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Chapter 6 Learning


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Title: Chapter 6 Learning

Chapter 6 Learning
  • Learning is defined as any relatively permanent
    change in behavior that is based upon experience.
  • It is an area of psychology that seems simple to
    evaluate but is in fact quite complex.
  • Factors both within and outside of an organism
    can influence and interfere with learning.

Module 6.1
  • Behaviorism

  • Behaviorists are psychologists who insist that
    psychologists should study only observable,
    measurable behaviors, not mental processes.
  • There is however a wide range of views among
    researchers who call themselves behaviorists.

  • Methodological behaviorism
  • Methodological behaviorists study only events
    that they can measure and observe.
  • They sometimes do use those observations to make
    inferences about internal events.

  • Methodological behaviorism
  • For example, from observing how an animal behaves
    in the presence of certain stimuli, a
    methodological behaviorist will infer the
    presence of an intervening variable.
  • An intervening variable is something that cannot
    be directly observed yet links a variety of
    procedures to a variety of possible responses.

  • Methodological behaviorism
  • If a monkey is more likely to show its teeth or
    make loud noises in response to the placement of
    a stuffed animal or a larger monkey of the same
    species in its cage, and to a recording of
    growling noises of a predatory cat, the
    methodological behaviorist will infer the
    presence of the intervening variable fear.

  • Methodological behaviorism
  • What measurements would you take to infer the
    presence of intervening variables such as
  • Hunger
  • Affection
  • Anger

  • Radical behaviorism
  • Radical behaviorists, internal states are caused
    by events in the environment, or by genetics.
  • The ultimate cause of behavior is therefore the
    observable events, not the internal states.
  • Most discussions of mental states are sloppy and
    should be rephrased into a description of

  • The Rise of Behaviorism
  • In the early 1900s, the structuralists used
    introspection as a technique to study psychology.
  • They asked subjects to describe their own
    experiences in order to study thoughts and ideas.

  • The Rise of Behaviorism
  • Behaviorists believed that it was useless to ask
    people to describe their private experiences.
  • There was no way to check the accuracy of these
    reports, and hard to define what private
    experiences mean.
  • Behaviorists insisted that psychology deal with
    observable and measurable events only.

  • The Rise of Behaviorism
  • Jacques Loeb argued that all animal behavior, and
    most human behavior, could be explained with
    stimulus-response psychology.
  • Stimulus-response psychology attempts to explain
    behavior in terms of how each stimulus triggers a
  • Flinching away from a blow and shading ones eyes
    from a strong light would be examples of
    stimulus-response behaviors.

  • The Rise of Behaviorism
  • More complex patterns of behavior are just the
    result of adding together many changes of speed
    and direction elicited by various stimuli.
  • Modern behaviorists do not subscribe to this
    model but now believe that behavior is the
    product of a history of stimuli and responses,
    plus the effects of natural physiological states
    (hunger, tiredness, etc.)

  • The Rise of Behaviorism
  • The behaviorists carried on the tradition of
    asking questions about animal learning that was
    abandoned when it was found to be impossible to
    answer questions about how intelligent different
    animal species are.
  • Early behaviorists believed that it might be
    possible to determine the basic laws of learning
    by studying how animals learn.

  • The Assumptions of Behaviorism
  • Behaviorists are deterministic
  • They assume that we live in a universe of
    identifiable cause-and-effect. Since our behavior
    is part of that universe, it too must have
    identifiable causes.
  • If we know enough about the individuals past
    experiences, current influences, and genetics, we
    can predict that individuals behavior.

  • The Assumptions of Behaviorism
  • Behaviorists believe that mental explanations are
  • Q. Why is she smiling?
  • A. She is smiling because she is happy.
  • Q How do you know she is happy?
  • A. We can tell she is happy because she is

  • The Assumptions of Behaviorism
  • Behaviorists believe that this sort of exchange
    is typical of the circular reasoning that can
    arise when one attempts to infer the presence of
    internal states based on behavior.
  • The influence of this perspective can be seen in
    the American legal system, where witnesses are
    not allowed to draw inferences about what they
    saw, but rather are encouraged only to describe
    appearance and behavior.

  • The Assumptions of Behaviorism
  • Behaviorists believe that the environment plays a
    powerful role in molding behavior.
  • The most powerful influence on behavior is
  • Our environment selects and perpetuates
    successful behaviors, much as evolution selects
    successful animals.
  • Behaviorists do not deny the importance of
    heredity, but they do not emphasize it.

  • People are often quick to dismiss behaviorism,
    because they are disturbed by the notion that
    thoughts, beliefs and emotions are not the cause
    of behavior.
  • A behaviorist would argue that past outcomes of
    behaviors have caused the thoughts, beliefs and
  • How could you scientifically support the idea
    that the idea that thoughts, beliefs and emotions
    exist independently of your previous experiences?

Module 6.2
  • Classical Conditioning

Pavlov and Classical Conditioning
  • Ivan Pavlov was a physiologist who won a Nobel
    Prize for his research on digestion.
  • His original description of classical
    conditioning was a by-product of this research.
    He did not set out to discover classical

Classical Conditioning
  • Pavlov noticed that the dogs he used to do his
    research salivated upon the sight of the lab
    workers who fed them.
  • He concluded that this reflex was psychological
    because it was based on the dogs previous
  • Further testing demonstrated that the sight of
    food produced the same effect as giving the same
    amount of food to the dog.

  • Figure 6.2
  • Pavlov used dogs for his experiments on classical
    conditioning and salivation. The experimenter can
    ring a buzzer (CS), present food (UCS), and
    measure the responses (CR and UCR). Pavlov
    himself collected saliva with a simple measuring
    pouch attached to the dogs cheek his later
    colleagues used a more complex device.

Classical Conditioning
  • Based upon his tentative acceptance of the
    salivation as a reflex, Pavlov used the term
    conditional reflex to describe this response.
  • The term was mistranslated into English as
    conditioned reflex, a mistake that helped create
    the terminology we use to describe classical

Classical Conditioning
  • Pavlov started with the unconditioned reflex of
    salivation to food. He hypothesized that that
    this was an automatic connection.
  • The dogs had an unconditioned reflex between food
    and secretion of digestive juices.

Classical Conditioning
  • A buzzer is called a neutral stimulus because it
    elicits attention to the sound, but no automatic
  • The dogs would lift their ears and look around
    when the buzzer sounded, but no salivation was

Classical Conditioning
  • He conjectured that animals develop new
    connections by transferring a response from one
    stimulus to another.
  • He hypothesized that if a buzzer always preceded
    the food, the buzzer would begin to elicit the
    reflex of salivation.

Classical Conditioning
  • After a few pairings of the buzzer with the food,
    the dogs would begin to salivate as soon as the
    buzzer sounded.

  • Figure 6.3
  • With classical conditioning a conditioned
    stimulus is followed by an unconditioned
    stimulus. At first the conditioned stimulus
    elicits no response, and the unconditioned
    stimulus elicits the unconditioned response.
    After sufficient pairings the conditioned
    stimulus begins to elicit the conditioned
    response, which can resemble the unconditioned

Classical Conditioning
  • Terminology
  • Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) ? An event that
    consistently and automatically elicits and
    unconditioned response.
  • Unconditioned Response (UCR) ? An action that the
    unconditioned stimulus automatically elicits.

Classical Conditioning
  • Terminology
  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS) ? Formerly the neutral
    stimulus, having been paired with the
    unconditioned stimulus, elicits the same
    response. That response depends upon its
    consistent pairing with the UCR.
  • Conditioned Response (CR) ? The response elicited
    by the conditioned stimulus due to the training.
    Usually it closely resembles the UCR.

Classical Conditioning
  • Factors that enhance conditioning
  • Conditioning occurs more rapidly when the
    conditioned (neutral) stimulus is relatively
    unfamiliar. If you are already habituated to
    (used to) the neutral stimulus, it will take
    longer for its pairing with an unconditioned
    stimulus to form a connection for you.
  • Conditioning is facilitated when people are
    already aware of the connection between the CS
    and the UCS. When people are informed of the
    conditioning procedure prior to its beginning,
    they will be conditioned faster.

Concept Check
  • A puff of air is blown into a rabbits eye just
    after a musical tone is played. After several
    repetitions of this procedure, the rabbit closes
    its eye when the musical tone is played.
  • What are the
  • UCS
  • UCR
  • Neutral Stimulus/CS
  • And CR?

  • UCS Air puff
  • UCR Closing eye
  • Neutral stimulus/CS Musical tone
  • CR Closing eye

  • The television commercial for Mega Burger shows a
    big delicious cheeseburger. A 50s rock-and-roll
    song is played during the commercial. You see
    the commercial several times, and now when the
    song is playing on the radio, you get hungry.
  • What are the
  • UCS
  • UCR
  • Neutral Stimulus/CS
  • And CR?

  • UCS - Cheeseburger
  • UCR - Hunger
  • Neutral Stimulus/CS Rock and Roll song
  • CR - Hunger

  • When the training starts, the CS elicits ________
    and the UCS elicits ________.

No response The UCR
  • After the training, the CS elicits ________ and
    the UCS elicits ________.

The CR The UCR
Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • The process that establishes or strengthens a
    conditioned response is called acquisition.
  • To extinguish a classically conditioned response,
    the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented
    without the unconditioned stimulus. This decrease
    and elimination is referred to as extinction.

Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • A rabbit is conditioned to blink its eye through
    repeated presentation of a musical tone followed
    by a puff of air directly blown in its eye.
    After a few repetitions, the rabbit blinks its
    eye when the tone sounds. This is the
  • The musical tone is then played repeatedly with
    no puff of air. Gradually, the rabbit stops
    blinking its eye. This is the Extinction.

Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • Extinction does not erase the association between
    the CS and the UCS.
  • If the puff of air is suddenly presented again to
    the rabbit without warning, it will blink its eye
    the next time the tone is played.

Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • The temporary return of an extinguished response
    is called spontaneous recovery.
  • The rabbit acquires the response, and then the
    response is extinguished through the repeated
    presentation of the tone with no air puff. Many
    hours after the experiment, the rabbit hears a
    musical tone. It blinks its eye.

  • Figure 6.4
  • Phases of classical conditioning Classical
    conditioning proceeds through several phases,
    depending on the time of presentation of the two
    stimuli. If the conditioned stimulus regularly
    precedes the unconditioned stimulus, acquisition
    occurs. If the conditioned stimulus is presented
    by itself, extinction occurs. A pause after
    extinction yields a brief spontaneous recovery.

  • Figure 6.5
  • The procedure for classical conditioning of the
    eye-blink response.

Concept Check
  • To deal with your conditioned response to the
    song from the Mega Burger commercial, what steps
    would you take to produce extinction? What steps
    would you take to produce spontaneous recovery?

To produce extinction, play the song repeatedly
with no image of the cheeseburger. To produce
spontaneous recovery, watch the commercial once a
few days after the extinction procedure has been
Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • Stimulus generalization is the extension of a
    conditioned response from the training stimulus
    to similar stimuli.
  • Through conditioning Baby Hannah smiles and
    laughs at the title screen with dark background
    and white writing that precedes a funny song and
    cartoon on her Merrytubbies video tape. Her
    parents notice that she also smiles and giggles
    at the FBI Warning screen appearing on movie

  • Figure 6.6
  • Stimulus generalization is the process of
    extending a learned response to new stimuli that
    resemble the one used in training. As a rule a
    stimulus similar to the training stimulus elicits
    a strong response a less similar stimulus
    elicits a weaker response.

Classical Conditioning
  • The Phenomena of Classical Conditioning
  • Discrimination is the process of learning to
    respond differently to two stimuli because they
    produce two different outcomes.
  • Gradually Hannah stops laughing at the FBI
    Warning screen because the song and cartoon do
    not follow it.

Classical Conditioning
  • Explanations of Classical Conditioning
  • The process of classical conditioning is more
    complex than it seems at first glance.
  • The association is not merely a transfer of
    response from one stimulus to the other. The
    conditioned stimulus appears to act as a signal
    to the organism.

Classical Conditioning
  • Explanations of Classical Conditioning
  • Temporal contiguity facilitates the process of
    conditioning. The less time elapses between the
    presentation of the CS and the UCS, the faster
    the CR is acquired.
  • The CR will be acquired more quickly when the CS
    precedes the UCS. This is called forward

  • Figure 6.7
  • Pavlov believed that conditioning depended on
    temporal contiguity (a) At the start of
    conditioning, activity in the UCS center
    automatically causes activation of the UCR
    center. At this time activity of the CS center
    does not affect the UCS center. (b) After
    sufficient pairings of the CS and UCS, their
    simultaneous activity causes the growth of a
    connection between the CS and UCS centers.
    Afterward, activity in the CS center will flow to
    the UCS center and therefore excite the UCR

Classical Conditioning
  • Explanations of Classical Conditioning
  • In trace conditioning, the CS stops well before
    the UCS is presented. This is a slow and
    relatively ineffective way to condition a
  • Backward conditioning (UCS follows by the CS)
    rarely produces any response.
  • The discovery of blocking effects suggests that
    it is difficult to condition the same response in
    an animal to more than one stimulus.

Classical Conditioning
  • Explanations of Classical Conditioning
  • When rats experience an electric shock (a UCS)
    they jump and shriek.
  • After being conditioned to a buzzer preceding the
    shock (a CS) they freeze in place at the sound of
    the buzzer. This is known to be a typical rat
    response to imminent danger.
  • These findings suggest that an animal uses a CS
    as a way to prepare for a UCS. The animal is not
    treating the CS as the actual UCS.

Classical Conditioning
  • Conditioning, Contiguity and Contingency
  • A conditioned response develops only if there is
    predictability or contingency.
  • The UCS is more likely after the CS than without
  • The learner discovers the event that predicts the
    outcome. However, it is unclear whether or not
    any actual complex thinking is occurring as a
    result of this process.

Classical Conditioning
  • Classical conditioning is thought by those
    unfamiliar with psychology to be the learning of
    simple, mechanical behavior.
  • In reality it is a complex form of learning that
    requires some processing of information on the
    part of the learner.

Module 6.3
  • Operant Conditioning

Thorndike and Operant Conditioning
  • In 1911, Harvard graduate student Edward
    Thorndike developed a simple, behaviorist
    explanation of learning.
  • He used a learning curve, a graph of the changes
    in behavior that occur over successive trials of
    a learning experiment, to record how quickly cats
    learned to escape from a puzzle box (a type of

  • Figure 6.10
  • Each of Thorndikes puzzle boxes had a device
    that could open it. Here tilting the pole will
    open the door. (Based on Thorndike, 1911/1970)

  • Figure 6.11
  • Trial and error or insight? As the data from one
    of Thorndikes experiments show, the time that a
    cat needs to escape from a puzzle box gradually
    grows shorter, but in an irregular manner.
    Thorndike concluded that the cat did not at any
    point suddenly get the idea. Instead,
    reinforcement gradually increased the probability
    of the successful behavior.

Thorndike and Operant Conditioning
  • The curve of learning for the cats indicated a
    slow, gradual and consistent progress towards the
  • He noted that cats would learn to escape from
    puzzle boxes more quickly if the response
    selected produced an immediate escape.
  • The cats would try a repertoire of behaviors to
    open the box, and gradually learn to more quickly
    select the one that produced escape.

Thorndike and Operant Conditioning
  • But overall, it appeared to Thorndike that the
    cats were not understanding the connections
    between the solution and the escape. There was no
    sudden increase in the learning curve to support
    that assumption.

  • Figure 6.12
  • According to Thorndike, a cat starts with a large
    set of potential behaviors in a given situation.
    When one of these, such as pushing at a pole,
    leads to reinforcement, the future probability of
    that behavior increases. We do not need to assume
    that the cat understands what it is doing or why.

Thorndike and Operant Conditioning
  • Thorndike observed that the escape from the box
    acted as a reinforcement for the behavior that
    led to the escape.
  • A reinforcement is an event that increases the
    future probability of the most recent response.

Thorndikes Law of Effect
  • Of several responses made to the same situation,
    those which are accompanied or closely followed
    by satisfaction to the animal will, other things
    being equal, be more firmly connected to the
    situation, so that, when it (the situation)
    recurs, they will be more likely to recur.

Operant Conditioning
  • The type of learning that Thorndike studies has
    come to be known as operant or instrumental
  • Operant conditioning is the process of changing
    behavior by following a response with a
  • In operant conditioning, the subjects behavior
    determines an outcome and is affected by that

Operant Conditioning
  • Classical conditioning is distinguished from
    operant conditioning in that the subjects
    behavior has no effect on the outcome.
  • Classical conditioning usually influences
    visceral, reflexive, and involuntary responses,
    while operant conditioning applies to skeletal,
    somatic, and voluntary responses.

  • Table 6.1
  • Comparison of Classical Conditioning and Operant

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • In operant conditioning, extinction occurs if
    responses stop producing reinforcements.
  • A child for whom you are babysitting whines until
    you give him a cookie. If you stop giving the
    child cookies, he will eventually stop whining.

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • Stimulus generalization occurs when a new
    stimulus is similar to the original reinforced
    stimulus. The more similar the new stimulus is
    to the old, the more strongly the subject is
    likely to respond.
  • The child for whom you are babysitting falls and
    scrapes his knee. He is crying inconsolably. You
    give him a cookie. He continues to whine and cry
    on and off all afternoon, stopping for brief
    periods after you give him a cookie. The
    stimulus of his whining has generalized to crying
    and whining. You are responding to both.

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • Discrimination occurs when someone is reinforced
    for responding to one stimulus but not another.
    The individual will respond more vigorously to
    one than to the other.
  • If you stop giving the child cookies when he
    cries but continue when he whines, he will whine
    much more often than he will cry.

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • A stimulus that indicates which response is
    appropriate or inappropriate is called a
    discriminative stimulus.
  • The child for whom you baby-sit does not whine
    for cookies when his mother is present, because
    she never gives in to his whining. As soon as she
    leaves, he is at your knee whining for a cookie.
    The presence of his mother has become a
    discriminative stimulus.

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • The ability of a stimulus to encourage some
    responses and discourage others is known as
    stimulus control.
  • When his mother is present, the child for whom
    you baby-sit asks her politely for some juice and
    bread. When his mother is absent, he whines for
    cookies. The presence or absence of one stimulus
    after another signals to him which behaviors will
    or will not be reinforced.

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • Thorndike noted that some responses are more
    easily learned than others. The cats learned to
    escape from the mazes relatively quickly, but
    learned to scratch themselves on cue slowly and

  • Figure 6.13
  • According to Thorndikes principle of
    belongingness, some items are easy to associate
    with each other because they belong together
    others do not. For example, dogs easily learn to
    use the direction of a sound as a signal for
    which leg to raise, but they have trouble using
    the type of sound as a signal for which leg to

Phenomena of Operant Conditioning
  • One possible explanation for this is
  • Belongingness is the concept that certain stimuli
    are classified together or more readily
    associated with certain outcomes more so than
    with others. Some psychologists also refer this
    to as preparedness.

B.F. Skinner and the Shaping of Behavior
  • B.F. Skinner is considered to be the most
    influential of all radical behaviorists.
  • He demonstrated many potential applications of
    operant conditioning.
  • He was a firm believer in parsimony, seeking
    simple explanations in terms of reinforcement
    histories, and avoiding the inference of complex
    mental processes.

Shaping Behavior
  • Shaping establishes new responses by reinforcing
    successive approximations to it.
  • He used an operant chamber (referred to as a
    Skinner box by others) into which he put the
    animal he wished to train by shaping.
  • Gradually the animal was reinforced for behaviors
    that approached the desired activity until it
    actually performed the behavior in full.

Shaping Behavior
  • For example, to make a pigeon turn in a complete
    clockwise circle, Skinner would first reinforce
    the pigeon with food for just turning a few
    degrees to the right. After the pigeon began
    turning to the right regularly, he would cease
    reinforcing until the pigeon turned a few more
    degrees in that direction, and when that behavior
    was established, wait until the pigeon turned
    more pronouncedly to the right, and reinforce
    that movement, until finally the pigeon turned
    completely around in a circle.

Chaining Behavior
  • Chaining is an operant conditioning method where
    behaviors are reinforced by opportunities to
    engage in the next behavior
  • The animal learns the final behavior, and then
    the next to last, and so on, until the beginning
    of the sequence is reached.
  • Eating is an example of a chained behavior in
    humans. Most of us first learn to eat with
    utensils, and gradually acquire the preceding
    activities of getting and preparing food.

Increasing and Decreasing the Frequency of
  • A reinforcement is an event that increases the
    probability that a response will be repeated.
  • A punishment is an event that decreases the
    probability of a response.

Reinforcement and Punishment
  • A reinforcement can be either the presentation of
    a desirable item such as money or food, or the
    removal of an unpleasant stimulus, such as verbal
    nagging or physical pain.
  • A punishment can be the removal of a desirable
    condition such as driving privileges or the
    presentation of an unpleasant condition such as
    physical pain.

Reinforcement and Punishment
  • All things being equal, most people will respond
    better to both immediate reinforcement and
    immediate punishment.
  • Most punishments in American society are given
    for behaviors that are immediately reinforcing,
    while the threat of the punishments for these
    deeds is delayed and uncertain.

Reinforcement and Punishment
  • Punishment tends to be ineffective except for
    temporarily suppressing undesirable behavior.
  • Mild, logical and consistent punishment can be
    informative and helpful.

  • Table 6.2
  • Four Categories of Operant Conditioning

Concept Check
  • Most people who speed are not put off this
    infraction by the threat of a speeding ticket and
    fine. Based on what you have learned about the
    efficacy of punishment as a training method, why
    do you think this is?

Because the threat of the punishment is highly
uncertain very few people get pulled over
relative to the number who speed and the
behavior is very immediately gratifying.
Reinforcements and Punishments
  • The presentation of an event that strengthens or
    increases the likelihood of an event is called
    positive reinforcement.
  • A parent praises a child for excellent
    performance on a test.
  • A waiter receives an extra large tip for good

Reinforcements and Punishments
  • Punishment is referred to as passive avoidance
    learning because in response to punishment an
    individual learns to avoid the outcome by being
  • A child learns to avoid the punishment of being
    sent to his room for the evening by not teasing
    his little sister.
  • A woman avoids distress by not calling her sister
    who always says cruel things whenever they talk.

Reinforcements and Punishments
  • Omission training occurs when the omission of the
    response produces reinforcement. Producing the
    response also leads to a lack of reinforcement.
  • This is sometimes referred to as negative
  • Parents tell a teenager that if she breaks curfew
    again, she will lose her driving privileges for a

Reinforcements and Punishments
  • Escape learning or active avoidance learning
    occurs if the responses lead to an escape from or
    an avoidance of something painful.
  • This is sometimes referred to as negative
  • A teenager cleans his room to avoid listening to
    any more of his dads nagging.
  • A babysitter gives a cookie to a child to stop
    his whining.

Concept Check
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You dont go into your friends greenhouse
    because you get a headache and sore throat
    whenever you go in with him.

Passive avoidance learning
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • Your little brother locks you in his room and
    plays the Barney theme song at full volume until
    you tell him what Mom and Dad are giving him for
    his birthday.

Active avoidance learning (negative reinforcement)
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You win a 1,000.00 scholarship for your high

Positive reinforcement
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You put on your sunglasses because the bright sun
    is making your eyes hurt.

Active avoidance learning
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You are not late for psychology class because
    your professor will deduct points from your final
    grade if you are.

Omission training negative punishment
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You send flowers to your sweetheart because you
    always get extra affection and compliments after
    you do so.

Positive reinforcement
  • What type of learning has occurred?
  • You really want to pass this class so you never
    have to sit through it again.

Active avoidance learning negative reinforcement
What Constitutes Reinforcement?
  • A reinforcer is something that increases the
    likelihood of the preceding response.
  • This can be confusing because it leads to a
    circular explanation.
  • It can also be confusing because although
    generally a reinforcer is a pleasant event, it
    doesnt have to be.
  • What constitutes a pleasant event can be hard
    to define or vary from person to person.

What Constitutes Reinforcement?
  • Many reinforcers satisfy biological needs, such
    as hunger.
  • Addictive behaviors dont seem to give much
    pleasure to the addict (although they may be
    negatively reinforcing - done to avoid the
    unpleasant condition of not having access to the
  • Some reinforcers dont satisfy any immediate
    need, but may represent a future opportunity to
    have greater access to resources (such as a good
    grade you cant eat it, but getting many of
    them may raise your chances of having more to eat
    later in your life.)

What Constitutes Reinforcement?
  • The Premack Principle
  • The Premack Principle states that the opportunity
    to engage in frequent behavior will be a
    reinforcer for any less-frequent behavior.
  • A person who prefers going to the movies to going
    to museums can be reinforced for extra trips to
    the museum with free movie passes.

What Constitutes Reinforcement?
  • The Disequilibrium Principle
  • The disequilibrium principle states that each
    person has a preferred pattern of dividing time
    between various activities and if the person is
    removed from that pattern a return to it will be
  • A person who must work overtime for the next
    three weekends makes an extra effort to finish up
    the assigned work to return to his preferred
    activity of playing golf.

Concept Check
  • Using the disequilibrium principle and positive
    reinforcement, how would you encourage more
    studying in a child who is getting poor grades
    due to insufficient studying?

Determine the childs preferred after school
activity and tie set amounts of time spent doing
that activity to the completion of a minimum
number of minutes or hours studying.
What Constitutes Reinforcement?
  • Unconditioned reinforcers meet primary,
    biological needs and are found to be reinforcing
    for almost everyone. Food and drink are
    unconditioned reinforcers.
  • Conditioned reinforcers are effective because
    they have become associated with unconditioned
    reinforcers. Money and grades are conditioned

Learning what leads to what
  • Thorndike had a strictly mechanical view of
    reinforcement. An animal that receives
    reinforcement for a behavior will perform that
    behavior more frequently. No learning will take
    place without reinforcement, and no understanding
    of the reason for the behaviors is necessary.
  • A rat learns to run a maze because food is
    present at the end of the alleys that lead to the
    exit from the maze.

Learning what leads to what
  • The idea of latent learning, on the other hand,
    suggests that learning may occur in animals
    without being demonstrated until the reward is
  • A rat is left to explore and sniff around in a
    maze. When presented with the possibility of a
    reward of food, he runs the maze as fast as the
    rat that was painstakingly trained with rewards
    to run the same maze.

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • A schedule of reinforcement is a set of rules of
    procedures for delivery of reinforcement
  • It is used to maintain a learned behavior that
    might be extinguished if reinforcement ceased.
  • A continuous reinforcement schedule provides
    reinforcement every time a response occurs.
  • However, outside of the laboratory, reinforcement
    rarely follows every occurrence of a desired

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • Most schedules of reinforcement are intermittent.
    In other words, some responses are reinforced and
    others are not.
  • One of the two major categories of intermittent
    reinforcement is ratio, in which the delivery of
    reinforcement depends on the number of responses
    given by the individual.
  • The second category of intermittent reinforcement
    is interval, in which delivery of reinforcement
    depends on the amount of time that has passed
    since the last reinforcement.

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • A fixed-ratio schedule provides reinforcement
    only after a certain (fixed) number of correct
    responses have been made. For example, a
    laboratory rat being reinforced for hitting a
    lever after every 5 hits is being reinforced on
    an FR-5 schedule.
  • The local gourmet coffee shop gives you a card
    that says if you buy 9 coffee drinks you will get
    the 10th beverage for free.

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • A variable-ratio schedule provides reinforcement
    after a variable number of correct responses,
    usually working out to an average in the long
    run. For example, a baseball player who has a
    .333 batting average is reinforcing fans with
    hits on a VR-3 schedule.
  • Slot machines, like all gambling, provide a
    particularly compelling form of variable ratio
    reinforcement to the player.

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • A fixed-interval schedule provides reinforcement
    for the first response made after a specific time
    interval. A person who is paid every two weeks is
    reinforced for work on a fixed interval schedule.
  • You receive your local newspaper at the same time
    every day. You probably have a good idea of when
    to start checking for it. This is a fixed
    interval schedule.

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • A variable-interval schedule provides
    reinforcement after a variable amount of time has
  • If your newspaper delivery person is very
    inconsistent about delivery times, showing up one
    day at 500AM, the next day at 730AM, etc., your
    paper is delivered on a variable interval

  • Table 6.3
  • Some Schedules of Reinforcement

Schedules of Reinforcement
  • All things being equal, extinction of responses
    tends to take longer when an individual has been
    on an intermittent schedule rather than a
    continuous schedule.
  • One explanation for this difference is that the
    lack of reinforcement does not signify the
    completion cessation of reinforcements to the
    individual who has been on an intermittent

Concept Check
  • Name the reinforcement of schedule
  • You are paid 10.00 for every 100 envelopes that
    you stuff.

Fixed ratio
  • Name the reinforcement of schedule
  • You receive e-mail from your friend who is
    studying in France this semester at about an
    average of 1 note every 4 days.

Variable interval
  • Name the reinforcement of schedule
  • Your very reliable oven bakes a batch of cookies
    in 10 minutes.

Fixed interval
Applications of Operant Conditioning
  • There are a wide variety of applications for the
    techniques of operant conditioning including, but
    not limited to
  • Animal training for performance, military, and
    helper animals.
  • Persuasion in political and commercial
  • Psychological treatment, through the use of
    applied behavior analysis or behavior

Applications of Operant Conditioning
  • In behavior modification, the clinician
    determines which reinforcers sustain an
    undesirable or unwanted behavior.
  • The clinician then tries to change the behavior
    by reducing the opportunities for reinforcement
    of the unwanted behavior and providing
    reinforcers for a more acceptable behavior.

Operant Conditioning
  • People are sometimes offended by the idea that
    the possibility of positive reinforcement might
    influence behavior.
  • You wouldnt work hard in a course or a job if
    your performance didnt matter and all the grades
    or bonuses were given with no regard to quality.
  • Operant conditioning provides one enormously
    useful and powerful way to change and improve

Module 6.4
  • Other Kinds of Learning

Conditioned Taste Aversions
  • If learning occurs reliably after just one trial,
    it is hard to know if the learning was a result
    of classical conditioning or operant conditioning
  • One kind of learning that occurs after a single
    trial is an association between eating something
    and getting sick.
  • This is referred to as a conditioned taste
  • Many species appear to have a built in
    predisposition to associate illness with what
    they have consumed, even if some time has elapsed
    between the consumption of the substance and the
    onset of the illness.

Birdsong Learning
  • The beautiful songs of male birds may be
    delightful to our ears, but they are serious
    business for the bird
  • The songs are crucial for soliciting the
    attentions of a suitable mate.
  • They are also a warning to potential interlopers
    in the singers territory.

Birdsong Learning
  • Some species of songbird are especially dependent
    on the process of hearing live songs of older
    males of the same species in order to develop a
    normal song.
  • There is a sensitive period early in the birds
    life during which he will learn the song most
  • The young bird will also learn better from a live
    male than from a tape recording, and will not
    learn the songs of other species.

Birdsong Learning
  • Birdsong learning resembles human language
    learning in some ways.
  • It requires a social context, has an optimal
    period for learning early in life, starts with a
    kind of babbling, and tends to deteriorate if the
    individual becomes deaf later in life.
  • It differs from classical conditioning in that
    the song the baby male bird learns from is not an
    unconditioned stimulus it elicits no response.
  • It differs from operant conditioning in that
    during the sensitive period there is no apparent
    reinforcement of the learning.

Social Learning
  • The social-learning approach, defined first by
    Albert Bandura, states that we learn about many
    behaviors before we attempt them for the first
  • Much learning, especially in humans, results from
    observing the behaviors of others and from
    imagining the consequences of our own.
  • Two of the chief components of social learning
    are modeling and imitation.

Social Learning
  • Bandura and his assistants did experiments in
    which children watched films of real people and
    cartoon characters either attacked an inflated
    Bobo doll or did not.
  • Children who saw the versions of the films with
    aggressive behavior were more likely to repeat
    those actions when left alone with a similar toy.
  • The implication was that the children were
    imitating the aggressive behavior they had just
    witnessed in the film.

Social Learning
  • There has been great interest in the work of
    Bandura and those who have done further research
    along these lines because of the controversy over
    violence in TV programs and movies.
  • It is unclear if there is a direct relationship
    televised or cinematic violence and violent
    behavior. People vary widely in the degree to
    which they are open to the influence of violent

Vicarious Reinforcement and Punishment
  • Another aspect of the social learning approach is
    the idea that we are more likely to imitate
    behaviors that have been rewarding for other
    people, and we are less likely to imitate
    behaviors that create unpleasant results for
  • This substitution of someone elses experiences
    for ones own is referred to as vicarious
    reinforcement or punishment.

Vicarious Reinforcement and Punishment
  • The effectiveness of vicarious reinforcement and
    punishment parallels that of direct reinforcement
    and punishment.
  • Vicarious reinforcement appears to be more
    effective in creating behavioral change than
    vicarious punishment is.
  • It may be that people are more able to use
    cognition to avoid identifying with others whose
    behaviors brought about serious or fatal

Self-Efficacy in Social Learning
  • We tend to imitate people we admire.
  • Advertisers are keenly aware of this tendency and
    routinely use endorsements from celebrities and
    sports figures, and images of the happy, healthy,
    affluent people that most of us would like to be.
  • We do not however model ourselves after every
    admirable figure that we encounter. We imitate
    others only when we have a sense of
    self-efficacy, when we perceive ourselves as also
    being able to perform the task successfully.

  • Classical conditioning, operant conditioning,
    conditioned taste aversions, and social learning
    represent a diverse set of influences on human
  • Your everyday behavior is in large part a product
    of the combined effects of these processes.