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Instrumental or operant conditioning - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Instrumental or operant conditioning. The instrumental paradigm. S --- R --- S R In a stimulus situation (S), a response (R) is followed by a reinforcing stimulus (S R ). Comparison with classical conditioning: Classical Operant CR is elicited R is emitted

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The instrumental paradigm l.jpg
The instrumental paradigm

  • S --- R --- SR

  • In a stimulus situation (S), a response (R) is followed by a reinforcing stimulus (SR).

  • Comparison with classical conditioning:

    Classical Operant

    CR is elicited R is emitted

    CR prepares for US R to get SR

    Learns contingency Learns contingency

More similarities l.jpg
More similarities

  • Practice effects

  • Extinction and spontaneous recovery

  • Delay effects

  • Contingency-dependent

  • Blocking and configural learning

  • Generalization and discrimination

  • Associative bias

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What is associated?

  • S - R?

    • Thorndike’s Law of effect: Contiguity

    • But Tinklepaugh (1928) showed that organisms learn to expect particular reinforcers: Monkeys given a leaf of lettuce showed disappointment when they were expecting a slice of banana. So:

  • R - SR ? Or

  • S - R - SR ? Colwill and Rescorla (1985...)

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Colwill and Rescorla studies

  • Phase 1: R1(Bar press) --> SR1 (salty chow)

    and R2(Chain pull) --> SR2 (tasty chow)

  • Phase 2: Feed with SR1 (salty chow) outside the experimental chamber.

  • Test: Pulls chain.

  • Analogous results were found for SR devaluation. Clearly, the SR is involved in the learning process.

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Learning without reinforcement(cf. sensory preconditioning)

  • The noise of a lever press is learned in free exploration of a Skinner box.

  • Then the noise -- but no lever -- is paired with an SR of food.

  • When presented with the lever, the rats press it: Such inferential learning of neutral stimuli is essential to learning a chain of responses leading to terminal reinforcement.

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Secondary reinforcement(cf. second-order conditioning)

  • Learn that noise of bar press ---> food

  • Learn that bar press ---> noise

  • Animal will press bar to hear noise

  • An association is learned between noise and food. Humans -- and chimpanzees -- can learn such an association between primary reinforcers and secondary reinforcers such as money or tokens…or grades.

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Effects of secondary reinforcers

  • Secondary reinforcers help bridge delays.

  • Secondary reinforcers provide feedback.

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The CS in instrumental learning

  • Organisms can generalize and discriminate from the CS in instrumental/operant conditioning as well.

  • The peak shift: If CS+ and CS- are both trained in an operant discrimination experiment, the maximum rate of responding will not be to CS+ but to a stimulus farther from the CS- , where the generalization of CS- inhibition is less.

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The peak shift


of Excitation

Size of response


of Inhibition

Peak shift



Stimulus dimension --->

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More observations on the CS

  • The Gestalt psychologists and relational responding

  • Terrace’s errorless discrimination learning

    • Effectively teaches discrimination when relying on species-specific traits

    • Reduces emotional responses to CS-

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Discrimination learning makes a dimension relevant

After discrimination training:

Pitch is relevant.

Simple generalization:

Pitch is not relevant

Response rate

Response rate



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Concept learning: Dimensions

  • Dimensional learning or attentional learning

    • Discrimination makes a dimension relevant

    • Processing capacity is limited, so learning depends on which dimension is made relevant

    • Except for very young children, reversal shift learning is easier than dimensional shift learning. Reversal shift requires inhibition.

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Shift learning

  • Training:

    • Positive

    • Negative

  • Reversal shift

    • Positive

    • Negative

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Shift learning

  • Training:

    • Positive

    • Negative

  • Nonreversal shift

    • Positive

    • Negative

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Shift learning

  • Training:

    • Positive

    • Negative

  • Intradimensional shift

    • Positive

    • Negative

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Shift learning

  • Training:

    • Positive

    • Negative

  • Extradimensional shift

    • Positive

    • Negative

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Concept learning: Categories extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Pigeons can learn to peck at slides containing trees and not at slides that do not contain trees.

  • Pigeons can learn to peck at one key for pictures of cats and at another key for pictures of flowers.

  • However, pigeons find it hard to discriminate between one set of cats and another, or one set of flowers and another.

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Category learning in humans extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Like the pigeons, people find it easy to discriminate between categories.

  • Also like the pigeons, people find it hard to discriminate within categories. Examples?

  • And yet it is easy to discriminate within categories of which we are members.

  • The ease of discrimination between categories biases us toward categorical thinking.

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What is the CR ? extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Response equivalence based on effects

  • Place learning: Shift strategies and foraging.

    • Shift strategies are harder to learn if some food remains in the first place visited.

  • Species-specific responding: Instinctive drift

  • Behavior systems analysis (Timberlake)

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Predator learning extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Predators have a UR of approaching and contacting the US of prey characteristics.

  • But they must learn effective biting and to attack motionless prey (Eibl-Eibesfeldt ‘70)

  • Is the learning due to instrumental conditioning? Young predators improve even if their attacks are unsuccessful.

  • Removing the CS for predators: Tiger attacks in northern India.

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Autoshaping or sign tracking extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Pigeons will learn to peck a lighted key that predicts food, even though the food is not contingent on pecking the key (Brown & Jenkins, 1968)

  • But the key peck is not an operant:

    • Pigeons autoshape even if the response is prevented by a plexiglass barrier.

    • Pigeons peck the key differently for food and water reinforcers (Jenkins & Moore, 1973).

    • Male pigeons learn to court a light that predicts access to their mates (Rackham, 1971).

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Contiguity vs. contingency, again extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Are R and SR connected because they are contiguous or contingent?

  • Hammond’s (1980) contingency study:

    • Phase 1: Reinforce only 5% of responses

      • Result: 3000 bar presses per hour

    • Phase 2: Continue phase 1 reinforcement, but add reward 5% of the time when no response was made.

      • Result: Response rate trailed off to near zero

    • Phases 3 & 4 repeated 1 & 2 (ABAB design)

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Hammond’s (1980) results extradimensional (changes dimension)

Phase 1




Phase Conting.

Phase p(SR)

1 .05 - 0

2 .05 - .05

Rate of responding

3 .05 - 0

4 .05 - .05

Training periods

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More contingency-contiguity research extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Partial reinforcement, contingency learning and the partial reinforcement extinction effect

  • Superstitious learning:

    • Skinner and contiguity explanations

    • Staddon and Simmelhag:

      • Interim behaviors

      • Terminal behaviors

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Learned helplessness extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Seligman and Maier’s classic study (1967)

  • Latent inhibition explanations: Learned irrelevance of responding

  • Treatment by forced success experiences

  • Inoculation by early success experiences

    • Childhood competence vs. inferiority

    • Classroom success in early childhood education

    • What about early sexual experiences? Abuse?

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Associative bias extradimensional (changes dimension)

  • Behaviors that occur with hunger are easily conditioned with food rewards; grooming behaviors are not

  • Species-specific defense reactions (SSDRs):

    • Rats learn to flee more readily than to press a bar to terminate shock

    • Rats learn to press a bar more readily than to flee to obtain food

    • Human examples of SSDRs: Skiing downhill, driving through a skid