PSYC 211 - Chapter 13


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CHAPTER 13: LEARNING AND MEMORY Nature of learning Learning: Process by which experiences change our nervous system and, therefore, our behaviour. These changes are called memories. So, unlike the common notion that memories are stored, the actually modify the way we perceive, perform, think and plan by physically changing neural circuits that participate in such activities. Learning can take on four basic forms: 1. Perceptual learning refers to the ability to recognize stimuli that have been perceived before. Its primary function is to learn to identify and categorize objects and situations. All of our sensory systems have the capacity to engage in perceptual learning which is accomplished by neural changes in the sensory association cortex 2. Stimulus-response learning is the ability to learn to perform a particular behaviour when a particular stimulus is present. Involves establishments of connections between neural circuits involved in perception and those involved in movement. This form of learning includes 2 major categories: A. Classical conditioning involves an association between two stimuli where a stimulus that previously had little effect on behaviour becomes able to evoke a strong, reflexive behavioural response. A stimulus that initially doesn’t induce any particular response is paired on multiple trials with an unconditional stimulus (a stimulus that always provokes a defensive/automatic response called the unconditional response ).The first stimulus (now called the conditional response ) eventually becomes capable of evoking this automatic response (now called the conditional response ). Ex: Noise (neutral stimulus) = no blinking (no automatic response) Puff of air (unconditional response) = blinking (unconditional response) Noise (NS) + puff of air (US) = blinking (UR) Noise (conditional stimulus) = blinking (conditional response) WHY? The noise presented doesn’t demand an automatic blinking response because the synapses connecting the tone-sensitive neurones to the motor neurons are weak. The contrary is true for when we present a puff of air: a strong synapse occurs between the somatosensory neuron and the motor neuron that causes blinking. Classical conditioning occurs when both stimuli are paired together on many trials where if a synapse repeatedly becomes active at about the same time that the postsynaptic neuron fires, changes will occur in the structure or chemistry of the synapse that will strengthen it ( Hebb Rule) So, a weak synapse will become strong enough to illicit the motor neuron to fire by itself. B. Instrumental conditioning (operant conditioning) involves, unlike classical conditioning, behaviours that have already been learned and the establishment of an association between a response and stimulus. This is a much more flexible form of learning permitting an organism to adjust and modify its behaviour
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