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This approach is based on the study of learning in non -human animals which being generally less complex than humans, makes them easier to study. It is particularly focused on three theories ± classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning. It differs from the psychodynamic and biological in 2 key ways . First, the learning approach focuses almost exclusively on the influence of the environment on our behaviour. Secondly, research is collected through observab le changes in behaviour.
Classical Conditioning The building of an association with two stimuli. The neutral stimulus (something in the environment that does not initially cause a response) and an unconditioned stimulus which produces an effect . The response is generally a reflex e.g. salivating, blinking etc. Over time, the strength of the CS declines and eventually disappears. E.g. the bell in Pavlov¶s dog is rung several times with no food appearing. When a conditioned response that was extinct spontaneously appears in response to the CS. This method of behavioural reinforcement takes on the idea of the statement µbehaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences¶. Operant conditioning consists of two types of reinforcement: This is the arrival of good things such as receiving food, water or the opportunity to access a mate. The behavioural frequency increases when behaviour is followed by reinforcement. Something bad stops happening ± relief. Behavioural frequency increases as the situation is much more pleasant than before. E.g. taking a pain killer to relieve a headache. These satisfy our basic needs or basic biologica l requirements ± food, water etc. strengthens behavioural response. These meet biological needs through ASSOCIATION however; they are not reinforcing e.g. money. Strengthens behavioural response. An action that has unplea sant consequences and it reduces the frequency of behaviour it follows. The arrival of something unpleasant. Removal of something pleasant. In SLT, the person imitates or copies the model. Important characteristics include: sex (more importantly), age + status. These models are likely to be imitated through observation.
Spontaneous Recovery Operant Conditioning
Punishment Positive Punishment Negative Punishment Imitation Model
This is when the observer sees the model being positively reinforced for their actions. This makes it more likely for the observer to imitate the model. The neutral stimulus is presented at the same time as the unconditioned stimulus allowing it to elicit a response. The behaviour that is produced is called the conditioned response and the trigger, the conditioned stimulus. This was demonstrated by the Russian Psychologist Pavlov in 1927: y NS (bell) no response y UCS (food) UCR (salivation) y UCS (food) + NS (bell) UCR (salivation) y CS (bell) CR (salivation)
Evaluation For Can explain a wide range of human and animal behaviours and its existence is well supported and can be seen in laboratories. Against It cannot explain complex human behaviours e.g. why we respond in specific ways to certain behaviours. Does not explain how we lea rn from consequences or learning from others.
Operant conditioning proposes that behaviour is learnt through shaping to meet a consequence. This was demonstrated by Thorndike (1911) whose kittens worked their way through the puzzle box in order to reach the food which was the consequence. The first time it made its way to the food by chance, but on entering again, it learnt its earlier mistakes and after 4/5 attempts it could recall the whole route. The kittens formed an association with the stimulus (leaver and puzzles) and a response ± pushing it ± as a result of the consequence (food). Skinner also conducted much research into operant conditioning. He developed the Skinner boxes and found that animals responded to schedules of reinforcement. In 1938 he summarised ³behaviour is shaped and maintained by consequences´. He defined reinforcement as: y Positive Reinforcement y Negative Reinforcement y Primary Reinforcement y Secondary Reinforcement y Punishment Skinner also used schedules of reinforcement:
Fixed Ratio ± where reinforcement is given after a number of desired behaviours; y Variable Ratio ± reinforcement after several responses have been made, with the number varying the average; y Fixed Interval ± reinforcement is provided at regular times e.g. pocket money each room if a tidy room; y Variable Interval ± reinforcement at timed intervals but varies around an average. Skinner proposed that specific and entirely new actions could be produced through conditioning. He suggested that this could be achieved by selectively reinforcing behaviours which more closely resembled the desired response. This is known as shaping. This could be comparable to tidying a room ± reward for tidying the floor one week, then the floor and the desk. Each time is better than the last. y Selective use of reinforcement to reward behaviours that successively close to a desired response
Uncontrollable reinforcers and learning to be superstitious
Pickens + Skinner and Thompson illustrated the importance of contingenc y ± the reinforcer should be dependent on the performance of the behaviour. This suggests when a positive consequence follows a behaviour we would tend to repeat that behaviour even if it was not the cause of the reward. Positive consequences that occur regardless of our behaviour are known being repeated at the time. This can lead to superstition. Matute (1996) also found evidence of this.
Evaluation of Operant Conditioning For Well supported by experimental evidence Clearly operates in both humans and animals Schedules of reinforcement and effect of uncontrolled reinforcers help to explain observations about behaviour Can explain how completely new behaviours are learnt e.g. through shaping Aversion Therapy Against Does not take into account the conditioning of other s e.g. models and imitation
A therapy using classical conditioning: Some behaviours e.g. alcoholism are undesirable and aversion therapy may be used to eliminate them. Prior to treatment a UCS ± which will become part of the treatment ± produces an unpleasant (aversive) UCR e.g. vomiting. During treatment this unpleasant response becomes associated with the stimulus to be
avoided, this is the CS. Thus an association is built to which the client¶s behaviour becomes linked to the unpleasant response. E.g. the case with alcoholism: y UCS (antabuse) UCR (vomiting) y UCS + NS (alcohol) UCR (unpleasant expectation accompanying vomiting) y CS (alcohol) CR (unpleasant expectation) As the CR is aversive the individual stops drinking alcohol. Aversion therapy has also been successful in Duker&Seys (2000). They reduced self -harm in children with learning difficulties by aversion therapy. After ethics consideration they were given permission to give very small electric shocks to individuals when they self-harmed. They found the rate reduced. But up to 108 months later, the behaviours reappeared. This extinction suggests that the learned suppression is in instances lost over time. Weinrott et al (1997) used aversion therapy on sex offenders and in this case their sexual arousal fell as they heard criminal offences and watched a video of the consequences. Howard (2001) found it to be effective on alcoholics. Evaluation For Evidence suggests that aversion therapy is of great use e.g. Duker&Seys (2000). Changes in behaviour were produced by experimental advice. Social Learning Theory Against Does not solve the cause of the problem, only alters behaviour. Can be unpleasant for patients.
SLT proposes that learning can occur when one individual (learner) observes and imitates another, the model. Bandura (1977) proposed modelling will occur when the observer pays attention, is able to remember and reproduce what they have observed and when they are motivated to do so. This motivation may be an external reward or some inner drive. Internal motivation may be generated by the model and this can explain why there are differences in the effectiveness of different models. In SLT we can see t he process happening directly. Vicarious reinforcement plays a part in SLT. All individuals have an internal concept of whether they are male or female (gender identity). One way that we characterise maleness and femaleness is through behaviour and social roles. Gender stereotypes refer to the beliefs people hold about the way that males and
SLT as an explanation for gender development
females behave. Learning is of great importance in the acquisition of gender identity and sex -typed behaviours, that is the performance of actions that fit with gender stereotypes. Once appropriate gender -behaviour is demonstrated it is reinforced with praise rather than being punished by sarcastic comments if the wrong behaviour is shown. Therefore only the appropriate behav iour will be repeated. One gender stereotype suggested is aggression. Whilst stereotypes suggest that males are generally more aggressive than females, social aggression, for example engaging in malicious gossip, is believed to be typically a female trait. Underwood et al (2004) investigated how boys and girls differ in their response to a different play partner when playing a board game. Each pair was with a same-gender child-confederate trained to be a difficult play partner. Observers recorded the child ren¶s vocalisations and gestures, identifying indicators of social exclusion, verbal aggression and verbal assertion. Boys tended to socially exclude the actor and be more verbally aggressive whereas girls excluded them more and rolled their eyes (non -verbal). The findings of Bandura (1961) was that same -sex models are more effective than opposite sex -models for increasing aggressive behaviour in children. Golombok&Fivush (1994) suggest the essence of gender stereotypes are: y Male: being instrumental, acting on things in the world to make things happen ± beliefs are more aggressive, active + competitive. y Female: being relational ± having concern for interactions ± believed to be nurturing, passive and cooperative. Evans & Davies (2000) found that text -books in school were stereotyped. Milburn et al (2001) found similar results in stereotyped clipart. Similarly Bandura (1961) found that we imitate models that are of the same sex, older and of higher status. This is what often leads to drug-taking. Evaluation For Classical conditioning can explain the acquisition of some gender-related behaviour such as fetishes. This means that behaviour as well as emotions and attitude to gender, such as stereotypes, may be affected by classical conditioning. Against There is powerful reinforcement for male behaviours in both sexes. ³Tomboy´ girls are more
Operant conditioning can explain how children are selectively reinforced for sex -typed behaviour, e.g. by peer pressure or approval from parents. Peers will tend to positively reinforce gender -consistent behaviour and punish the opposite. Parents also reinforce s ex-typed behaviour and tend to punish ³wimps´ and ³tom -boys´. SLT can explain the acquisition of sex -typed behaviours through observation. Bandura showed how children are more likely to copy same-sex models, so this is likely to affect their gender behavio urs as children may observe gender-stereotyped models in the homes as well as in the media. SLT is further reinforced by observing reinforcement in the model ± vicariously. This can explain why gender stereotypes are often reinforced in the media e.g. thro ugh stereotyped advertising. Comparing Gender Development with other approaches
tolerated than boy ³wimps´. Not all media models are stereotyped. They often use counter-stereotypes e.g. homosexuals.
Learning suggests that gender development is based on other people. Although parents are important, children are affected by peers and the media, all have an influence on the behaviour. This is common with the psychodynam ic which stresses the importance of parents and the development during our childhood. Psychodynamic like learning theory suggests children identify with their same sex parent seeing them as a role model e.g. through the Oedipus complex. The biological appr oach is in direct conflict with the learning. It suggests gender identity is determined by genetic factors, and that the environment has little to do with it. This is supported by cases such as David Reimer but it ultimately ignores the results of Bandura and other such examples.
Studies in Detail
Bandura Ross & Ross (1961) ± Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models
Aim To investigate whether aggression could be acquired through modelling. To see whether children are more likely to imitate same-sex role models. Children aged 3 -6 years (36 boys, 36 girls) were assigned to 3 groups. One group were exposed to an aggressive adult role model ± assembled tinker toys for 1 minute after bobo doll was attacked by a sequence of punches, being picked up and being hit with a mallet. These actions were accompanied by aggressive comments such as ³kick him´ and ³pow´. Another group was exposed to a non -aggressive model ± model assembles tinker toys for 10 minutes. Control group did not see any model. All participants were deliberately annoyed and were shown to a room with attractive toys e.g. fire engine. After a short time to play with these toys, they were told that the toys were meant for other
children and were moved into a room contain ing the bobo doll. The children were then observed (from behind a screen) for 20 minutes. Children exposed to violent models imitated their exact behaviours and were significantly more aggressive, both physically and verbally, than those who did not receive aggressive modelling. This effect was greater for boys than it was girls. Girls were more likely to imitate verbal aggression than boys. However boys were more likely to imitate a same -sex model and physical aggression. Observation and imitation can account for learning specific acts without reinforcement of either model or observer. Observers have a greater tendency to imitate same-sex models.
Skinner (1948) ± Superstitious Pigeons
Aim Procedure To demonstrate the superstitious behaviours could be acquired by animals. 8 pigeons were given limited food to reduce them to 75% of their normal weight to ensure that they were hungry. Each was placed in a skinner box for a few minutes a day and received a food pellet every 15 seconds regardless of its behaviour. After several days of conditioning 2 independent observers recorded the birds¶ behaviour. The time interval between pellets was increased to 1 minute and the frequency of responding was recorded again. Finally, the pigeons were gi ven time for acquired behaviours to extinguish by stopping the release of the pellets. After this 20 minute extinction, the 15 second interval pellets were reintroduced to one pigeon. 6 of 8 pigeons developed repetitive behaviours that they performed between the arrival of the pellets. These included turning, hopping, head tossing, and pendulum swings of the head ± none of which were exhibited before the experiment. Most of the new behaviours were exhibited in the same part of the cage each time 5-6 times between every reinforcement (very frequent). When the time between the reinforcers had increased to 1 minute, the pigeons behaviour increased and they became frantic. The extinction was SLOW e.g. over 10,000 hopping responses were displayed before extinction. When the pellet intervals went back to 15 seconds the pigeon started hopping again. Pigeons behaved as though they believed that the delivery of food pellets depended upon their response even though it did not, as people do when they hold
superstitions. Since reinforcement was intermittent, the pigeons¶ behaviour was difficult to extinguish. When extinction occurred the behaviour could be reconditioned.
Observation ± an evaluation: When psychologists observe, they watch pe ople¶s behaviour and measure particular aspects in a way which is as precise as possible It is usual to have more than one observer because behaviour is complex and the observer may be biased. If the behaviour is videoed, the observers will analyse the beh aviour from the video. They need to be trained in how to analyse and measure the behaviour being studied so that they all interpret it in the same way (inter -observer reliability). Evaluation for Naturalistic Observations For It is valuable to see how people behave in a natural setting and an observation provides very detailed qualitative information which can be used as a starting point for further, more controlled research. It can be used when other methods might be unethical. Against The presence of observers could influence the behaviour of those being observed, and it is difficult to control extraneous variables. It is difficult for another psychologist to replicate the observation. Because there are so many variables which could affect behaviour it is not possible to draw conclusions that determine the cause and effect (i.e. there is no manipulation of the IV)
Controlled Observations e.g. Bandura (1961) For By controlling some variables, it is possible to draw conclusions. Extraneous variables can be controlled. Against Low ecological validity: the artificial (and unfamiliar) setting may affect participants¶ behaviour and make it less natural. There are also ethical issues relating to informed consent, deception and privacy.
Non-participant ± when the observer is not considered part of the group being observed
This makes recording easier as the observer can readily focus on different individuals or behaviours without drawing attention to them They retain objectivity
Participant ± when the observer is part of the group
They can benefit from understanding more about the feelings of the participants and the reasons for their behaviour
Covert observation ± the observer is hidden from the participants and the reasons of the behaviour
Bandura Ross & Ross (1961) does this through the use of a one -way mirror
Participants are less likely to be affected by demand characteristics when observer is absent Difficult to ask participants of their informed consent, would make observations obvious, leads to decep tion.
Chi-squared Must be an experiment and not a correlation, y Must only be applied to experiments that use nominal data y Independent measures design must be present if chi -squared is being measured .
Children as young as 2 years old could use information they had seen on a video (Troseth 2003). Children watched themselves µlive¶ on the family television and were asked to look for a hidden toy in another room. Generally this is a difficult task for children however, they managed it successfully by reproducing what they had seen on TV. Applying SLT to Media Imitation of role models ± when characters on TV show violence they are modelling aggression. 4 processes are required in SLT: attention, retention, reproduction, and reinforcement ± 1. By watching TV and following a storyline you show attention 2. If violence is shown on TV children may be impressed by the violence motivating them to reproduce it 3. If vicarious reinforcement is present, the children will be motivated further. Children who show aggression may receive positive reinforcement through the benefit of threatening others e.g. taking sweets. The feeling of power over others may also be positive reinforcement.
Operant Conditi oning
We hypothesised that gender stereotypes exist in television commercials. To measure this we used event sampling and a tally chart. We counted the number of adverts that showed either a male or female indoors or outdoors. We used 2 observers who compared their results after the viewing of each advert to ensure inter-rater reliability. Results Number of adverts indoors Number of adverts outdoors Male 4 12 Female 19 6
The total calculated value was 9.7. Since this is a one tailed hypothesis the probability that this set of
observation is correct is p<0.05. The critical value is 2.71 so therefore the calculated value is higher. This therefore is significant so we can accept the hypothesis. Evaluation of Practical For Inter-rater reliability Large sample size We could accept our hypothesis Against Was it valid? Difficult to judge adverts in this way
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