Learning in Experimental PsychologyFirst, let’s ask the question: What is“learning”? Some people like to say things like the following: Learning = the process by which experienceat t1influences behaviorat t2. This is very inadequateas 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 “experienceat t1influences behaviorat t2,” but noreal “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 capacityfor learningmakes it possible for that organism to be “flexible” in its interactions with its environment. - That is, the organism has some ability to modifyits own behavior, based on experience. Refining Our Definition of Learning:Learning = A process based on experience that results in a relatively permanentchange in behavior or behavioral potential. Usually, psychologists will follow such a definition with this list of changes in behavior that are notlearning: - 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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