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Chapter 6 Learning

B.F. Skinner
- Ph.D Harvard 1931
- differed with prof on what psychologists should study
- -disliked introspection (process of thinking about own thoughts/feelings and talking about it)
o Not reliable
- Behaviourist
o Study observable actions
o Believed change an animals behaviour by providing incentives
o Didnt include mental states, philosophical principles (free will)
o Basic learning = better world, no poverty & violence
- Baby in a Box experiment

Rise of learning theory
- Due to dissatisfaction of use of introspection
- Freudian theory: Verbal mental
- John B. Watson argued that it was unscientific
o Found behaviourism
o John Lockes idea: tabula rasa (blank slate) - infants are born knowing nothing, knowledge got
through sensory exp.

Learning: enduring change in behaviour results from experience
- When animals benefit from experience
- Behaviour better adapted to environment
Conditioning: environment stimuli and behavioural responses connected
1) Classical/Pavlovian conditioning
- 2 types of events go together
- Ex. Heart beat faster when watching scary movies

2) Operant/Instrumental conditioning
- Behaviour certain outcome
- Ex. Studying leads to good grades
- What Skinner studied

Classical/Pavlovian conditioning
Neutral stimulus = reflexive response because associated with stimulus that already gives that response
Unconditioned stimulus (US)
- Reflexive behaviour
Ex. Boat shaking

Unconditioned response (UR)
- Response
Ex. Sea sick

Conditioned stimulus (CS)
- Neutral stimulus
Ex. Whistle

Conditioned response (CR)
- Response (similar to UR)
Ex. Whistle with rocking boat = sea sickness

Acquisition: gradual formation of association between conditioned and unconditioned stimuli
Extinction: conditioned response weakened
- When conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented w/o unconditioned stimuli
Spontaneous recovery: when extinct response re-emerges following presenting of conditioned stimulus

Stimulus generalization Stimulus discrimination
Similar (not identical) stimuli
Produce CR
Differentiation between 2 similar stimuli
Only one consistently associated with US

Second Order Conditioning:
- Something consistently paired with CS without US
- Leads to CR
- Exaggerated fears compared to the real threat
Ex. Little Albert and the rat + loud noise

Not all CS-CR pairings are the same
Some associations easier to learn than others
Conditioned food aversion
- Certain food with unpleasant outcome
- Ex. Food poisoning after eating coleslaw
o Evolved that way sick = avoid
Biological Preparedness
- Animals genetically programmed to fear certain things more than others
Ex. Squirrels vs. Height realistic

Role of Cognition
Slight delay in CS-US optimal for learning b/c PREDICTION
- for learning to happen, CS must accurately predict the US
- predicting that food is about to appear prediction before presentation
Rescorla-Wagner model:
- cognitive model of Classical Conditioning
- CS-US association strength determined by extent to which US is unexpected/surprising
o Why did the US appear? What produced this?
Ex. If a dog gets food randomly, theyll ask what caused this activity?
Operant Conditioning
- consequences of action = how likely it will be performed later
- Ex. Training a tiger
o Tiger that jumps through a flaming hoop good things happen
o Then does it again
Thorndikes law of effect
- behaviour satisfying state of affairs are more likely to happen again
- annoying state of affairs less likely to recur
Reinforcer Shaping
- Stimulus that happen after response
- Increase likelihood response recurs

1) Primary reinforce
- Biological needs
Ex. Food, water

2) Secondary reinforcers
- Ex. Money
- Reinforcing behaviours that are
increasingly similar to desired behaviour

- Successive approximations = eventually
desired behaviour by teaching animal to
discriminate which behaviour is being