Functionalistic and associationistic theories


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Discussion of B. F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov's theories.
Skinner's Box
Pavlov's Classical Conditioning

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  • This presentation will expose two of the major representatives of associationism, the theory of mental processes by association, American B.F. Skinner and Russian Ivan Pavlov. Both B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov have contributed greatly to the model of learning in behavior. Skinner had a great impact on the model of learning, and the idea that if the learner illustrates a behavior, the learner can receive a reward to keep that behavior. Skinner became famous for his application of seen behavior that he demonstrated using the Skinner’s Box. In the Skinner’s Box, he placed a rat that had to press a lever to obtain food. Skinner discovered that once the rats learned to press the lever, and they received a reinforcement in the form of food, they kept doing it quicker each time until it was almost automatic.Pavlov discovered that any two paired stimuli can elicit any behavior and causes a conditioned response (CR). Pavlov came about his findings of classical conditioning accidentally through his dog’s experiment. He discovered that the presence of food made his dog salivate. Later, he found out that when he paired a tone with the food, after a while, the dog would start to salivate upon hearing the sound. These findings contributed greatly to modern day behaviorism and research. Researchers have even gone further to apply their techniques to modern day media, education, and medicine.
  • From Pavlov’s classical conditioning concept, many other models have evolved. These models work in different fields and at a variety of levels. One of the most important applications of the conditioned response is the explanation of phobias. When a traumatic event takes place, the brain tends to block the memory, and hide it in the subconscious to avoid the emotional hurting of the experience in the individual (The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health, 2004). At the same time, the brain focuses on another stimulus that coincided with the event. Then, the person only remembers that second stimulus, and by association, develops an aversion against it. The incomplete memory turns the aversion or phobia into a pathological fear with no apparent explanation that affects the functioning of the individual (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2010).Research had revealed that emotional processes like fear take place in the amygdala (Delgado, Olsson, & Phelps, 2006). The amygdala is an almond shaped mass of neurons in the medial temporal lobe of the brain (Science Daily, 2010) that receives sensory information from the cerebral cortex and the hypothalamus. Delgado, Olsson, and Phelps carried out a research, using Pavlov’s conditioning model in animals, to provoke fear sensations in humans from a conditioned stimulus. The authors registered in their human subjects the typical reactions such as raised blood pressure and pupil dilation. These changes were present despite certain alterations like a camouflaged conditioned stimulus, amnesia, or damage in the hippocampus (Delgado et. al.).In the research the authors proved that human beings can develop a fear by observation and not only by experience. The subjects watched a movie of a Pavlovian experiment of conditioning response. In the movie, the association of a colored square and electric shocks produced the conditioned response of fear and anxiety in front of the colored square. The subjects believed they were to go through the same process, however, they only saw images of the colored square and did not receive shocks at all. Surprisingly, after the experiment, the subjects showed fearful reactions to the colored squared, which proved Pavlov’s verbal instruction and observation theory (Delgado, et. al, 2006).
  • The model of conditioning that derives from Pavlov’s discoveries includes other factors like extinction, spontaneous recovery, higher order conditioning, generalization, and discrimination.Extinction refers to the elimination of the conditioned response by presenting the subject with the Conditioned stimulus without the Unconditioned stimulus the necessary number of times to undo the association. When the conditioned stimulus does not produce a conditioned response, the extinction process has been successful (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).Spontaneous recovery can only occur after extinction and is nothing more than a relapse. When the conditioned response appears by itself in front of the conditioned stimulus, spontaneous recovery has occurred (Hall, 1998)Higher Order conditioning is the use of a third stimulus in addition to the conditioned and the unconditioned stimuli previously used in the formation of a conditioned response. This addition turns the conditioned stimulus into a secondary reinforcer (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).Generalization takes place when the animal or human being recognizes the common circumstances of different events and from there considers all the same. For example, after being the victim of an armed robbery, the person becomes afraid of all strangers she encounters in the street (Cherry, 2011).Discrimination is the opposite of generalization. That is, after an unfortunate experience, the individual can tell the difference between a harmful and a non-harmful specimen. Using the same example as above, the victim of an armed robbery would not be scared of other passers-by, unless they represent a real threat (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).Pavlov’s conditioning model, along with all its elements, is present in all the theoretical concepts associated with reactions to the environment. The major theoretical concepts found under the Pavlovian theory are excitation and inhibition, the dynamic stereotype, irradiation and concentration, and excitatory and inhibitory conditioning.
  • The contribution of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov to the field of learning and cognition comes from the role that memory plays in the process. Without the capacity of retrieving the memory of prior experiences, learning is not possible (Willingham, 2007). Once the brain has processed and interpreted the information, the information remains available for future retrieval. The brain stores the information in the short-term memory cabinet, after a number of repetitions, the information passes to the long-term memory area (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).During his experiments, Pavlov taught the dogs that every time they hear a bell, food would appear, forming, this way, a conditioned response in the animals. The dogs’ brain captured the sensory information, that was the smell of meat powder and the sound of the bell, and made the association of the two stimuli (Fredholm, 2001). Pavlov experiments worked thanks to the memory retrieval of the dog; in other words, thanks to the learning capacity of the dog’s brain.From Pavlov’s discovery of conditioned stimulus and conditioned response, researchers have been able to make important progress in the field of learning. According to Escobar and Miller (2004), there are many other factors to consider regarding the conditioned response. The association of two stimuli in the animals’ brain, including human beings, will be easier and more effective depending on the mental and physical characteristics of the animal and certain physical aspects of the stimulus. Escobar and Miller state that both stimuli must be intense; preferably, they should share certain physical attributes; and both must occur within the same space and time.Despite the controversy between behaviorists and cognitivists, Pavlov unified the concepts of both schools of psychology, when he proved that an instinctive behavior can turn into a conditioned response, that is, into a learned behavior, by the appropriate manipulation of stimuli.
  • Excitation and inhibition is a two-faced process related to the conditioned response that takes place in the cerebral cortex. External stimuli can generate either excitation, which refers to an active response, or inhibition, which is a rather restraining response (“excitation,” 2001). Pavlov believed that each reaction in the cerebral cortex, whether it is excitatory or inhibitory, corresponds to an external stimulus, together they form a stable chain reaction that Pavlov called the cortical mosaic (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The idea of the cortical mosaic takes part in the next theoretical concept, the dynamic stereotype.The dynamic stereotype is a behavioral process that happens when animals and human beings react automatically to the environment (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).The term combines two properties of the brain, stability, which is stereotype, and at the responsiveness, which is the dynamism (Tangen, 2009). According to Olson & Hergenhahn, for Pavlov dynamic stereotype occurs when the organisms can easily foretell the consequences of their own behavior in the environment.Along with excitation and inhibition, Pavlov created another theoretical concept of neural processes involved in the conditioned response, which is the irradiation and concentration activity (Windholz, 1997). Both the excitatory and inhibitory effects irradiate from a sensory organ, to the cortex to the adjacent cerebral parts, only to gradually return to the starting point by the process of concentration (Green, 2000). Pavlov decided to call analyser the path that the sensation travels from the sensory organ to the brain and the bordering parts (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).Pavlov explained that every external stimulus will provoke an excitatory or positive and active reaction, or an inhibitory or negative and passive reaction. This reaction will irradiate, that is, it will spread to the corresponding areas in the brain, mostly in the cortex, creating a stable cortical mosaic. Another aspect of irradiation is generalization. When the environment grows more familiar to the being, these reactions become more predictable, and discrimination takes place.
  • B. F. Skinner’s contribution to behaviorism brought about several models of radical behaviorism. First, Skinner claimed that all behavior is observable and measurable (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The environment around a person shapes his behavior. The difference between cultures, whether in America or in India, impresses upon an individual differently. Cultures are different from continent to continent not because of mental differences but because of environmental differences. There are two types of behavior, respondent and operant behavior. Respondent behavior, or a when a situation produces a behavioral response, is easily identifiable in a controlled setting. Operant behavior, or behavior that a situation does not knowingly produces, is present in a controlled setting as a spontaneous behavior having no known cause. To see these behaviors in action, Skinner experimented on animals and began his models of learning. Skinner witnessed that conditioning changes the behavior. Respondent and operant conditioning account for all changes in behavior. A stimulus can shape or reinforce a behavior that responds to it(Olson & Hergenhahn). Skinner used his box to condition rats to push a lever in order to receive a reward. The success of this experiment prompted Skinner to believe that “if one controls reinforcement, one also controls behavior” (Olson & Hergenhahn, p. 77). Skinner also believed that all experiments on animals are also useful to explain human behavior. Just as a rat could acquire the conditioned behavior of pushing a lever to get a reward, a child can learn to behave appropriately or inappropriately depending on what kind of behavior he or she receives as a reward. Also, schedules of reinforcement plays a large role in changing behaviors. Through continuous, fixed, and variable schedules a person learns to shape his or her behavior. Depending on how often the learner receives the reinforcement. Frequency is directly proportional to how quickly the person learns the behavior or how quickly the behavior is extinct.
  • Skinner believed that mental processes were explained by behavior (Graham, 2010). Mental processes simply cannot be studied and are not, in theory, part of how a person learns. Skinner denied the use of mental terms in a way of describing behavior (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Mental terms such as drive and motivation add too much emphasis on mental processes and not on overt behavior. Skinner believed that behavior is a product of the environment and that behavior can be predicted by looking at the environment, the person, and the consequences of the behavior (Olson & Hergenhahn). In that case, man is powerless against the environment and the consequences of their actions making free will useless. Instead, man interacts with the environment and learns from the environment. A person acts in accordance with the acceptable rules of the environment and to avoid the consequences of his actions. Innate abilities are explained by reinforced behavior. A baby who was just born is hungry. The mother puts the baby to the breast and the baby is reinforced to nurse by receiving milk. Skinner’s use of the Skinner box to study behavior enforced his theory of learning. Anyone can learn anything by a system of reinforcers and reinforcement schedules. The mice in his studies learned new behavior by striving to gain the reward at the end of the experiment. The reward was the positive reinforcement and made obvious the importance of reinforcers. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning was based on this and expands on how reinforcers modify behavior. Operant conditioning shows how reinforcers (anything that increases the rate of reoccurrence) modify behavior. A person displays a behavior, a reinforcer is given, and the person is more likely to repeat that behavior. According to Skinner all behavior, in all people, is modified in this way.
  • B. F. Skinner fathered radical behaviorism, developed the theory of respondent and operant behavior, and concluded that positive and negative reinforcers shape behavior. Skinner developed the theory of radical behaviorism around the understanding that behavior is observable and measurable. Another key factor to this school of thought is that behavior interacts with the environment in a way that is planned. There are two types of behavior that a person displays, respondent and operant. Respondent behavior is the one that a known stimulus produces, such as when a child hits another child for taking his favorite toy (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Operant behavior is the one that a person, not a stimulus, produces, such as when a child cries when he hurts his finger (Olson & Hergerhahn). Skinner believed that conditioning shapes the behavior. Conditioning is a way in which the environment acts on a person and changes the way that person behaves. There are two types of conditioning; respondent and operant conditioning. Respondent conditioning is when a conditioning stimulus paired with an unconditioned stimulus shape a behavior. The child who hits another one for taking his toy has learned by repetition how to walk away from the situation; therefore, his conditioned response is to walk away when a child takes his toy. Operant conditioning is the shaping of a behavior by reinforcing the behavior. The child who cries after hurting his finger will get someone to comfort him. As the child received the comfort, he receives the reinforcement for him to cry the next time he hurts himself. Someone rewarded his behavior with comfort. There are two types of reinforcers, positive and negative. Positive reinforcers add an element of happiness to a situation and may increase the chance of behavioral reoccurrence (Olson & Hergenhahn). Negative reinforcers take away an element of unhappiness to a situation that may increase the chance of behavioral reoccurrence (Olson & Hergenhahn). The final contribution Skinner made was to the description of reinforcement schedules. Reinforcement schedules that are paired with reinforcers determine the chances that the behavior will reoccur or stop. A continuous reinforcement schedule takes place when a reinforcer appears every time the learner acts correctly. The fixed interval reinforcement schedule is when the learner receives reinforcement for her behavior only after a set amount of time has lapsed. A fixed ratio reinforcement schedule is the one that reinforces the only after the learner shows the correct behavior a set amount of times. A variable interval reinforcement schedule is when a the learner receives a reinforcement for a particular behavior after differing amounts of time have passed. A variable ratio reinforcement schedule is when a the learner receives a reinforcement after displaying the correct behavior different amounts of times.
  • Skinner primarily has influenced behaviorism. However, many principles that Skinner introduced about animal or human learning play important roles in modern day life. Major contributions of Skinners learning theories fit into the education category, a field that uses widely Skinner’s theories.Skinner encouraged educators highly to use of learning objectives in their courses. Skinner believed that the reason children were doing poor in school was because teachers were not using the proper behavior methods for teaching. Skinner felt that if the teachers break down the course in a way that the students could understand what they would learn, then they would know ahead of time what to expect and look for. After each section, the teacher then would make sure to praise students for completing all the objectives (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). By doing this, the teacher would be pairing the learning with a positive reinforcement and the children would learn better. With Skinner’s concern about education, this field has applied them also to program learning.Many teachers utilize Program learning. It involves small steps, overt responding, immediate feedback, and self-pacing (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Based on Skinner’s learning theory, small steps are important because children learn things step-by-step just like Skinners shaping method identifies it. Overt responding is important as “that students’ correct responses can be reinforced and the incorrect responses can be reinforced” (Olson & Hergenhahn, p. 117). The immediate feedback acts as a reinforcer;therefore, it strengthens the learning process. Self-pacing is important because if students rush too fast then they are not able to learn sufficiently. Today’s school system uses all these techniques in one form or another, and it is important for the learning process. There is a strong link between Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) and various computer software that schools and many companies use. Computer software have generally a tutorial section in them, in which overt responding is necessary, and active engagement is crucial in order to learn how to work the program effectively. These programs provide immediate feedback, which allows the individual to learn faster through quick reinforcers (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).Online Education bases their system on many Computer-based instructions (Olson &Hergenhahn, 2009). Without the online tutorials, it would be very difficult for individuals to learn how to maneuver the online education world. However, by applying Skinners theories, modern day educators are able to create programs that work for everybody through a learning process.
  • Scholars classified Ivan Pavlovas an associations and is well known for his experiments with dogs. During his medical experiments with the dogs, Pavlov found out that when he gave them food, they salivated. He also noticed that if he presented a tone with the food, eventually, they would salivate at the sound of the tone. Authors call this theory classical conditioning, in which an unconditioned stimuli eventually produces a conditioned response. Pavlov led the way through his experiments for medicine, education, and psychology research. Pavlov discovered that through conditioning could create any desired behavior. This has helped further animal trainers today, scientist, educators, and even parents in teaching lessons.Pavlov’s early research with rats and medication lead the way to the new science of psychoneuroimmunology. Psychoneuroimmunology is the “concerned with the interactions among psychological factors (learning, perception, emotion), the nervous system, and the immune system” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 200). Within Pavlov’s original study, he found that if he gave rats a saccharin solution (CS) and paired it with the injection of a drug (US), after the first taste test, rats who received the saccharin alone (CS) had a higher death rate without the US. This is very interesting because it is helping researchers today better understand human and animals’ bodies communication between the nervous, immune, and sensory systems.Also, Pavlov had a major influence on modern education. Any time an educator pairs a neutral event with a meaningful outcome, an example of a Pavlovian conditioning is taking place. In a classroom,a positive experience or good teacher may influence a student to become a teacher (CR). On the other hand, taking a math class in an ugly room with an unlikable teacher may cause the student to not like math (CR), or to associate any cold environment with the uneasy feelings of the math classroom (CR). Even though most cases of Pavlovian conditioning are incidental in the classroom, on television they are on purpose. For example, many TV commercials pair a neutral stimulus, like sports cars (US), with a common likeable thing like a young sexy individual. After viewers watch this commercial several times, they will likely think that if they have a sports car, they will be young and sexy (CR) (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Advertisers do this on purpose to gain the liking of many things that are expensive, bad for your health, or unlikable.Pavlov has contributed to many things in modern society some good, and some working against people’s advantage. Nevertheless, his findings led to further research and more information about learning.
  • B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov were both influential men both of their research has led to further experimentation of their original findings and is demonstrated throughout our modern day society. Skinner’s box started an array of findings associated with the learning of organisms and reinforcements and punishments This findings are still done today by individuals who train animals or when parents are teaching their children. Pavlov has contributed much to society as well by his discoveries in the dog salivating experiment. His findings are used today in most daily activities and widely used in the media. They are used because it pairs a neutral stimulus of something not so good with many good things that people want. We see this type of Pavlovian conditioning done daily on television or in the movies.
  • Functionalistic and associationistic theories

    1. 1. Functionalistic andAssociationistic Theories1
    2. 2. IntroductionContributions of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlovto learning and cognition.B.F. Skinners Model of the Skinner BoxPavlov’s Model of Classical ConditioningModern day relevancy of Skinner & Pavlov2
    3. 3. Pavlovian Models3Pavlov’sconditioningconcept has givenway to models offears, addictions,and phobias. (Prentice Hall, 1999)
    4. 4. Other factors of theconditioning model of Pavlov- Extinction. The elimination of the conditionedresponse to the conditioned stimulus.- Spontaneous Recovery. The recovery of the extinctresponse.- Higher Order Conditioning. The addition of a secondconditioned stimulus.- Generalization. The exact same reaction to all similarstimuli.- Discrimination. The selection of stimuli regarding theconditioned response.4
    5. 5. Pavlov’s Contribution to Learning andCognition5Memory is the mostimportant factor in theprocess of learning.Conditioned responsesarise from the memory ofpast experiences thatassociate unconditionedand conditioned stimuli(Pavlov, Ivan, 2011)
    6. 6. Pavlov’s Theoretical Concepts-Excitation and Inhibition- Dynamic Stereotype- Irradiation andConcentration6(Ronnan, 2011)
    7. 7. Skinner Models•Behavior is observableand measurable•Behavior changesonly by conditioning•Respondent and operant conditioningare only types of learned behavior•Skinner box proved the effects ofconditioning7(The AP Psychology Commune, n.d.)
    8. 8. Skinner’s Theoretical ConceptsMan is void of free willBehavior is impacted bythe environment•Behavior is scientificallystudied by overtbehavior8(Learning and Teaching, n.d.)
    9. 9. B. F. Skinner ContributionsRadical Behaviorism•Respondent BehaviorRespondent Conditioning•Operant BehaviorOperant Conditioning•Positive and Negativereinforcers•Reinforcement Schedules9(Psychology and child development, 2011)
    10. 10. B.F. Skinner InfluenceEducation Learning objectives Program Learning Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) Online Education10
    11. 11. Ivan Pavlov’s InfluenceClassical Conditioning Unconditioned Stimuli (US) Unconditioned Response (UR) Conditioned Stimuli (CS) Conditioned Response (CR)11Dog presented with food (US)  Dog Salivating (UR)Food Presented with Sound (US)  Dog Salivating (UR)Sound presented (CS)  Dog Salivating (CR)
    12. 12. ConclusionIvan Pavlov Pavlovian Conditioningor Classical Conditioning Dog Salivating Experiment Behaviorism reinforcements Modern Contributions: Medicine Education Media12B.F. Skinner Operant Conditioning Skinner Box Radical Behaviorism Reinforcements &Punishments Modern Contributions: Education
    13. 13. R e f e r e n c e s13Cherry, K. (2011). Introduction to operant conditioning. Retrieved from, M. R., Olsson, A. & Phelps, E. A. (2010). Extending animal models of fear conditioning to humans. Biological Psychology,73, 39-48. Retrieved from of Mental Disorders. (2010). Specific phobias. Retrieved from of World Biography. (2011). Ivan Pavlov. Retrieved from, M. & Miller, R. R. (2004). A review of the empirical laws of basic learning in Pavlovian conditioning. International Journalof Comparative Psychology, 17(2/3), 279-303. Retrieved from EBSCOHost 14088962Excitation. (2009). In Dictionary of Biological Psychology. Retrieved from, L. (2001). Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Retrieved from, G (2010). Behaviorism. Retrieved from, C. D. (2000). Classics in the history of psychology. Retrieved from, R. (1998). Classical conditioning. Retrieved from
    14. 14. 14Introductory Psychology Image Bank. (2011). Skinner box. Retrieved from, R., & Westen, D. (1995). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.Learning and Teaching. (n.d.). Behaviorism. Operant conditioning. Retrieved from, M. H. & Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to theories of learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson/Prentice HallPrentice-Hall. (1999). Classical conditioning. Retrieved from and Child Cevelopment. (2011). Conceptual issues in behavior analysis. Retrieved from, A. (2011). Diagram of Pavlov’s findings. Retrieved from Daily. (2011). Amygdala. Retrieved from, K. (2009). Psychology glossary. Retrieved from e f e r e n c e s
    15. 15. The AP Psychology Commune. (n.d.). Operant conditioning. Retrieved from New Harvard Guide to Womens Health. (2004). Phobias. Retrieved fromhttp://, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice HallWindholz, G. (1997). Ivan P. Pavlov. American Psychologist, 52(9), 941-946. Retrieved from EBSCOHost amp-52-9-94115R e f e r e n c e s