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Classical and operant conditioning, reinforcement procedures and punishment

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What is Learning?

  • A Relatively Permanent Change in Behavior as the Result of Practice or Experience.

    Learning is only through observation.

    Psychologists main concern is conditioning.

  • Limits to Learning

    The Limitations of the Organism

    1. Biological Predispositions

    No activity can be learned that the organism can’t & doesn’t have the capacity to learn.

    2. Learning Experiences

    Human Choice


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Learning & the Brain

  • 4 Levels of Complexity for Learning in the Brain

    1. Molecular changes within the single neuron.

    2. Communication among the neurons at the synapses.

    3. The higher circuits of interconnected neurons (neural pathways).

    4. The activity within whole assemblies of neurons that might control complex behavior patterns.

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Classical Conditioning

  • Ivan Pavlov’s Conditioning Experiments

    Conditioned the Salivation Response in Dogs

    The Pairing of Stimuli over Time

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Elements of Classical Conditioning

  • Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)

  • Unconditioned Response (UCR)

  • Conditioning (Neutral) Stimulus (CS or NS)

  • Conditioned Response (CR)

    When enough pairings of the UCS & CS occur, this response is created.

    Classical Conditioning uses pre-existing natural responses (e.g. reflexes) and makes them respond on cue.

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Pavlov’s Experiment

  • The natural response is:

  • UCS > UCR

  • Paired the CS (NS) with the UCS and got the UCR

  • After enough pairings the CS or NS produced the CR

    Repeated pairings over time establishes responses.

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The Classical Conditioning Process

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Classical Conditioning in Humans

  • Emotional responding

    Loving, liking, & disliking

  • Immune system responding

    T-cells’ response

  • Desentization Therapy

    Relief from phobic responses

  • Hunger Pangs

    Time, smell, & appearance of food

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Operant Conditioning

  • J.B Watson & B.F. Skinner

  • The Main Law of Behavioristic Psychology:

    What you reinforce, you’re going to get more of.

    Thorndike’s Law of Effect

    Rewards increase a rewarded response

    Creates a C/E relationship in the environment

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Important Terms

  • Stimulus Generalization

  • Stimulus Discrimination

  • Extinction (Extinguishing)

  • Secondary Reinforcement

  • Spontaneous Recovery

  • Superstition

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  • Increases The Strength of a Response

  • Positive & Negative Reinforcement

  • Primary & Secondary Reinforcement

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Shaping Behavior

  • Use of Successive Approximations

  • 8 Steps:

  • Decide on the goal

  • Decide which behaviors there are to build from

  • Decide on a reinforcer

  • Plan the program

  • Begin the program

  • Decide when to shift criteria for reinforcement

  • If the program is lost, go to an earlier step or add a new one and go on

  • Continue to the goal

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Reinforcement Procedures

  • Reinforcement Schedules

    1. Continuous Reinforcement

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  • The use of anything that will decrease the strength of a response

    Used to stop a behavior

  • Conditions for Punishment to work:

    It must be quick, appropriate, & useful.

  • Doesn’t work as well as reinforcement

  • Can produce Learned Helplessness

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Comparing Classical & Operant Conditioning

  • Reinforcement is important in both

    Classical Operant

    Reward    Response    Reward

    In Classical, a C/E relationship must be established between the UCS & CS (NS)

    In Operant, reinforcement schedules make the response resistant to extinction

    Non-rewarding produces extinction in both

    Spontaneous recovery can occur even after an appropriate response has been established

  • Stimulus generalization & stimulus discrimination

    Occur in both

  • New learning can be based on old learning

    Assimilation – fitting new information into what is already known

    Accommodation – refining the data into the current schema

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Cognitive Learning

  • Latent Learning

    Learning not immediately seen in behavior

  • Cognitive Maps

    Hypothetical representation of a learned event

    A strategy for doing something

    A series of S-R sequences

  • Insight Learning

    The “Ah-ha!” experience

    4 Criterion:

    It appears all of a sudden

    The first performance is without error

    The solution is well-remembered

    The solution is highly transferable

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Learning Sets

Learning how to learn

Learning strategies

Observational Learning

Bandura’s learning theory

Imitation of observed behavior


Vicarious learning, vicarious reinforcement, and vicarious punishment

Learning Style

Your characteristic approach to a learning situation based on your cultural background & unique pattern of abilities

More on Cognitive Learning

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