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Unit 6 Learning. 11/13/13. How do we learn?. Brainstorm, what are some ways we learn new information? Do we learn similarly to any other animals? Does everybody learn the same way?. How we Learn. Learning: A relatively permanent change in an organism’s behavior due to experience.

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how do we learn
How do we learn?
  • Brainstorm, what are some ways we learn new information?
  • Do we learn similarly to any other animals?
  • Does everybody learn the same way?
how we learn
How we Learn
  • Learning: A relatively permanent change in an organism’s behavior due to experience.
  • Habituation: an organism’s decreasing response to a stimulus with repeated exposure to it.
  • Associative learning: Learning that certain events occur together. The events maybe two stimuli or a response and its consequences
learning and conditioning
Learning and Conditioning
  • Learning - A relatively permanent change in behavior due to experiences
  • Conditioning – The acquisition of specific patterns of behavior in the presence of well-defined stimuli
    • Classical and Operant
classical conditioning
Classical Conditioning
  • Stimulus = cause
  • Response = effect


Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936)

elements of classical conditioning
Elements of Classical Conditioning
  • Neutral Stimulus (NS)
  • Unconditioned Stimulus (US)
  • Unconditioned Response (UR)
  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS)
  • Conditioned Response (CR)
neutral stimulus bell
Neutral Stimulus—Bell
  • Does not normally cause a response or reflex action by itself
    • a bell ringing
    • a color
    • a furry object
unconditioned stimulus food
Unconditioned Stimulus—Food
  • Always cause a reflex action
    • food
    • blast of air
    • noise
unconditioned response salivation
Unconditioned Response - Salivation
  • A response to an unconditioned stimulus—naturally occurring reflex
    • Salivation at smell of food
    • Eye blinks at blast of air
    • Startle reaction in babies
conditioned stimulus
Conditioned Stimulus
  • The learned (once neutral) stimulus
    • The tone of the bell causes salivation
  • Will eventually elicit the unconditioned response by itself
conditioned response
Conditioned Response
  • The original unconditioned response becomes conditioned after it has been elicited by the neutral stimulus
    • Salivation because of the bell tone
classical conditioning in humans
Classical Conditioning in Humans
  • Watson and Little Albert
    • Identify the:
    • Neutral Stimulus
    • Unconditioned Stimulus
    • Unconditioned Response
    • Conditioned Stimulus
    • Conditioned Response
    • Is this Ethical?

Identify the:

  • Neutral Stimulus (NS)
  • Unconditioned Stimulus (US)
  • Unconditioned Response (UR)
  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS)
  • Conditioned Response (CR)
classical conditioning1
Classical Conditioning
  • Acquisition: in classical conditioning, the stage when links a neutral stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus are linked so that the neutral stimulus begins triggering the conditioned response.
  • Higher-order conditioning: a procedure in which the conditioned stimulus in one conditioning experience is paired with a new neutral stimulus, creating a second (often weaker) conditioned stimulus.
    • For example, an animal that has learned that a tone predicts food might then learn that a light predicts the tone and begin responding to the light alone. (Also called second-order conditioning.)

Extinction: the diminishing of a conditioned response; occurs in classical conditioning when an unconditioned stimulus (US) does not follow a conditioned stimulus (CS); occurs in operant conditioning when a response is no longer reinforced.

  • Spontaneous recovery: the reappearance, after a pause, of an extinguished conditioned response.

Generalization: the tendency, once a response has been conditioned, for stimuli similar to the conditioned stimulus to elicit similar responses.

  • Discrimination: in classical conditioning, the learned ability to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and stimuli that do not signal an unconditioned stimulus.
cognitive processes
Cognitive Processes
  • Early behaviorists believed that learned behaviors of various animals could be reduced to mindless mechanisms.
  • However, later behaviorists suggested that animals learn the predictability of a stimulus, meaning they learn expectancy or awareness of a stimulus (Rescorla, 1988).
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Not just the conditioning, the thought influences behavior as well
biological predispositions
Biological Predispositions
  • Pavlov and Watson believed that laws of learning were similar for all animals. Therefore, a pigeon and a person do not differ in their learning.
  • However, behaviorists later suggested that learning is constrained by an animal’s biology.
  • Each species’ predispositions prepare it to learn the associations that enhance its survival.
biological predispositions1
Biological Predispositions

Garcia showed that the duration between the CS and the US may be long (hours), but yet result in conditioning. A biologically adaptive CS (taste) led to conditioning and not to others (light or sound).

Taste Aversion

Courtesy of John Garcia

John Garcia

biological predispositions2
Biological Predispositions

Even humans can develop classically to conditioned nausea.

operant conditioning
Operant Conditioning
  • Classical Conditioning involves respondent behavior (automatic actions)
  • Operant conditioning reinforces desired behavior and discourages undesired behavior.
  • Operant behavior: Behavior that operates (has an effect) on the environment to produce consequences
  • Classical conditioning=no control
  • Operant conditioning= control of behavior and consequences
operant conditioning1
Operant Conditioning
  • Law of effect: rewarded behavior is likely to recur (Edward Thorndike)
  • Skinner used the Law of Effect to develop principles of behavior control.
  • Operant chamber/Skinners box: box containing a bar or key that an animal can use to obtain a food or water reinforcer; attached devices record rate of bar or key pressing

Shaping: reinforcers guide behavior toward desired behavior with successive approximations

  • Discriminative Stimulus: elicits response after association with reinforcement (remember discrimination vs. generalization)

Reinforcer: in operant conditioning, any event that strengthens the behavior it follows.

  • Positive Reinforcement: increasing behaviors by presenting positive stimuli, such as food. A positive reinforcer is any stimulus that, when presented after a response, strengthens the response.
  • Negative Reinforcement: increases behaviors by stopping or reducing negative stimuli, such as shock. A negative reinforcer is any stimulus that, when removed after a response, strengthens the response (Note: negative reinforcement is NOT punishment).

Primary reinforcer: an innately reinforcer stimulus, such as one that satisfies a biological need.

  • Conditioned reinforcer: a stimulus that gains its reinforcing power through its association with a primary reinforcer; also known as a secondary reinforcer.
immediate and delayed reinforcement
Immediate and Delayed Reinforcement
  • Which one works better?
  • In rats-immediate
  • In humans- both will work, sometimes delayed works better.
    • If given the option of a small candy bar today or a big candy bar tomorrow what would you choose?
reinforcement schedules
Reinforcement Schedules
  • Continuous reinforcement: Reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs.
  • Partial (intermittent) reinforcement: Reinforcing a response only part of the time; results in slower acquisition of a response but much greater resistance to extinction
schedules of reinforcement
Ratio Version – having to do with instances of the behavior.

Ex. – Reinforce or reward the behavior after a set number or x many times that an action or behavior is demonstrated.

Interval Version – having to do with the passage of time.

Ex. – Reinforce the participant after a set number or x period of time that the behavior is displayed.

Schedules of Reinforcement
4 basic schedules of reinforcement
4 Basic Schedules of Reinforcement
  • Fixed-interval schedule
  • Variable-interval schedule
  • Fixed-ratio schedule
  • Variable-ratio schedule
fixed interval schedule
Fixed-Interval Schedule
  • Fixed-interval schedule – A schedule in which a fixed amount of time must elapse between the previous and subsequent times that reinforcement will occur.
  • No response during the interval is reinforced.
  • The first response following the interval is reinforced.
  • Produces an overall low rate of responding
  • Ex.I get one pellet of food every 5 minutes when I press the lever
variable interval schedule
Variable-Interval Schedule
  • Variable-interval Schedule – A schedule in which a variable amount of time must elapse between the previous and subsequent times that reinforcement is available.
  • Produces an overall low consistent rate of responding.
  • Ex.– I get a pellet of food on average every 5 minutes when I press the bar.
fixed ratio schedule
Fixed-Ratio Schedule
  • Fixed-ratio Schedule – A schedule in which reinforcement is provided after a fixed number of correct responses.
  • These schedules usually produce rapid rates of responding with short post-reinforcement pauses
  • The length of the pause is directly proportional to the number of responses required
  • Ex. – For every 5 bar presses, I get one pellet of food
an example of fixed ratio reinforcement
An Example of Fixed Ratio Reinforcement
  • Every fourth instance of a smile is reinforced
variable ratio schedule
Variable-Ratio Schedule
  • Variable-ratio Schedule – A schedule in which reinforcement is provided after a variable number of correct responses.
  • Produce an overall high consistent rate of responding.
  • Ex. – On average, I press the bar 5 times for one pellet of food.
an example of variable ratio reinforcement
An Example of Variable Ratio Reinforcement
  • Random instances of the behavior are reinforced
comparisons of schedules of reinforcement
Comparisons of Schedules of Reinforcement





Fixed interval

Leads to average and irregular performance

Fast extinction of behavior

Reward on fixed time basis

Fixed ratio

Reward tied to specific number of responses

Moderately fast extinction of behavior

Leads quickly to very high and stable performance

Variable interval

Reward given after varying periods of time

Leads to moderately high and stable performance

Slow extinction of behavior

Variable ratio

Reward given for some behaviors

Leads to very high performance

Very slow extinction of behavior

fi vi fr or vr
When I bake cookies, I can only put one set in at a time, so after 10 minutes my first set of cookies is done. After another ten minutes, my second set of cookies is done. I get to eat a cookie after each set is done baking.

After every 10 math problems that I complete, I allow myself a 5 minute break.

I look over my notes every night because I never know how much time will go by before my next pop quiz.

When hunting season comes around, sometimes I’ll spend all day sitting in the woods waiting to get a shot at a big buck. It’s worth it though when I get a nice 10 point.

Today in Psychology class we were talking about Schedules of Reinforcement and everyone was eagerly raising their hands and participating. Miranda raised her hand a couple of times and was eventually called on.






FI, VI, FR, or VR?
  • While reinforcement increases behavior, punishment does the opposite
  • Punishment: An event that decreases the behavior that it follows.
  • Positive punishment: adding an aversive stimulus. (spanking)
  • Negative punishment: taking away desirable stimulus. (grounded)
biological predispositions3
Biological Predispositions
  • Biological constraints predispose organisms to learn associations that are naturally adaptive.
    • You can teach a pigeon to flap it’s wings to avoid shock and to peck to receive food but not the other way around.
cognition operant conditioning
Cognition & Operant Conditioning

Evidence of cognitive processes during operant learning comes from rats during a maze exploration in which they navigate the maze without an obvious reward. Rats seem to develop cognitive maps, or mental representations, of the layout of the maze (environment).

Cognitive map: a mental representation of the layout of ones environment

latent learning
Latent Learning

Such cognitive maps are based on latent learning, which becomes apparent when an incentive is given (Tolman & Honzik, 1930).


Intrinsic Motivation:Thedesire to perform a behavior for its own sake.

Extrinsic Motivation:Thedesire to perform a behavior due to promised rewards or threats of punishments.

skinner s legacy
Skinner’s Legacy

Skinner argued that behaviors were shaped by external influences instead of inner thoughts and feelings. Critics argued that Skinner dehumanized people by neglecting their free will.

Falk/ Photo Researchers, Inc.

applications of operant conditioning
Applications of Operant Conditioning

Skinner introduced the concept of teaching machines that shape learning in small steps and provide reinforcements for correct rewards.

LWA-JDL/ Corbis

In School

fi vi fr or vr1
6. Madison spanks her son if she has to ask him three times to clean up his room.

7. Emily has a spelling test every Friday. She usually does well and gets a star sticker.

8. Steve’s a big gambling man. He plays the slot machines all day hoping for a big win.

Snakes get hungry at certain times of the day. They might watch any number of prey go by before they decide to strike.

Mr. Bertani receives a salary paycheck every 2 weeks. (Miss Suter doesn’t ).

Christina works at a tanning salon. For every 2 bottles of lotion she sells, she gets 1 dollar in commission.

Mike is trying to study for his upcoming Psychology quiz. He reads five pages, then takes a break. He resumes reading and takes another break after he has completed 5 more pages.

6. FR

7. FI

8. VR





FI, VI, FR, or VR?
fi vi fr or vr2
13. Megan is fundraising to try to raise money so she can go on the annual band trip. She goes door to door in her neighborhood trying to sell popcorn tins. She eventually sells some.

14. Kylie is a business girl who works in the big city. Her boss is busy, so he only checks her work periodically.

15. Mark is a lawyer who owns his own practice. His customers makes payments at irregular times.

16. Jessica is a dental assistant and gets a raise every year at the same time and never in between.

17. Andrew works at a GM factory and is in charge of attaching 3 parts. After he gets his parts attached, he gets some free time before the next car moves down the line.

18. Brittany is a telemarketer trying to sell life insurance. After so many calls, someone will eventually buy.

13. VR

14. VI

15. VI

16. FI

17. FR

18. VR

FI, VI, FR, or VR?