, especially Asian countries.
      1. Mathematical and reading skills in the U.S., Taiwan, and Japan are similar among first grade children, but by fifth grade, Asian school children perform at higher levels.
      2. In a typical U.S. classroom, a teacher addresses students as a group, students work on their own, and feedback to students is usually delayed at least a day. A typical Japanese classroom involves more cooperative work between students, more immediate feedback on a one-to-one basis, more heterogeneous groups in which the faster learners helped the slower, more days in school, longer recesses, and more time doing homework.
      3. Psychologists and educators are trying to apply learning principles to improve education. One study concluded that the most successful educational techniques apply basic principles of operant conditioning, offering positive reinforcement for correct performance and immediate corrective feedback following mistakes.
      4. Cognitive psychological research also suggests that students are more likely to retain what they learn if they engage in numerous study sessions, distributed practice, rather than in a single cramming session. These researchers encourage several exams and quizzes, some unannounced and such exams should be cumulative.
        NOTE: Teaching machines offer automatic, but individualized, programs of instruction and rewards for progress. Skinners machine prompted interest in automated teaching and programmed instruction. Todays computerized teaching machines are interactive, allowing student and computer to talk to one another. These adaptive teaching systems can constantly adjust the level of instruction to meet the needs of each student.
    2. ACTIVE LEARNING methods make classes more interesting and enjoyable for students, as well as helping students go beyond memorizing isolated facts. The elaborate mental processing associated with active learning makes new information more personally meaningful and easier to remember.
      1. Experiments with children and adults have found active learning strategies to be superior to passive teaching methods, but more rigorous experimental research is still needed to compare the short- and long-term effects.
    3. SKILL LEARNING. Skills, or complex action sequences, develop through direct and vicarious learning processes involving imitation, instructions, reinforcement, and lots of practice. Skill learning usually involves practice and feedback.
      1. Practice, the repeated performance of a skill, is the most critical component of skill learning. Practice should continue past the point of correct performance, until the skill can be performed automatically, with little or no attention. For cognitive skills, practice is most effective when it requires you to retrieve relevant information from memory.
      2. Feedback about the correctness of the response is important. However, it is important not to provide feedback too soon (so that it interferes with understanding how that action was achieved) or so rich that it provides details for everything the learner does. Too much feedback may impair later performance.


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