Theories Of Learning In PsychologyEruptingMind Education Intelligent Advice for Intelligent PeopleTheories Of Learning In Psychology In psychology, “learning” is defined as a relatively

permanent change in, or acquisition of, knowledge or behavior. The key term here is “relatively”, because although we tend to hold onto what we learn, it can be changed a later date. For example, your friend teaches you how to play tennis, but later you get a qualified instructor who modifies and improves your technique.What we learn can also be forgotten over time, especially if we do not regularly use the skills or knowledge that we have acquired. For example, you may learn to drive a car, but if you don’t drive for several years then you will most likely forget what you had previously learnt and so would need to practice again. In addition to this, in order for us to learn something, we first need to experience it at the level of sensation via our five senses (i.e. touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell). As without our senses, learning would be virtually impossible. Classical Conditioning (Pavlov) Classical conditioning is a term used to describe learning that has been acquired through experience. One of the best known examples of classical conditioning can be found with the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his experiments on dogs. In these experiments, Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate when they heard a bell ring. In order to do this, he first showed them food which naturally caused them to salivate. Later, Pavlov would ring a bell every time he would bring the food out, until eventually, he could get the dogs to salivate just by ringing the bell and without giving the dogs any food. In this simple but ingenious experiment, Pavlov showed how a reflex (i.e. salivation, a natural bodily response) could become conditioned (modified) to an external stimulus (the bell) thereby creating a conditioned reflex/response. We can gain a better understanding of classical conditioning by looking at the various components involved in Pavlov’s experiment. These are: The unconditioned stimulus. The conditioned stimulus. The unconditioned reflex. The conditioned reflex. Let’s look at each of these classical conditioning components in more detail now. Note : In its strictest definition, classical conditioning is described as a previously neutral stimulus which causes a reflex, where “stimulus” means something which causes a physical response. The Unconditioned Stimulus (food) An unconditioned stimulus is anything which can evoke a response without prior learning or conditioning. For example, when a dog eats some food it causes the dog’s mouth to salivate. Therefore, the food is an unconditioned stimulus, because it causes a reflex response (salivation) automatically and without the dog having to learn how to salivate. Unconditioned Stimulus - This causes an automatic reflex response. Conditioned Stimulus (bell) The conditioned stimulus is created by learning, and therefore, does not create a response without prior conditioning. For example, when Pavlov rang a bell and caused the dogs to salivate, this was a conditioned stimulus because the dogs had learned to associate the bell with food. If they had not learned to associate the bell with food, they would not have salivated when the bell was rung.

e. then eventually the dog will disassociate (unlearn) the bell from the food and so will no longer salivate. Unconditioned Reflex (salivation) An unconditioned reflex is anything that happens automatically without you having to think about it. There are three main behavioral patterns that are associated with classical conditioning: Extinction. then we have a conditioned stimulus. Or by gradual exposure.Conditioned Stimulus . Conditioned Reflex (salivation in response to bell) A conditioned reflex is a reflex that you have learned to associate with something. Below you will find a brief summary of each of these patterns. the dogs salivated when Pavlov rang a bell. extinction has occurred because the bell no longer has any effect on the dog. For example. if we were then to use another bell which . this learning may be reinforced by reflecting upon that experience. It is an acquired power to change something. Unconditioned Reflex – A reflex that happens automatically and you didn’t have to learn how to do it. Note : Extinction is different from forgetting. For example. and we can make the same dog salivate by ringing a slightly different sounding bell. Conditioned Reflex – A reflex that can be evoked in response to a conditioned stimulus (i. Discrimination Continuing from the example above. This latter example shows that classical conditioning is not solely confined to animals. if we ring a bell and cause a dog to salivate. Important Features The word conditioning is used to mean a type of learning that occurs without you having to think about it. This flinching is a conditioned reflex. sometimes you will see a dog flinch when you raise your hand. when previously (without conditioning) the bell would not cause the dogs to salivate. This can be done through immediate exposure. where you gradually work your way up a tall building floor by floor. then what we have demonstrated is stimulus generalization. such as your mouth salivating at the smell of food. whereby you go to the top of a very tall building immediately. if we can make a dog salivate by ringing a bell (conditioned stimulus). For example. But if we keep ringing that bell without giving the dog any food (unconditioned stimulus).You need to learn first before the stimulus will create a response. This process of extinction is used by psychologists to help people overcome their fears or phobias. a previously neutral stimulus). Extinction Extinction occurs when the conditioned stimulus is presented a number of times without the unconditioned stimulus. Although later on. then by constantly exposing yourself to heights you will eventually unlearn your fear via a process known as desensitization. Discrimination. if you have a strong fear of heights. For example. Stimulus generalization. almost like an automatic type of learning. Therefore. because extinction involves unlearning something. as it can just as easily occur in humans. For example. Stimulus Generalization Stimulus generalization occurs when a stimulus that is similar to a conditioned stimulus creates the conditioned reflex. The same can be found in women who are beaten by their husbands. and can be seen in dogs who have been mistreated by their owner.

The food that is released as a result of pressing the lever. then she may give her some candy every time she cleans it. It is important to note though. if a mother wants her daughter to clean her room. A reward is something that has value to the person giving the reward. it has discriminated against it). we can say that: Extinction occurs when we unlearn something. The Skinner Box It was B. that there is a difference between a reward and a reinforcer in operant conditioning. then what we have demonstrated is discrimination because the dog no longer associates that sound with food (i. As a result. a device called the operant conditioning apparatus or the Skinner Box. the girl will start to clean her room more often because she knows that she will get some candy in return for doing so. In other words. Positive A positive reinforcer has some sort of value to whoever is receiving it. The Skinner box involved placing an animal (such as a rat or pigeon) into a sealed box with a lever that would release food when pressed. The following video discusses the difference between classical and operant conditioning in more detail. Although this may sound similar in principle to classical conditioning. it is in fact different because operant conditioning requires action on the part of the learner. Discrimination occurs when our new stimulus is too different from our original conditioned stimulus to cause the effect we want (the conditioned reflex).F. Lever pressing is described as an operant behavior. As a result. Note: Operant behavior is defined as actions which have consequences. or become desensitized to it.e. the girl will not get any candy until after she has cleaned her room. If food was released every time the rat pressed the lever. because it is an action that results in a consequence. Operant Conditioning (Skinner) Operant conditioning is a term used to describe behavior which has been reinforced by reward or discouraged through punishment. For example. and so results in an increase of a certain type of behavior. Skinner who is best known for operant conditioning and the device he invented to research it. is known as a reinforcer. it would press it more and more because it learned that doing so gives it food. food when you are hungry or water when you are thirsty. because it causes the operant behavior (lever pressing) to increase. it operates on the environment and changes it in some way. but may not necessarily be of value to the person receiving the reward. A reinforcer is something that benefits the person receiving it. Food could also be described as a conditioned stimulus because it causes an effect to occur. the girl’s behavior (cleaning her room) has been modified (conditioned) because she has learned to associate a behavior with a reward. Stimulus generalization occurs when something similar to our conditioned stimulus creates the same response (the conditioned reflex). the conditioned stimulus (candy) is used regardless of what the learner does. A positive .produced a different sound but this time the dog did not salivate. In classical conditioning. Types Of Reinforcers Below are several of the different ways to categorize a reinforcer. Given enough time. For example. The stimulus no longer creates the effect it used to cause. So in summary.

if a room is very hot. then receiving money can also be categorized as a positive reinforcer because it has value to you. Extinction Just like in classical conditioning where presenting a conditioned stimulus a number of times without the unconditioned stimulus results in extinction. is much more resistant to extinction than behavior which has been acquired under continuous reinforcement. For example. It may also injure. The operant behavior has therefore become extinct. you are likely to repeat this behavior the next time you are in a very hot room. Punishment may temporarily reduce a certain behavior.reinforcer serves to increase an operant behavior. For example. then you may switch on the air conditioning or a fan to try to escape from the heat. such as when trying to stop a bad habit. are as a primary or secondary reinforcer. come before) an operant behavior. Primary & Secondary Reinforcers Another way to classify reinforcers. and this value has not been learned. then it will gradually press that lever less and less until eventually it stops doing so entirely. In addition to this. Negative A negative reinforcer has no value to whoever receives it. Primary A primary reinforcer has some value to whoever is receiving it. Partial Reinforcement Effect Behavior that is acquired under partial reinforcement. such as smacking a child after they have done something bad. If this is successful. and so the undesirable behavior will gradually start to fade away (extinction). an electric shock or a dangerous situation. This means that you are taught its value/worth over a period of time before you see it as being valuable to you. Secondary A secondary reinforcer has an acquired value to whoever receives it. For example. the habit will no longer be seen as having any benefit. Punishment occurs after a behavior has already occurred. money is a secondary reinforcer because you have to learn the value of money and what it does before it has any meaning to you. it will continue. A negative reinforcer causes the recipient to try to escape from it or avoid it. Note : Negative reinforcers are not a form of punishment because they precede (i. if a rat receives no food when it presses a lever (reinforcement is withheld). it is usually far more effective to take away the reinforcer(s) associated with it. then this would be partial reinforcement because it does not get the reinforcer every . In effect. If you are short of cash. food when you are hungry or water when you are thirsty. or every second or third time it presses the lever. because that behavior is still seen as bringing some sort of benefit. However. harm or cause discomfort in some way. Stopping Bad Habits This knowledge of extinction can be applied to behavior shaping. the rat gives up on pressing the lever (stops an operant behavior) because it no longer results in it receiving food (reinforcer). a very hot room. although in the long run. then this would be continuous reinforcement. By doing so.e. punishment can also make the person being punished resent you and then do things behind your back out of spite. if the rat receives a reinforcer at random. For example. For example. Negative reinforcers therefore also serve to increase operant behaviors. a similar process also occurs in operant conditioning when an operant behavior begins to declines. For example. if a rat receives a reinforcer every time it presses the lever. So rather than trying to punish a certain behavior.

For example. receive some sort of gratification from watching the behavior of another person (the model). their behavior has now been altered. the light allows you to determine whether or not you will get a reward (reinforcer). a teen that idolizes a rock star may start playing a musical instrument such as a guitar. But when the light is off. Putting this all together. as the observer. which he defined as a stimulus which allows the animal to tell the difference between “a situation which is reinforcing and one that is not”. This second person is known as a “model” and either intentionally or unintentionally demonstrates a behavior to you. You have received vicarious reinforcement. which may then motivate you to play that sport. Skinner called the light a discriminative stimulus. Observational Learning Observational learning occurs when a behavior is acquired by watching the behavior of someone else.time. If the teen receives some sort of gratification (vicarious reinforcement) from observing the behavior of their role model. For example. a light bulb was placed above the lever. If the observer is able to identify with this behavior and receive some sort of satisfaction from it. many gamblers are unable to stop and end up losing all of what they had won. A good example of partial reinforcement can be seen in casinos. pressing the lever would result in the rat receiving the reinforcer. pressing the lever would result in no reinforcer. Vicarious reinforcement can occur in virtually any circumstance in which you. then they are likely to adopt a similar type of behavior. you can now see that operant conditioning is a modification (conditioning) of an action (operant behavior) which has consequences (e. A good example of social learning theory can be found amongst teenagers who follow various celebrity role models.e. We can further subdivide the type of behavior we acquire as a result of social . This is why you will often find that despite winning a large sum of money. If you were to stop giving the reinforcer. the rat receiving partial reinforcement would display a greater resistance to extinction (i. As a result. then they are said to have received vicarious reinforcement (imagined gratification). In other words. then you receive an internal sense of satisfaction as a result of their victory. if your favorite sports team wins a game. and deals with how social groups can be affected by their environment. Given enough time. Whenever the light is on. Some real life examples of discriminative stimuli include hearing a bell before lunch or seeing a traffic light when you are driving.g. the rat eventually learns to only press the lever when the light is on and ignores the lever when the light is off. it would keep pressing the lever for longer after the reinforcer had been stopped). In both cases. lever pressing releases food) through the use of positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Social Learning Theory Social learning theory is an expansion of observational learning. a signal (bell/light) tells you what sort of reinforcement you will receive in that situation. Discriminative Stimulus In a slight variation of the original Skinner box.

For example. when something suddenly seems to click into place and make sense. a teen who steals from other people or who vandalizes property is exhibiting antisocial behavior. it appears not to have learnt anything because it still takes a long time to get out. suddenly became reactivated thereby allowing the rat to use its previous knowledge of the maze to quickly learn the escape route. This means that the next time you do it. Antisocial Behavior Antisocial behaviour is behavior which is destructive to others and very often to yourself. If however. which activates what the rat had previously learned. you will find things to be a lot easier. if a rat is left in a maze. In this case. For example. you will then be able to learn it very quickly. then they are likely to act that way for the rest of their life. The purpose of the reinforcer was to act as an incentive. Latent learning may therefore be described as the creation of these pathways. if a child learns to recycle and live an environmentally friendly lifestyle from their parents.learning into either prosocial or antisocial behavior. we were to then introduce some food into the maze (a reinforcer). when you are at school. as when you learn something. because it is destructive to other people and the surrounding environment. one of the best ways to improve your understanding of a subject is to research it before you are meant to learn it. it will randomly explore that maze and try to find a way out. This is hardly surprising if you look at things from the perspective of the brain. Prosocial Behavior Prosocial behavior is behavior that benefits another person. the first few times the rat was exploring the maze it was learning. So if you have a lecture next week. even though it appeared not to be learning anything. by studying for that lecture now you will be able to understand it better and faster once you actually take that lecture. A good example of this can be found with research done by Wolfgang Kohler on an ape called Sultan. what this all means is that you learn things through experience. which provides a foundation for future learning. Their behavior is prosocial. and which may later be reactivated with a reinforcer. This is why it is important to expose your mind to as much information as you can about a subject. Basically. a group of people or society as a whole. Latent Learning Latent learning is learning which occurs without reinforcement. this prior learning which had remained latent (dormant). because even though it may seem difficult now. if something reactivated what you had (latently) learned from that experience. Later. Although the rat has been in this maze several times. If we repeat this several times. the rat may appear to exhibit the same type of behavior where it randomly explores the maze looking for the exit. your existing neural pathways will be strengthened and refined thereby allowing you to perform better. For example. Insight Learning Insight learning is an “a-ha!” moment. . the next time you come across it. even though you may not think that you are learning anything at the time. Almost as though it suddenly learned how to do it. the rat would quickly learn to escape the maze. For example. because it benefits the environment and society as a whole. When we added food to the maze. Your prior latent learning has allowed for an accelerated future learning. you form neural pathways in the brain related to that activity.

and a good example of encoding. Then one day Sultan clicked the two sticks together. “once you’ve got it. he now had a useful long stick. but the more you study it. Then. but no matter what they say. The same applies to learning a new subject. First with his hands. If you are at school. if you are presented with the letters ABT they would be meaningless . However. Resistance To Extinction Since insight learning is acquired as a result of past experiences. Encoding Encoding is the process of making information meaningful to you. and are trying to learn a subject well. then over time you are likely to find them easier and easier and so will need harder puzzles to challenge you. This “insight” that Sultan received. the easier it becomes. you just don’t seem to “get it”. you’ve got it”. The idea of learning sets first came from research done by psychologist Harry Harlow. from which.Sultan was put in a cage and given two sticks which could be clicked together to make a longer tool. For example. So whereas previously Sultan had two seemingly useless sticks. the monkey’s ability to discriminate between different shapes (and get the grape) in subsequent exercises rapidly increased. it tends to be fairly resistant to forgetting. it clicks and “a-ha” you now see what they were trying to say. something which he did not have the insight to see before. and then with the sticks. So insight learning is an insight into our past experiences. For example. we can then use to solve problems we were previously unable to. all of a sudden. by getting the grape from the underneath the correct container. The monkey was said to have acquired a learning set. Slightly outside the reach of the sticks was an orange. Sultan spent a lot of time trying to get the orange. someone may be trying to explain something to you. and is therefore necessary for learning. The process of memory involves three main stages: Encoding Storage Retrieval Let’s look at each of these now. The test was to see if the monkey could discriminate between the two different shapes of the containers. then a good way to solidify your learning would be to teach it to someone else as you will now be actively using your mental knowledge. This is why it is extremely important to try to actively apply what you mentally do. In other words. if you were to learn something simply through memorization. This has most likely happened to you many times. What Harlow found was that after the first exercise. he was unable to reach the orange no matter what he did. came as a result of his past attempts to get the orange and a reorganization of those experiences. and was able to reach the orange. to solidify that knowledge in the brain. At first it seems hard. then you are likely to forget what you had learned very quickly. Learning To Learn Learning to learn describes the use of learning sets in learning. who tested a monkey’s ability to find a grape under a container. can be found with anagrams. it states that we become better at what we repeatedly do. if you solve crossword puzzles. Basically. So for example. using previous knowledge to quickly solve future problems. The Role Of Memory Memory is defined as the ability to retain knowledge. On the other hand.

it comes into your conscious awareness. People who like EruptingMind have told their friends about it. after which. There are three main processes which can occur during the retrieval of memories. Long term memory tends to be associated with short-term memory. Retrieval Retrieval occurs when you access a previously stored memory. please do the same and join this growing community by helping to spread the word! Further reading. 1) Recall Recall is the ability to easily recall a memory. 2) Recognition Recognition occurs when something helps you to remember something else. you will then forget it... So if you found this article or website helpful. because if your short-term memory is impaired. Long Term Memory Long term memory is information which has been more or less permanently stored. For example. a painful or traumatic experience in your life. It allows you to hold onto information for a few minutes. you are told that ABT represents an animal which can fly. it will help you to recall any previously stored memory that you may have of it. In other words. For example. Main Types Of Psychological Disorders Psychology: Effects Of Stress On The Body & Types Of Conflict Depth Perception Cues & Other Forms Of Perception In Psychology An Introduction To The Basics Of Psychology Theories Of Developmental PsychologyCopyright © 2011 Privacy Policy Personal Development Success Skills Health Money People Skills Mind Power . This type of memory is what allows you to remember your past. Short Term Memory Short term memory is also called working memory. a multiple choice test will contain one correct answer. you know what your friend’s name is. If however. and can be further subdivided into short-term memory and long-term memory. Storage Storage is the ability to retain information for a period of time. 3) Repression Repression occurs when a memory is forced into the unconscious in an attempt to protect the ego from some sort of psychological threat. For you. then you can rearrange those letters to form BAT which now has meaning to you. When you see the correct answer. then this will interfere with your capacity to form long-term memories.

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