The Psychology of Learning



stage of classical conditioning in which a conditioned response is trained


when an acquired association between an unconditioned stimulus and a conditioned stimulus inhibits the formation of new associations between the unconditioned stimulus and other stimuli

classical conditioning

learning an association between paired events, specifically learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus is paired with a stimulus that normally elicits an involuntary, automatic response until the neutral stimulus elicits the response on its own

conditioned response (CR)

response that is elicited by a conditioned stimulus

conditioned stimulus (CS)

neutral stimulus that acquires the power to elicit an involuntary response by being repeatedly paired with a stimulus that normally elicits the response


when the brain differentiates between stimuli that do and do not signal the onset of the unconditioned stimulus


conditioned stimulus is presented alone repeatedly—without the unconditioned stimulus—until the conditioned stimulus loses its power to elicit the conditioned response

fixed-interval reinforcement

schedule of reinforcement in which a reinforcer is delivered following the first correct response that occurs after a fixed period of time

fixed-ratio reinforcement

schedule of reinforcement in which a reinforcer is delivered after a fixed number of correct responses occurs


process in which stimuli similar to a conditioned stimulus elicit conditioned responses

higher-order conditioning

when a conditioned stimulus is used in place of an unconditioned stimulus to build an association between another neutral stimulus and the conditioned response

law of effect

law that states that behaviors that are followed by favorable consequences become more likely, whereas those that are followed by unfavorable consequences become less likely


change in behavior as a result of experience

mirror neuron

nerve cell that fires both when performing an action or when observing another perform that same action


process of demonstrating a behavior so that another can learn it

negative punishment

procedure for decreasing behavior by removing a desired stimulus following the behavior

negative reinforcement

procedure for increasing behavior by removing an undesired stimulus following the behavior

observational learning

learning that occurs by observing the behavior of others

operant conditioning

learning process in which voluntary behavior is shaped by its consequences


an association is more likely to be formed to a highly prominent neutral stimulus than to a weaker neutral stimulus that may also be present

positive punishment

when an aversive stimulus follows behavior and decreases the frequency of the behavior

positive reinforcement

when a desired stimulus follows behavior and increases the frequency of the behavior


reinforcing small steps that comprise or lead to a complex behavior

taste aversion

intense dislike of a particular food or liquid, often forming after a single exposure to a novel taste

unconditioned response (UR)

involuntary reaction that an unconditioned stimulus normally elicits

unconditioned stimulus (US)

stimulus that normally elicits an involuntary response

variable-interval reinforcement

schedule of partial reinforcement in which a reinforcer is delivered after a varying period of time has elapsed

variable-ratio reinforcement

schedule of partial reinforcement in which a reinforcer is delivered after a varying number of required responses occurs