Dummies Guide to the Learning approach.Key assumptions1) Our environment shapes our behaviour. Environmental factors act as stimuli and we respondto them. We are born with a ‘blank slate’ upon which our lives are written based on ourexperiences of the world. Experiences lead us to behave in particular ways, the role of genetics is seen as relativelyunimportant and does not for example restrict out ability to succeed, we all have equal potential to be anything we want tobe.2) Behaviour is measurable. We can set up a stimulus and observe and measure the response. Thereforelearning is observable and therefore can be studied scientifically. This can lead to general laws about ourbehaviour such as the Law of Effect by Thorndike.There are 3 types of learning: Classical conditioning, Operant conditioning and Social Learning. CLASSICAL CONDITIONINGOnly applies to reflexive natural responses. E.g. Pavlov’s dogsThe unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (eg food) produces an unconditioned response (UCR) (eg salivation). By pairing aneutral stimulus (NS) (eg bell) with the UCS an association is established and after several trials the NS becomes theconditioned stimulus (CS) and now produces the conditioned response (CR) (salivation) in its own right. Once the CR-CSlink has been established it will need occasional links back to the UCS+NS to maintain the response, otherwise extinctioncan occur.UCS e.g. food --> UCR e.g. salivationUCS e.g. food + CS e.g. sound of bell --> UCR e.g. salivationCS e.g. sound of bell --> CR e.g. salivationExtinction occurs if UCS and CS not paired for a while, dog stops salivating.Generalisation means associating a similar stimulus with the CRDiscrimination means associating only one stimulus with the CRSpontaneous recovery is when a CR recurs in response to the CS after extinctionDelayed conditioning is where the NS is presented before the UCS but is still present as the UCS ispresented and is the most effective method in expts. Trace conditioning is where the NS again is present before the UCS butstops before the UCS is presented. The time gap here is critical – if it is very short it can be moderately effective, the longerthe time lapse the less effective. Simultaneous conditioning is where the NS & UCS are presented simultaneously and isslightly effective. Backwards conditioning is where the NS comes after the UCS and is considered not to work in non-human animals though it does in humans.Evaluation: reliable, has practical applications such as systematic desensitisation and aversion therapy, valid,much research only done on animals, does not explain all behaviour.Classical conditioning in humans: Specific phobias are seen as an example of classical conditioning in humans, forexample it was discovered that a child afraid of sand had a sand pit near a garden gate, a local dog when passing the gatesnarled and snapped at the child causing fear (UCS-UCR) because the child was in the sand pit sand was the NS and thephobia developed.A study demonstrating classical conditioning is Little Albert, Watson and Rayner (1920)Systematic desensitisation used to treat phobias. You cannot feel 2 emotions at once so if UCS is relaxation, then UCR is relaxation, if UCS paired with CS spider leads to UCR relaxation so CS spider leads to CR relaxation. Evaluation: works better for small phobias like agoraphobia, therapy works, patients need good imagination, therapy doesn’t deal with cause of phobia only behaviour.
1) Little Albert, Watson and Rayner 1920Aim: to explore how classical conditioning could be used to create a phobia in humans using CC principles.Method: ExperimentProcedure: 11-month baby Albert, placid and emotionally stable. Banged metal bar to startle Albert and then linked noiseto Albert playing with pet rat. The NS in Watson and Rayner’s experiment was a white rat. Trials before the experiment hadshown that Albert did not mind the rat and certainly did not object to it. The UCS in the experiment was the noise made byhitting an iron bar with a hammer just behind Albert. This produced a loud noise that Albert found very upsetting. On aseries of occasions, Watson and Rayner presented Albert with the rat and, when he noticed it, struck the metal bar behind hishead. Predictably, this caused Albert to become quite upset. After a few trials, they presented the rat on its own. Evenwithout the noise, Albert started crying. He had learned to associate the rat with the noise, and this had produced aconditioned reflex:Noise (UCS) = Anxiety (UCR)Noise(UCS) + Rat (NS) = Anxiety (UCR)Rat (CS) = Anxiety (CR)Results: After a few trails Albert agitated on seeing rat. it became clear that it wasn’t just rats that made Albert upset. Hisanxiety response had generalised to some other objects – white furry ones – that were similar to the white rat.Conclusion: Watson & Rayner concluded that they had succeeded in conditioning in an infant fear of an animal the childwould not ordinarily be frightened of. Stimulus generalisation also was claimed in that Albert transferred the fear to othersimilar stimuli. From the fact that the conditioned response was still present after 31 days, Watson & Rayner concluded itmight last a lifetime. Ivan Pavlov had shown that Classical Conditioning occurs in dogs but Watson & Rayner were thefirst to demonstrate it occurred in humans too.Evaluation: J Supported Pavlov’s findings, good controls, The study was carefully documented; witnesses helped to recordthe data and there were strict controls. Only one variable was changed at a time. The extensive documentation meant thestudy could have been replicated and, therefore, tested for reliability but low ecological validity because it was carried outin a lab.L Ethical issues – Albert frightened. Albert’s mother appears not to have given fully-informed consent - though thereclearly was some degree of consent and an understanding of when he would be taken back by his motherThe researchers deliberately exposed Albert to psychological harm - causing him distress. They allowed him to rest inbetween exposures to frightening stimuli but continued even when it was clear he was distressed. Hard to generalize toothers.Conditioning and Phobias Behaviourists believe that phobias are an example of classical conditioning. What is required to produce a phobia is aUCS that produces a strong emotional reaction, pain, for example, and a situation where that UCS can becomeassociated with a neutral stimulus. For example, suppose a person got bitten by a dog when they were a child:Pain (UCS) _ Anxiety (UCR)Pain (UCS) + Dog (NS) _ Anxiety (UCR)Dog (CS) _ Anxiety (CR)If that anxiety response generalises from that particular dog to all dogs then the result would be that the person becameanxious every time they saw a dog. In other words, they would have developed a phobia. OPERANT CONDITONINGThis is where a new behaviour is created or an existing behaviour removed as a result ofselective use of rewards and punishments. Behaviour is shaped by successivereinforcements until the animal is doing precisely what is wanted. The principles of OC are:Positive reinforcement to increase behaviour something good is given (rewards, food)Negative reinforcement to increase behaviour something bad is taken away (electric shock)Negative Punishment to decrease behaviour something bad is given (smack, detention)Positive punishment to decrease behaviour something good is taken away (PS3, mobile)Primary reinforcers: are linked to basic needs (food, water, sex and warmth),Secondary reinforcers: something that can satisfy a basic need (money, tokens, stickers, praise, extra time)Continuous reinforcement where the organism is reinforced every time the behaviour is performed is not seen as a veryeffective as the behaviour will stop almost immediately if the reinforcer is missed and the rate of responding is not very highfor most reinforcers.
Fixed ratio schedule is where the reinforcer is given for every nth time the action is performed,Variable ratio there is no predictability about when the reinforcer will occur. This produces the highest level of consistentperformance, is very resistant to extinction and is the reinforcement schedule producedby gambling.Fixed interval is where the reinforcer comes after a set amount of time. This produces aperformance pattern where the rate of responding rapidly increases as the time for thereinforcer is approached; this is followed by inactivity after reinforcement and then abuild up again as the next time point approaches.Variable interval reinforcement comes after a period of time that varies but averages outat a certain level; it produces a slow but very steady rate of responding and is resistant toextinction.Extinction, generalisation and discrimination all occur in operant conditioning.Evaluation: J studies use experimental method and controls so they are scientific and cause and effectconclusions can be drawn. Both CC and OC can be used in therapies so they have practical applications. A lot ofit is common sense and useful when applied to learning in schools etc and token economyL Studies use animals so generalization and credibility is in doubt. Studies are lab experiments and use animalsso validity is questionable too. Many studies use animals generalised to humans, does not explaingenetic/biological ones, adults don’t always reinforce young children so how do children know how to use thecorrect grammar?A study demonstrating operant conditioning is Skinners study on superstitious behaviour in pigeons. SOCIAL LEARNING THEORYWe learn from people we look up to and identify with. SLT recognises that behaviours often occur that have not beenreinforced but merely observed in others. The individual observes a behaviour being performed by a model (anotherperson) and also notes the consequences of their actions.The observer then imitates or models (copies) the behaviour that they have seen. There is no cognition or planninginvolved, it is just as mechanistic as operant or classical conditioning, however the likelihood of the behaviour observedbeing imitated depends on the consequences of the activity for the model. If the model was rewarded for their actions thenthe likelihood of imitation is increased. Whereas, if they are punished for a behaviour then reproduction is unlikely.(Athough research by Bandura showed that they could reproduce the actions if requested to do so). Bandura suggests we aremotivated to imitate in order to also gain the reinforcers that we saw the model receive. Vicarious learning is carrying out abehaviour that was previously observed and the model was rewarded for it.For successful SLT to occur the learner needs to pay attention to the important parts of the observed action, retain thatinformation in memory, this can be difficult or beyond capability if the actions are complex and/or the observer young. Theobserver needs to be motivated to both observe and imitate the actions and have the physical ability to copy the behaviour.Mechanism: • Observing - paying attention to what someone is doing • Remembering - recording the information in memory • Motivation – the consequences of the behaviour • Imitation – whether it is repeated depends on whether the model was rewarded or punishedThe nature of the model and the perceived relationship between the model and the observer will also affecthow likely imitation is to occur. Models are more likely to be imitated if the observer can identify with them, respects,admires or looks up to them, if the model and their actions are seen as relevant and if the behaviour observed is seen asconsistent with instructions. Observers are more likely to imitate a model if they have relatively low self-esteem and highdependency on those around them which is why SLT is a more powerful explanation for childrens behaviour.
Evaluation: J behaviour can be tested in experimental conditions and so are developed using objective scientificmethods. Animal studies show that SLT can also explain animal behaviour and thereforereliable. Incorporates operant conditioning and cognition, considers motivation, reliablestudies provide evidence.L It should mean that different cultures show different gender behaviour but developmentalbehaviours are similar between cultures. In newborn babies there are gender differences thatcannot be learned so not all differences can be explained by learning theories, studies notvalid, genetic elements not considered.2) The Bobo Doll study, Bandura, Ross & Ross 1961Aim: to see whether young children will imitate behaviour they have seen, especially if that behaviour wasrewarded or notMethod: Laboratory Experiment at Stanford University. 8 experimental groups in 4 conditions.(plus controlgroup) AGGRESSIVE NON-AGGRESSIVEMALE ROLE MODEL FEMALE ROLE MODEL MALE ROLE MODEL FEMALE ROLE MODEL6 BOYS 6 BOYS 6 BOYS 6 BOYS6 GIRLS 6 GIRLS 6 GIRLS 6 GIRLSProcedure: 72 children aged 3 –5 yrs matched for aggression before the study started. Some groups watchedaggressive behaviour; some non-aggressive behaviour and control group watched neither.Children playing in a room when adult entered and either behaved aggressively or non-aggressively. Childrenthen put in slightly aggressive state by being told they could not play with certain toys. Then behaviour observedwith access to a Bobo doll and child was observed. Results: Children in non-aggressive state showed almost no aggression, (70%). Those that watched aggressivemodels showed physical and verbal aggression imitating model. Male model copied more overall but boys morephysically aggressive.Conclusion: Children watching adults behaving aggressively are more likely to imitate aggression soobservational learning does take place. Children also imitated non-aggressive behaviour, which led to lessaggression. A male adult showing aggressive behaviour is copied more than a female adult aggressive model.Girls are more verbally aggressive.Evaluation: J Controlled experiment with cause and effect conclusions. High reliability because of inter-raterobservation by judges. One judge did not know which condition a child had been in so bias was reduced.Practical applications of TV viewing, replicable.L Limited sample, not valid because situation was not natural. Children may have thought they had to hit thedoll. Ethical issues of children observing verbal and physical aggressive acts and repeating them. How thesewere dealt with was not explained.Applications and implications of social learning theory• Copy cat hijackings. Air hijackings were unknown in the US prior to 1961. Then some Cuban airlines planes werehijacked which sparked off a wave of hijackings culminating in a peak of 87 hijackings in 1969 (Mischel, 1986).Phobias. Observing somebody else being scared of something is enough to start a phobia. Vicarious modeling can be used toremove phobias.RESEARCH METHODS1) Laboratory experiments. There is an IV manipulated by the experimenter and a DV that can be measured, there iscontrol of all other variables and the experiment takes place in a controlled artificial environment.Advantage: allows cause & effect to be establishes because of good control.Disadvantage: artificial environment means that behaviour may not be realistic so not valid.2) Animal learning studies. Non-human animals are used to discover the mechanisms involved in learning a newbehaviour. These are usually lab experiments. It is believed that the principles of learning can be extracted from such studiesand applied to humans.
Advantage: animals are less complex and their environments more readily controlled than in humans so easier to establishwhat is happening as there are fewer confounding variables, animals mature more quickly so long term effects seen sooner,animals are relatively cheap and easy to use.Disadvantage: only valid if believe that can apply animal learning to humans, humans are far more complex andgeneralisation not always valid, humans bring emotion, values and more complex understanding to their learning situations,ethical issues, still an artificial situation. KEY ISSUE – the influence of advertising on people’s behaviourAn issue of interest is the effect of advertising and how advertising is successful in leading people to want to buythe product. There is a lot of advertising, for example, on television, as well as in other media, and it costscompanies a lot of money so it is assumed that it is worthwhile. This in turn assumes that the advert leads theperson to buy the product and this idea rests on learning theory. The question is how does advertising work?Advertising works using classical conditioning principles. An unconditioned stimulus gives an unconditionedresponse, so people cannot help but respond that way. If this idea is extended to pair something that a companywants to sell with the unconditioned stimulus, then after a few trials, that pairing will result in the person givingthat unconditioned response — though it would then be conditioned. For example, if a beautiful girl gives a man a‘desirable’ response, then advertisements can pair a beautiful girl with their product (perhaps a car) and the carwill then give the ‘desirable’ response. This is what adverts do and responses include salivation to food as well assexual responses such as the one outlined here.Social learning theory can also help to explain how adverts work. Bandura has shown that people imitate rolemodels. People observe behaviour and if they pay attention and are motivated to repeat the behaviour, they willimitate it. So if a role model uses a certain shampoo someone watching is likely to buy that shampoo. This isparticularly true if the model is like the person watching in terms, for example, of age and gender. And also if themodel is seen to be rewarded for the behaviour, such as being a celebrity.Operant conditioning explains that behaviour is repeated if rewarded, so if the person buying the product is notrewarded, perhaps if the shampoo is not very good, presumably the behaviour would not be repeated, but theadvert is there just to get people to buy the product in the first place. It could be argued that classical and operantconditioning principles tend to come from using animals in experiments and as humans are different fromanimals, such as in their problem-solving skills, it might not be appropriate to generalise the findings fromanimals to humans. Also Bandura studied children when he developed the idea of social learning, so perhaps it isdifferent with adults, though the principles are still used with adults. KEY ISSUE – the influence of role models on AnorexiaOne issue is whether role models have an influence on whether someone develops anorexia or not. Learningtheories can help to explain anorexia. SLT suggests that people imitate role models, especially those they see asrelevant to themselves. One concept from the learning approach is identification. When someone identifies witha role model they are likely to imitate their behaviour. It is therefore likely that teenage girls will imitate femalemodels and media celebrities where there is a trend to be very slim. Studies by Bandura have shown that girlscopy female models and boys copy male models, so if female role models are slim then girls are likely to want tobe slim. If someone observes behaviour but does not identify with the role model they are not so likely toperform the behaviour. Girls who want to be slim are likely to stop eating and can develop eating disorders suchas anorexia. Another concept from the learning approach is reinforcement. If a role model is reinforced forbeing slim, such as being praised, paid more or featured a lot in the media, then they might be imitated more.Studies by Bandura have shown that behaviour that is rewarded is likely to be imitated more, such as in vicariouslearning. There is also negative reinforcement for being fat, through criticism and teasing, to avoid beingteased, fat children might starve themselves to slim down which may turn into anorexia. So not wanting to be fatto avoid criticism and wanting to be slim to get praise, might be two types of reinforcement that help to explainanorexia. The psychodynamic approach suggests that a girl might starve herself to avoid growing up because sheis fixated at a certain psychosexual stage. Nevertheless anorexia is found around the world between differentcultures and cross cultural studies support the idea that anorexia is learned.