Unit 6: Learning

Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, and Observational Learning

Nick Falcone, Eric Chen, and Brady Grunewald

Major Theories and Concepts

Classical Conditioning

A process by which an organism associates a stimulus with a conditioned response

Operant Conditioning

A type of learning in which a behavior is strengthened when followed by a reinforce and diminished when followed by a punisher

Observational Learning

Learning by observing others, and can be also called social learning

Key Terms

Learning-a relatively permanent change in an organism's behavior due to experience

Behaviorism-the view that psychology should be an objective science that studies behavior without reference to mental processes

Extinction-the diminishing of a conditioned response

Law of effect-behaviors followed by favorable consequences become more likely and behaviors followed by unfavorable consequences become less likely

Insight-a sudden and often novel realization of the solution to a problem

Key People and their Contribution

While Ivan Pavlov was not a psychologist, and disliked the field of psychology, his work had a major influence on behaviorism. Pavlov's research was used mostly in the field of classical conditioning. He also demonstrated techniques of studying reactions to the environment in an objective, scientific method.

B.F. Skinner believed in an approach called operant conditioning; it means roughly changing behavior by the use of reinforcement which is given after the desired response. Skinner identified three types of responses that can follow behavior. Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative. Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.

Albert Bandura is known as the originator of social learning theory and is responsible for the influential 1961 Bobo doll experiment. Social learning theory is how people learn through observation. Self-efficacy is believing in yourself to take action. The Bobo Doll Experiment was how Albert Bandura studied aggression and non-aggression in children. In 1974 he was elected to be the 82nd President of the APA and is widely described as the greatest living psychologist .

Ivan Pavlov

Major Research and Experiments

Ivan Pavlov observed and recorded information about dogs. He began to study what triggers dogs to salivate. He found that drooling had a greater effect than he ever thought. The people who fed Pavlov's dogs always wore lab coats. Pavlov noticed that the dogs began to drool whenever they saw people wearing the lab coats, even if there was no food in sight. He studied the effects of ringing a bell before every time he fed the dogs. Eventually, just the bell made the dogs salivate. He concluded that the bell itself will not trigger a response unless there has been a response that could be associated with the bell.  Eventually, the stimulus will produced the salivation without the food.

B.F. Skinner studied operant conditioning by experimenting with animals that he put in his 'Skinner Box'. Skinner demonstrated positive reinforcement with his Skinner box. The box contained a lever in the side and as the rat moved about the box it would accidentally knock the lever. Immediately it did so a food pellet would drop into a container next to the lever. The rats went right to the lever after being put in the Skinner box. The consequence of getting food if they pressed the lever ensured that they would repeat the action again and again.

Albert Bandura's experiment focused on observational learning. A child watches as an adult builds with Tinkertoys.  Then, the adult gets up and kicks and hits the Bobo doll and yells at it.  The child is put in another room with a similar situation and doll and the child models the adult's behavior by kicking, hitting, and yelling at the doll.  When compared with the children that viewed the adult's behavior, those that did not see the adults did not kick, hit, and yell at the doll.

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