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Observational Learning & Operant Conditioning

Written Report

Prepared by: Jessa Wenica C. Pallomina BBTE IV 1D

Prepared for: Dr. Milagrina A. Gomez Dean, College of Education

Observational Learning Compared To Imitation Observational learning differs from Imitation in that it does not require a duplication of the behavior exhibited by the model. For example, the learner may observe an unwanted behavior and the subsequent consequences, and thus learn to refrain from that behavior. For example, Riopelle, A.J. (1960) found that monkeys did better with observational learning if they saw the "tutor" monkey make a mistake before making the right choice. Heyes (1993) distinguished imitation and non-imitative social learning in the following way: imitation occurs when animals learn about behavior from observing conspecifics, whereas non-imitative social learning occurs when animals learn about the environment from observing others. Observational learning is presumed to have occurred when an organism copies an improbable action or action outcome that it has observed and the matching behavior cannot be explained by an alternative mechanism. Psychologists have been particularly interested in the form of observational learning known as imitation and in how to distinguish imitation from other processes. To successfully make this distinction, one must separate the degree to which behavioral similarity results from (a) predisposed behavior, (b) increased motivation resulting from the presence of another animal, (c) attention drawn to a place or object, (d) learning about the way the environment works, as distinguished from what we think of as (e) imitation (the copying of the demonstrated behavior) (Zentall 2012). Observational learning Tomasello (1999) described various ways of observational learning without the process of imitation in animals: Exposure- Individuals learn about their environment with a close proximity to other individuals that have more experience. For example, a young dolphin learning the location of a plethora of fish by staying nears its mother. Stimulus Enhancement - Individuals become interested in an object from watching others interact with it (Spence 1937). Increased interest in an object may result in object manipulation, which facilitates new object-related behaviors by trial-and-error learning. For example, a young killer whale might become interested in playing with a sea lion pup after watching other whales toss the sea lion pup around. After playing with the pup, the killer whale may develop foraging behaviors appropriate to such prey. In this case, the killer whale did not learn to prey on sea lions by observing other whales do so, but rather the killer whale became intrigued after observing other whales play with the pup. After the killer whale became interested, then its interactions with the sea lion resulted in behaviors that provoked future foraging efforts. Goal Emulation-Individuals are enticed by the end result of an observed behavior and attempt the same outcome but with a different method. For example, Haggerty (1909) devised an experiment in which a monkey climbed up the side of a cage, stuck its arm into a wooden chute, and pulled a rope in the chute to release food. Another monkey was provided an opportunity to obtain the food after watching a monkey go through this process on four separate occasions. The monkey performed a different method and finally succeeded after trial and error.

Peer model influences Observational learning is very beneficial when there are positive, reinforcing peer models involved. Although individuals go through four different stages for observational learning: attention; retention; production; and motivation, this does not simply mean that when an individual's attention is captured that it automatically sets the process in that exact order. One of the most important ongoing stages for observational learning, especially among children, is motivation and positive reinforcement. Performance is enhanced when children are positively instructed on how they can improve a situation and where children actively participate alongside a more skilled person. Examples of this are scaffolding and guided participation. Scaffolding refers to an expert responding contingently to a novice so the novice gradually increases their understanding of a problem. Guided participation refers to an expert actively engaging in a situation with a novice so the novice participates with or observes the adult to understand how to resolve a problem. Observational learning across cultures Cultural variation can be seen in the extent of information learned or absorbed by children through the use of observation and more specifically the use of observation without verbal requests for further information. For example, children from Mexican heritage families tend to learn and make better use of information observed during classroom demonstration then European heritage children. Another example is seen in the immersion, of children in some Indigenous communities of the Americas, into the adult world and the effects it has on observational learning and the ability to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. This might be due to children in these communities having the opportunity to see a task being completed by their elders or peers and then trying to emulate the task. In doing so they learn to value observation and the skill-building it affords them because of the value it holds within their community. This type of observation is not passive, but reflects the child's intent to participate or learn within a community. Indigenous Communities of the Americas Children observe elders, parents, and siblings completing tasks and learn to participate in them as they grow. Observational opportunities tend to be more prominent in indigenous communities, because children integrate in adult activities. They are seen as contributors themselves and therefore they learn to observe multiple tasks being completed at once and can learn to complete a task, while still engaging with other community members without being distracted. The heightened value towards observation allows children to multi-task in actively engage in simultaneous activities. The exposure to an uncensored adult lifestyle incorporating children allows them to observe and learn the different skills and practices that are valued in their communities.

Children from indigenous heritage communities and backgrounds learn through observation, a learning strategy that can carry over into adulthood. Children of indigenous heritage communities commonly use contextual cues in their understanding and ideas. In a native Northern Canadian and an Indigenous Mayan community children often learn as thirdparty observers to stories and conversations by others. Indigenous communities utilize observational learning by providing more opportunity to incorporate children in everyday life, where observational learning is expected and may be more inherent to some cultures more than others. This integration of children into everyday life can be seen in some Mayan communities where children are given full access to community events, which allows observational learning to occur more often. Children in communities such as the Mazahua in Mexico are known to intensely observe ongoing activities. Within certain indigenous communities a characteristic of observational learning is that people do not typically seek out explanation beyond basic observation because they are competent in learning through observation. In a Guatemalan footloom factory amateur adult weavers observed skilled weavers over the course of weeks without questioning or being given explanations; the amateur weaver moved at their own pace and began when they felt confident. The framework of learning how to weave through observation can serve as a model that particular members or groups within a society use as a reference to guide their actions in particular domains of life. Indigenous parent's teaching styles are shaped by their influence with western schooling. In traditional Mayan families, given the difference of the education levels of mothers, those with more years of formal education often prompt children to take turns in learning to solve a problem, while mothers with less education facilitate open ended discussion with the children. In a similar study among Mayan fathers and children showed that fathers with 03 years of education operated through a mix of observation and shared collaboration between adults and children, compared to the fathers with higher levels of education who structured a discussion. Observational Learning and Children with Autism There are not a lot of studies done on the acquisition of knowledge through observation, but there are none on observational learning in children with low-functioning autism according to Nadel, Aouka, Coulon, Grad-Vincendon, Canet, Fagard & Bursztejn (2011). This group of researchers set out to consider whether or not children with low-functioning autism are able to learn through observation only. They used two groups; children aged four to nine diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a control group of children. They further divided each group into two subgroups, based on developmental age (24 or 36 months). All four groups then received different tasks that corresponded to their developmental age. The task involved a red box that contained candy, which the children tried to get. This study lasted nine daysduring which all the children were given the box on the first day and given time to try to get the object out. They were then shown a demonstration video twice but were not given the box after the demonstration

to try to get the candy. The following day, the participants were only given the box with no video demonstrations to test for observational learning. This was repeated seven days later. Nadel et al. (2011) found that the children who did not have autism showed improvement after the first demonstration. The children of a younger developmental age improved one week later, and the older children improved after only one demonstration. Children with autism improved after the second demonstration only. The authors believe this means that children with autism progress the same as typical children, but take longer to learn. They also believe this means that children with autism can form motor representations for a task without prior experience, and that they can correct motor representations after previously not being able to do a task. The researchers argue that the difference in the need for more demonstrations for children with autism was not due to a lack of attention but more as a result of an increased difficulty of creating a motor representation of an action that leads to a remote goal as opposed to an immediate goal. In free play, children with autism often display self-stimulatory behaviors that inhibit appropriate behaviors and decrease their ability to learn new behaviors. In one study, the researchers were looking to determine the effect of the observation of peers on appropriate toyplaying skills in autistic-like children. They also examined the effects training can have on autistic-like children, in the training situation and in a generalization setting. No study before this 1986 work looked at the ability of autistic-like children to learn skills similar to those they learned in training, by observing a peer in a non-training setting. This study strove for insight into the generalization of autistic-like children's skills through observational learning. Participants included three autistic-like boys with a mean chronological age of 4.4 and a mean age of 2.5. Six other boys with a mean age chronological age of 4.3 and a mean age of 3.2, and good receptive and language skills, served as peer models. Each participant took part in:

A pretest to determine ten different toys that the child did not play with appropriately A baseline test of free play, where children played in a room where the ten toys determined in the pretest were present, as well as another peer Two training sessions, each followed by a generalization and maintenance condition

In the first training session, the participant watched a peer (who they did not see in the baseline test) correctly play with a toy. The second training was the same as the first except that the participant was exposed to both a new peer model and a new toy. The amount of exposure to a modeled play task was the independent variable, and was manipulated through additional tasks, models, and settings. Tryon and Keane (1986) identified the dependent variables as the training task acquisition, generalization in free-play, and the frequency of both self-stimulatory behavior and imitative play behaviors. The authors found that all three autistic-like boys could learn to imitate the peer model, and could play with an unfamiliar toy in the training sessions by watching a peer model. In the following generalization and maintenance sessions, all the autistic-like boys learned to play with the unfamiliar toy that they had not been trained in. The researchers noticed that the boys

decreased their self-stimulatory behaviors as a result of the imitative play learned in training. The authors suggested that enhanced imitation of play behaviors may have been due to the use of multiple peer models. Other human and animal behavior experiments When an animal is given a task to complete, they are almost always more successful after observing another animal doing the same task before them. Experiments have been conducted on several different species with the same effect: animals can learn behaviors from peers. However, there is a need to distinguish the propagation of behavior and the stability of behavior. Research has shown that social learning can spread a behavior, but there are more factors regarding how a behavior carries across generations of an animal culture.

B.F. SKINNERS THEORY OF OPERANT CONDITIONING Derived from the theory of Thorndike, Skinner analyzed reinforcing stimuli based on the law of effect. Skinner also emphasized the effects of the subjects action among the causes of behavior. The operant conditioning theory is based on Skinners experiments with animals. Skinner uses the term operant behavior to refer to his idea that an organism has to do something in order to get a reward, that is, it must operate on its environment. His basic premise is that any organism (including man) tends to repeat what it was doing at the time its behavior was reinforced and that the task is a matter of baiting each step of the way, thus gradually leading the subject to the required performance. In one of Skinners well-known experiments, a hungry rat was placed in a box. Upon its accidental pressing of a lever in a box, it was rewarded with a food pellet which served as reinforcement to the pressing behavior. Reinforced thus, the rat kept on pressing that bar, this time no longer accidentally but intentionally. Skinner has shown that basic to operant conditioning is the use of reinforcement. Reinforcement is defined as any behavioral consequence that strengthens behavior. The reinforcement increases the likelihood of the recurrence of a particular type of response. By reinforcement, skinner refers to any event that increases the probability that a particular response will increase in frequency. Responses may be reinforced by the presentation (positive) or removal (negative) of particular consequences. Thus, reinforcement may be positive or negative. The presentation of a positive reinforce increases the likelihood that a particular response will occur. The withdrawal of a negative reinforce will also increase the likelihood of occurrence of a desired response by presenting or withdrawing a positive or a negative reinforcer.

Positive and negative reinforcers influence behaviors in opposite ways. Positive reinforcers increase response frequency. Negative reinforcers strengthen behavior by their removal. That means termination of the reinforcing stimulus increases response frequency. To determine whether a particular event is reinforcing, observations are conducted. The frequency of a selected response is first observed and then made contingent on the response. The rate of responding with the added consequences is observed next. If the response frequency is increased, the selected event is therefore reinforcing. To be effective in altering behavior, reinforcement must be made contingent on the execution of appropriate responses. Reinforcement increases the rate of responding; however, elimination of the reinforcing consequence decreases the rate. This will eventually lead to extinction. In everyday life then, reinforcement is used to prevent the extinction of behavior. Primary and Secondary reinforcers are two types of reinforcement. There are some reinforcers that are innately reinforcing. They are powerful in increasing the chance that a particular behavior will occur. These are called primary reinforcers. In primary reinforce, the increase in response rate occurs without training. Given the state of deprivation, primary reinforcers will alter the probability of responding. Sleep is reinforcing for a sleep-deprived person. Food and water also belong to this category of reinforcers. Secondary reinforcers or conditioned reinforcers influence behavior through training. These reinforcers are not innately reinforcing. This type of reinforcement is done specifically by developing associations with a primary reinforce. Their power to reinforce behavior is acquired. Money, grades, stars, and tokens are all secondary reinforcers. Primary and secondary reinforcers may have the same effectiveness depending on how they are used or managed in the conditioning process. Both types of reinforcers are most effective when they immediately follow the responses they are intended to increase. Other reinforcers, however, have a more general influence on behavior. Generalized reinforces can function under more than one set of circumstances through association with more than one primary reinforce (e.g., Money is a token associated with food, drink, and shelter). Attention, approval, congratulations, and peer approval are other types of generalized reinforcers. As in classical conditioning, a process related to operant conditioning is extinction. Extinction of a learned behavior in this case occurs as a result of its repetition while receiving no further reinforcement. This process of extinction may be employed in terminating an undesirable behavior.

In contrast with reinforcers, punishment involves the withdrawal of a positive reinforcer or the addition of a negative reinforcer. Withdrawal of a positive reinforcer, or removing a pleasant experience, may involve removing TV watching privileges. Presenting an unpleasant event, on the other hand, or the addition of a negative reinforcer could be confining the child to his room. Skinner proposed that in terms of effect, punishment is not the opposite of reinforcement. For Skinner, punishment leads to 3 undesirable effects: 1. Punished responses only disappear temporarily. 2. Emotional predispositions such as guilt or shame may be conditioned through the use of punishment. 3. Any behavior that reduces the aversive stimulation accompanying the punishment will be reinforced. For example, a child may lie to his mother that he is sick so that he can avoid going to school, thus avoiding taking the test. The test which serves as an aversive stimulus will only reinforce the negative behavior of lying. The contribution of Skinners theory to learning involves the acquisition of complex behavior through the process of shaping. Shaping behavior is the acquisition of complex behaviors such as playing tennis, and solving problems. The procedure of first reinforcing responses that only resemble the desired response is referred to as reinforcing successive approximations. This calls for reinforcing behavior like kicking the ball when the child is just learning how to play soccer. The importance of shaping is that it can generate complex behaviors that do not occur naturally through shaping by a series of contingencies in a program. Each stage of the program evokes a response and also serves to prepare the organism to respond at some later point. Shaping is different from behavior modifications that occur with puzzles, mazes and other Pavlovian tasks. It does not entail trial and error at random points in the learning process.