The Psychology of Learning


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The Psychology of Learning

  1. 2. <ul><li>The PsychFutures Research Maps are a series of digests on the most popular Psychology related topics, whereby linking to podcasts, videos, journal publications, websites and blogs; ideal if you’re looking for inspiration to kick-start your dissertations and research projects. </li></ul><ul><li>The topics are varied, including Love, Sport and Music. To view the full list and download the other Research Maps click here or go to: /page/research </li></ul>Providing One-Stop Summaries and Directions For Your Research
  2. 3. Introduction <ul><li>With the exception of the few reflexes which we are born with, everything else in life has to be learned. In the field of psychology, learning is discussed in the context of conditioning, also known as the theory of behaviourism. There are two main types of conditioning: operant and classical. </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li>What would your response be to a sudden loud noise? You would probably jump, flinch or scream. So noise is an example of an unconditional stimulus (UCS) as it automatically elicits an emotional/behavioural response . </li></ul><ul><li>This is known as the unconditional response (UCR). </li></ul>Classical Conditioning <ul><li>Second question – how would you respond to someone moving their hands (in a non-threatening manner)? You would probably not take much notice. Why should you? We naturally move about when standing, sitting and communicating with each other. If, however, the hand movement repeatedly occurred at the same time, or just before the loud noise then you would soon learn to associate the movement (which was previously a neutral stimulus ) with this noise and would jump, flinch or scream before the noise has even been made. </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>Thus, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditional stimulus (CS) which elicits a conditional response (CR). The basis of classical conditioning therefore, is learning by association . </li></ul><ul><li>In circumstances where the UCS no longer follows the CS extinction takes place. In other words, the CR is eliminated. It is important to note that extinction will not occur in cases where neither stimuli are present; we need to learn that the presence of the CS will not predict the occurrence of the UCS. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, there will be occasions after extinction where the CS will be followed by the UCS and the CR will suddenly (and surprisingly) reappear. You may wonder how this is possible if the associations have been broken. This is indicative that the CR is not permanently extinguished from our behaviour. Its reappearance after a lengthy period of it not being present has been termed ‘spontaneous recovery’ . </li></ul>Classical Conditioning
  5. 6. Operant Conditioning <ul><li>The key factor in operant conditioning is reinforcement. There are three types: 1) Positive reinforcement – if you are praised/rewarded for a particular behaviour then such behaviour is likely to be repeated in the future. For example, if you are rewarded with money for doing well in an exam then you are more likely to aim for the best in the following exam. </li></ul><ul><li>2) Negative reinforcement – this also increases the likelihood that a particular response will occur again. Unlike positive reinforcement which involves the presentation of appealing stimuli, negative reinforcement involves the termination of aversive stimuli. For example, holding your hand under cold water after burning it on the oven. </li></ul><ul><li>3) Punishment – if you are punished for a particular behaviour, then the chances are you will not repeat it in the future. For example, being failed by your tutor on an exam which you were caught cheating on. Therefore, punishment decreases the frequencies of behaviour which is followed by aversive stimuli. </li></ul>
  6. 7. Pioneering Research on Classical & Operant Conditioning <ul><li>The pioneering work in the field of classical conditioning was the research by Pavlov. Pavlov demonstrated that dogs salivate (UCR) when presented food (UCS) and startle (UCR) in response to a loud ringing bell (UCS). When both of these stimuli are paired the dogs salivate when solely hearing the bell ring. The salivation becomes the CR to the CS – the bell. </li></ul>
  7. 8. Pioneering Research on Classical & Operant Conditioning <ul><li>Pavlov further demonstrated that the timing of events in classical conditioning is important; if there is a long period of time between presenting both stimuli then a conditioned response will not develop. In other words, the dogs will not learn to salivate to hearing the bell ring if the bell rings a long time before the food is presented. Click here to watch a video of Pavlov’s dog experiment. </li></ul><ul><li>Operant conditioning was coined by Skinner who developed the operant chamber – a box where the behaviour exhibited by animals could be monitored and easily manipulated. For further information on Skinner’s work take a look at the B.F. Skinner Foundation website . </li></ul>
  8. 9. Recent Research <ul><li>The following are links to recent publications in journals. You may need a subscription to access the full paper, but should be able to read the abstracts free of charge. </li></ul><ul><li>Comparing excitatory backward and forward conditioning Operant conditioning and errorless learning procedures in the treatment of chronic aphasia Acquisition of instrumental conditioned reinforcement is resistant to the devaluation of the unconditioned stimulus Discrimination between outcomes in instrumental learning: Effects of preexposure to the reinforcers Pavlovian Conditioning and Drug Overdose: When Tolerance Fails The involvement of the human cerebellum in eyeblink conditioning Associative learning of likes and dislikes: Some current controversies and possible ways forward </li></ul>
  9. 10. Useful Journals <ul><li>Behaviour Research and Therapy </li></ul><ul><li>British Journal of Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, memory and cognition </li></ul>
  10. 11. Useful Books <ul><li>Thought and Knowledge (4th edition) by Diane F. Halpern </li></ul><ul><li>Learning and Behaviour (6th edition) by James Mazur </li></ul><ul><li>Learning and Behavior; Biological, Psychological, and Sociocultural Perspectives (3rd edition) by Lewis M. Barker </li></ul>
  11. 12. Experts <ul><li>Professor Peter Rogers – Professor of Biological Psychology at the University of Bristol whose research interests include associative learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Professor Nicholas Mackintosh – Distinguished Associate at The Psychometrics Centre, University of Cambridge. Research interests include intelligence and animal learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Professor Diane F Halpern – Author of ‘Thought and Knowledge’ and Professor at Claremont McKenna College. Also the President of the American Psychological Association in 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Charlotte Bonardi – Lecturer at the University of Nottingham whose main research interest is in associative learning. </li></ul>
  12. 13. Videos/ Audio <ul><li>Introduction to Behaviourism Click here to watch </li></ul><ul><li>Pavlov’s Dog Experiment Click here to watch </li></ul><ul><li>Operant Conditioning - Skinner interview showing operant conditioning with pigeons. Discusses schedules of reinforcement. Click here to watch </li></ul>
  13. 14. Blogs <ul><li>Fun4fido – Classical Conditioning Simply Explained </li></ul><ul><li>Healthy Influence Blog – Ding Dong! Classical Conditioning </li></ul><ul><li>Wellsphere – Playing the Odds </li></ul><ul><li> – Classical Conditioning </li></ul><ul><li>Tanvir’s Blog – The Behaviourist Theory </li></ul>
  14. 15. Articles on the Web <ul><li> Psychology - Learning and Conditioning Quiz </li></ul><ul><li> Psychology - What is Behaviourism? </li></ul><ul><li>Slide Share - Conditioning and Learning Lecture </li></ul><ul><li>Genetik und Neurobiologie - Classical Conditioning </li></ul><ul><li>Genetik und Neurobiologie - Operant Conditioning </li></ul>