•Definition: acquiring behavioral patterns
•Three main types of learning: Classical
conditioning, Instrumental conditioning and
•Learning that occurs by observing behaviors
of others, who are called models.
•Suggests that an individual's environment,
understanding, and behavior all determine
how the person functions.
Stages of Observational Learning
1. Attention: Pay attention to what's happening around them otherwise cannot learn
2. Retention/Memory: Must recognize and remember the behavior observed
3. Initiation/Motor: Must be capable of producing the act.
4. Motivation: Motivate the observed behavior.
Person must be motivated in order to produce a learned behavior. Can be done via
external reinforcement (experimenter’s promise of a reward) or vicarious
reinforcement (when you imitate the behavior of someone who has been reinforced
for that behavior).
• Psychologist Albert Bandura is best known for research on observational learning.
• Most famous experiment was Bobo Doll study. In which he let a group of children
watch a movie where an adult violently attacked an inflatable toy shaped like Bobo
the Clown. He then let the children into a room with Bobo dolls and the children
exactly imitated the adult’s behavior and attacked the doll.
• Results :The conclusion is that children observing adult behavior are influenced to
think that this type of behavior is acceptable which meant they were more likely to
respond in an aggressive manner in similar situations.
•Conditioning is an aspect of learning.
•There are two types of conditioning: Classical
Conditioning and Instrumental Conditioning.
• Is a natural or reflexive response elicited by a learned stimulus.
• Unconditioned Stimulus: is a stimulus that induces a response.
• Unconditioned response: is a natural response or behavior that is not
• Conditioned Stimulus: a stimulus that produces a learned response.
• Conditioned Response: a behavior that is learned by an association with the
conditioned and unconditioned stimulus.
• The experiment paired the ringing
of a bell with a salivary response.
• A new stimulus induced the same
• Russian psychologist Ian Pavlov
one the first people to describe
• Acquisition : The conditioned response is learned.
• Extinction: The conditioned response is decreased when the pairing between
UCS and CS is removed.
• Spontaneous recovery: is the reappearance of an extinguished conditioned
response when the conditioned stimulus returns after a period of absence.
• Stimulus generalization: a new stimulus that is similar to the CS can elicit the
same conditioned response.
• In a study conducted in 1974 by Carl Gustavson, John Garcia, Walter
Hankins, and Kenneth Rusiniak : coyotes were taught to avoid preying on
sheep by using aversion. The meat of the sheep was injected with a drug
which caused nausea. Upon feeding on the sheep meat, the coyotes grew sick
and with experience, learned to avoid herds of sheep. (classical conditioning)
• Classical conditioning used in training dogs today.
Law of effect
• Psychologist Edward Thorndike proposed the law of effect.
• The law of effect : any behavior that has good consequences will tend to be
repeated and any behavior that has bad consequences will most likely be
• In the 1930s, another psychologist, B. F. Skinner, extended this idea and
began to study operant conditioning.
Operant or Instrumental Conditioning
• A behavior that is not a natural response is learned through reinforcement
and punishment which changes the probability of occurrence of the learned
• The Skinner experiment: when a rat pressed the lever it resulted in the
delivery of food ( reinforcing ) which resulted in increase in the number of
times the bar was pressed.
• Skinner Box: Rats put in this box
and automatically given food as a
reward after pushing lever.
• Increases the probability of a learned response occurring again.
Stimulus ADD REMOVE
Stop Punishment Extinction
Behavior Increase Positive
Types of Reinforcement
• Positive reinforcement: Addition of a positive stimulus leads to increase in response.
Ex: A promotion increases work ethic in a person.
• Negative reinforcement: A removal of a negative or painful stimulus leads to
increase in response. Ex: A child increases studying to stop/avoid parents yelling at
• Punishment: A addition of a negative or painful stimulus in order to decrease
response. Ex: A person drives at speed limit to avoid getting a ticket.
• Extinction: A decrease in a learned response when reinforcement is removed or
decreased. Ex: A child stops doing chores when allowance not received.
Primary and Secondary Reinforcers and
• Primary Reinforcer: Natural, satisfies biological needs. Ex: food, water and
• Primary Punisher: Naturally unsatisfying. Ex- pain and extreme temperatures.
• Secondary Reinforcer: Learned reinforcers that are satisfying. Ex- money,
approval, good grades.
• Secondary Punisher: Learned reinforcers that are unsatisfying. Ex- failing
grades, social disapproval.
• Continuous reinforcement: Reinforcement after every response. Ex: A dog
given a treat every time after it “sits” on command. This results in fast
learning however also fast extinction when reinforcement is removed.
• Fixed ratio: After a certain number of responses, reinforcement is given. Ex:
A telemarketer gets paid after ten sales.
• Fixed interval: After a fixed period of time, reinforcement is given. Ex: A
person is paid $8/hour.
• Variable ratio: After a random number of responses reinforcement is given.
Ex: slot machine
• Variable interval: After random amount of time has elapsed reinforcement is
given. Ex: Random drug tests given to an athlete.
• Variable schedules of reinforcement result in responses that resist extinction
better than continuous schedules.
Therapy: Classical Conditioning
• Systemic desensitization( graduated exposure therapy): is a type of behavioral
therapy used in treatment of phobias and anxiety disorders.
• Joseph Wolpe described in the 1950s how to effectively desensitize someone
• Step 1: Establish hierarchy of fear: establish the stimuli causing the phobia. A list is created for
stimuli from least to most stressful.
• Step 2: Individual is taught relaxation techniques.
• Step 3: Patient is taught to respond with the relaxation technique instead of anxiety when stimuli
is introduced ( least to most stressful is introduced).
• Patient is treated when patient learns to relax in presence of feared stimulus.
• This technique takes a long time.
Therapy: Classical conditioning
• Exposure or flooding: a form of desensitization therapy where a person is
told to imagine or exposed to the stressful stimuli. Exposure is repeatedly
done until the fear response is eliminated. Used in phobias, anxiety and post
traumatic stress disorder.
• Aversive conditioning: An unwanted behavior is paired with a painful or
negative stimuli. Used in treatment of alcoholism (disulfiram).
Therapy: Instrumental conditioning
• Shaping: A desired behavior is achieved my rewarding/ reinforcing the successive
approximations of the targeted response. Ex: dog training.
• Stimulus Control: when a person behaves in a certain way in presence of a stimulus
and can be extinguished in the removal of it . Ex: used in treatment of insomnia.
• Biofeedback: Used to gain better understanding of internal physiological functions.
• Fading: Gradually removing the reinforcement without effecting the learned
response. Ex: Tapering off of suboxone.
• Daugherty, Steven R., and Alina Gonzalez-Mayo. USMLE Step 1 Behavioral Sciences
Lecture Notes. [New York, N.Y.]: Kaplan Medical, 2009. Print.
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• Farricelli, Adrienne. "The Use of Classical Conditioning in Modern Days." Suite101.
Suite101, 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Sept. 2013.
• Kentridge, R.W. "The Skinner Box." Basic Organization of Operant Behavior. Durham
University, n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2013
• Lack, Dr. "Drlack - Principles of Learning." Drlack - Principles of Learning. Tangient LLC,
n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2013.