psych notes part 3 - 3-6 - 3-13

psych notes part 3 - 3-6 - 3-13 - Learning in Experimental...

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Learning in Experimental Psychology First, let’s ask the question: What is “learning”? Some people like to say things like the following: Learning = the process by which experience at t 1 influences behavior at t 2 . This is very inadequate as a definition. But inadequate definitions have had a long and illustrious history in the psychology of learning. This definition is inadequate, first of all, because we can think of so many examples of situations in which “experience at t 1 influences behavior at t 2 ,” but no real “learning” is involved. So what are some of the things that we need to include in our definition of “learning”? From an evolutionary perspective, “learning” is adaptive . - That is, it helps an organism’s chances for survival. It’s very easy to notice is that an organism’s capacity for learning makes it possible for that organism to be “flexible” in its interactions with its environment. - That is, the organism has some ability to modify its own behavior, based on experience . Refining Our Definition of Learning: Learning = A process based on experience that results in a relatively permanent change in behavior or behavioral potential. Usually, psychologists will follow such a definition with this list of changes in behavior that are not learning: - changes due to physical maturation; - changes due to brain development as the organism ages; - changes due to illness; - changes due to brain damage.
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This approach is reminiscent of the “possible definition” given by : Learning = the change in a subject’s behavior or behavioral potential to a given situation brought about by the subject’s repeated experiences in that situation, provided that the behavior change cannot be explained on the basis of: - the subject’s native response tendencies; - maturation; - or temporary states (for example, fatigue, drunkenness, drives, etc.). This definition of learning allows us to infer that learning has occurred only when all the other explanations can be ruled out. This is the approach that most experimental psychologists took: - Learning was a (measurable) change in behavior. - Learning was relatively permanent. - Learning was not the same kind of change as the changes due to any of those other things. Note that this definition still does not tell us very much about the sufficient conditions for learning. - Because it’s clear that there are some cases of “repeated experience with a situation” which do not produce observable changes in responses. John B. Watson’s Influence Early behaviorists such as John B. Watson believed that psychology should study behavior without reference to mental processes. John B. Watson noted the inconsistencies and contradictions of the results
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psych notes part 3 - 3-6 - 3-13 - Learning in Experimental...

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