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Psychology of Learning PSY211 A Scientific Approach to Learning

B. Charles Tatum

The Nature of Science

Paradigms: A general approach to, or way of thinking about, problems Theories: General summary statements about cause and effect relationships in nature (e.g., relativity, evolution, learning) Hypotheses: Guesses or assumptions about cause and effect relationships that derive from theories or observations from nature and testable by observation Laws/Principles: Cause and effect relationships supported by much evidence (e.g., 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Law of Supply and Demand, Peter Principle, Law of Effect) Variables: Features of nature (stimuli and responses) that vary in kind or degree

Independent (IV): Manipulated or selected stimulus conditions (e.g., study time, location, IQ); the antecedent condition or causal variable Dependent (DV): Responses that change because of the IV (e.g., score on a test, speed of response); the consequent event or effect variable Extraneous: Unwanted (confounding, nuisance) variables (e.g., overhead lighting, time of day)








Scientific Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts

Astronomy Paradigm 1 (Geocentric) Theory 1 (Thorndike)
Paradigm Shift

Psychology Paradigm 1 (Behaviorism) Theory 2 (Skinner) H1 H2 H3 X

Physics Paradigm 1 (Mechanistic) Theory 3 (Tolman) H1 H2 H3Paradigm Shift X

H1 H2 H3 X

Law/ Law/ Law/ Principle Principle Principle (Law of Effect) (Partial Reinf.) (Goal Direction)
Paradigm Shift

Paradigm 2 (Heliocentric)

Paradigm 2 (Cognitive Science)

Paradigm 2 (Relativity)

Measurement and Operational Definitions

Measurement: Assigning a number to an observation (e.g., 25 lever presses, 30 seconds to respond, 43 questions correct) Operational Definitions: Define an event in terms of the operations required to measure it (e.g., a response is the press of a lever, a mark on a Scantron) Measuring the Rate (Changes over Time) of Learned Responses: The Cumulative Record

Number of helping behaviors


Research Approaches
Anecdotal Evidence
Naturalistic: How Well does the design reflect real life situations? Objectivity: How well does the design reduce subjectivity and human bias? Generality: How well do the results generalize beyond the specific study? Repeatability: How easily can the results from the study be repeated? Causality: Can the study demonstrate cause and effect relationships?

Case Descriptive Comparative/ Controlled Studies Studies Correlational Experimental

Media and Violence Do kids learn to be aggressive by watching violent media? Example of the Progression of Research Designs
Anecdotal Evidence Examples: reports that aggressive kids seem to view more violent media (video games, TV, movies, etc.), military personnel play violent video games

Surveys Examples: interviews, questionnaires, national polls

Case Studies Example: school shootings (e.g., Columbine)

Experiments Example: IV = exposure to violent media, DV = observed aggression, physiological changes

More Case Studies Examples: clinical treatments, prison reform, school antiviolence programs

Example of Experimental Research

Pre-Test Post-Test

One-Month Schedule

Classes 1-4

Classes 1-4

Semester Schedule

Classes 5-8

Classes 5-8

Independent Variable: Schedule (One-Month versus Semester) Dependent Variable: Correct Answers on PostTest Extraneous Variables: Instructor, Textbook, Classroom, etc.