LCchap03 - Chapter 3 Fundamentals of Learning The chapter...

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Chapter 3 Fundamentals of Learning The chapter begins by introducing the central beliefs of behaviorists, one of which is that humans have no special mental processes in comparison to animals. Thus, they studied animal learning to reach their goal of developing a general process learning theory that would apply uniformly to humans and animals. Behaviorists have distinguished between two types of learning. Pavolvian, or classical conditioning parallels reflexive behaviors. This theory posits that learning results from an immediate, uncontrollable response to a stimulus. In contrast instrumental, or operant conditioning describes voluntary behavior where organisms act on the surrounding environment in order to obtain a reward. The chapter then describes these two theories and their major findings in detail. Before discussing Pavlov’s main findings, the authors define some basic classical conditioning terms. An unconditional stimulus (US) biologically elicits a reliable reflex, which is called an unconditional response (UR). A conditional stimulus (CS) brings out a response congruent to the UR after being paired with the US. The reflex-like response is called a conditional response (CR) and is considered excitation since a distinct positive response is produced. In contrast, inhibition occurs when a CS prevents a CR from happening. The US is also termed a reinforcer , since it strengthens the CS’s power to elicit the CR. The chapter then proceeds to describe some of the phenomena discovered by Pavlov’s famous dog experiments. For example, Pavlov found that delay conditioning produced the CR most rapidly. In this situation, the CS starts well before the US. However, if the CS is presented several times without reinforcement, extinction of the CR will occur, meaning the CR happens for a while, gradually drops off, and finally stops. Pavlov also empirically supported the concept of higher order conditioning , finding that a new, neutral stimuli could be paired with an established CS to produce the CR. Furthermore, this can happen naturally when a stimuli similar to the CS elicits the CR. Pavlov called this phenomena generalization . Conversely, Pavlov showed that stimulus discrimination could also be conditioned. He conditioned excitatory and inhibitory responses to similar (but still distinct) stimuli, showing that the dogs could distinguish between comparable stimuli. Pavlov then performed additional trials, successively making the stimuli more similar. As he did so, the dog developed symptoms of acute neurosis. Pavlov thus concluded the psychopathology is created by conditioning and can be reversed accordingly. Although all Pavlov’s experiments were conducted on animals, John Watson replicated simple classical conditioning and generalization with an eleven-month-old baby.
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