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PSY 402. Theories of Learning Chapter 2 – Learning and Adaptation . Learning Enables Adaptation. The ability to adapt to one’s environment with experience enhances survival.

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psy 402

PSY 402

Theories of Learning

Chapter 2 – Learning and Adaptation

learning enables adaptation
Learning Enables Adaptation
  • The ability to adapt to one’s environment with experience enhances survival.
  • Those organisms able to adapt were more likely to survive and thus were selected by natural selection.
  • Example of survival value of a behavior:
    • Black-headed gulls and eggshells
    • Kittiwakes who nest on cliffs don’t remove shells
fixed action patterns
Fixed Action Patterns
  • Fixed behavior sequences that are released by an environment signal.
    • Triggered by a releaser, also called a sign stimulus
    • Not learned – built in to the genes, innate
    • Stereotyped – occur the same way each time and in each person or organism
  • Eibl-Eibesfeldt considered smiling & eyebrow flashing to be a human fixed action pattern.
modification of innate behaviors
Modification of Innate Behaviors
  • Even behaviors that are innate can be modified through conditioning.
    • Gull chicks get better at pecking at their parents’ beaks to get food – more accurate.
  • Conditioning experiences can change sensitivity to releasing signs.
  • Conditioning fine tunes the response to the environment and enhances survival.
acquired changes in response
Acquired Changes in Response
  • Habituation – response to a repeated stimulus decreases with non-threat experience.
  • Sensitization – response to a variety of stimuli increases with a single threat experience.
  • Examples:
    • Ingestional neophobia, fear of new food
    • Rats orient less toward light, startle decreases
    • Chicks are less frightened by shadows flying overhead with repeated exposure.
instrumental adaptation
Instrumental Adaptation
  • Instrumental learning (S-R) occurs when a voluntary behavior (R) becomes associated with a stimulus (S) because of its effect.
    • Consequences can be either rewards or punishments.
  • Rewards and punishments are defined by their effect on behavior.
    • A reward increases behavior
    • A punishment decreases behavior.
  • Reinforcement occurs when the association between a stimulus and a response to it is strengthened.
  • Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is rewarded.
  • Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior results in avoidance or escape from a bad consequence.
  • How can a behavior be reinforced if it never occurs naturally (or accidentally)?
  • Shaping is a process where a complex or unnatural behavior is learned as a series of steps that are successively rewarded.
  • By rewarding successive approximations to the desired behavior, eventually the target behavior is learned.
classical conditioning adaptation
Classical Conditioning Adaptation
  • Organisms learn to recognize and respond selectively to the signals that are important in their environment.
  • Cues associated with food evoke digestion: salivation, gastric juices, insulin secretion.
    • Taste aversion learning – illness makes us avoid foods that were eaten just prior to feeling sick.
    • Food preferences are associated with nutrients.
examples of conditioning
Examples of Conditioning
  • Popcorn at the movies.
  • Fear of flying -- stronger with more turbulence (a stronger UCS).
  • An antelope shying away from low tree branches.
  • Nausea at the smell of alcohol after a hangover.
  • Environmental cues can become associated with sexual rival males in gourami fish.
    • Pairing the light with the rival signaled the other fish to prepare so it was able to be more aggressive.
    • Presenting the light without pairing it with the rival had no effect.
  • Courtship behavior can also be conditioned, leading to more successful nestbuilding, etc.
fear conditioning
Fear Conditioning
  • Freezing is a universal response to threat.
    • Animals that freeze are less likely to be attacked.
  • Fear is an anticipatory pain response.
    • It occurs in response to stimuli that have been aversive in the past and motivates escape or avoidance behaviors.
    • Fear also releases endorphins in rats who are confronted by the smell or sight of a cat.
conditioning and addictions
Conditioning and Addictions
  • Drugs can be associated with environmental cues present when the drugs are taken.
  • Instead of the drug response being conditioned, an opposite adaptive response is conditioned that lessens the drug’s effect.
    • This is called drug tolerance.
  • Taking a drug under novel circumstances can produce a drug overdose because the compensatory effect is not present (no cues).
sign tracking auto shaping
Sign Tracking (Auto-Shaping)
  • Sign tracking occurs when a stimulus (cue) in the environment is associated with reward or punishment.
    • The sign stimulus motivates approach or avoidance behavior because of what it signals.
  • Negative sign tracking occurs when a sign motivates withdrawal instead of approach.
  • Some signs signal safety because they mean a bad thing is less likely to occur.
  • Associations are learned when they enhance survival, but conditioning decreases when the expected consequence no longer occurs.
  • Extinction occurs with both instrumental and classical conditioning.
    • Spontaneous recovery occurs after extinction has been learned, but a break in exposure to the stimulus occurs.
    • After spontaneous recovery, extinction returns.
timing of stimuli
Timing of Stimuli
  • The strength of both instrumental and classical conditioning depends on the timing of events.
  • Reward or punishment must immediately follow the emitted response in order to strongly affect behavior.
  • Two stimuli must occur close together in time in order for them to be associated with each other.
size of the stimuli
Size of the Stimuli
  • The strength of both instrumental and classical conditioning also depends on the size of the stimuli.
  • Larger rewards produce a stronger response than smaller ones.
  • More intense stimuli are better signals and evoke greater conditioned responses.
    • More fear, more saliva.
preparedness affects learning
Preparedness Affects Learning
  • Both instrumental and classical conditioning are affected by preparedness (the innate nature of the organism).
  • Flavor aversion learning is easier with taste cues than with visual cues, but not shock.
  • Rooting behaviors interfere with learning for pigs trained to put a wooden coin in a “bank”.
  • Some hamster behaviors are easier to learn.
humans show preparedness
Humans Show Preparedness
  • Humans show preparedness too, appropriate to our species.
  • Nausea can be associated with tequila but not with friends or a shot glass.
  • Snake and spider phobias may be especially prevalent due to preparedness.
    • People associate shock with spiders or snakes more readily than with flowers or mushrooms.