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Johnathan Riley

Ch. 5 Reflection
Psychology 201
When thinking about the concept of learning, usually sitting in a
classroom is what comes to mind. However Hockenbury defines learning as
a process that produces relatively enduring change in behavior or
knowledge as a result of an individuals experience. One form of learning
that this chapter focused on is conditioning. Classical conditioning plays a big
part in how we associated behaviors with certain stimuli. It also provides a
foundation for the discovery of other ways in which learning takes place.
Through the reading of this chapter I was able to get a detailed view on the
process of learning.
Conditioning is defined as the process of learning associations between
environmental events and behavioral responses. With Classical conditioning,
a certain type of stimulus brings out behaviors. These stimuli do not produce
new behaviors, but existing ones. For example, the salivation that was
produced by the dogs in Ivan Pavlovs digestion experiment. This process
involved pairing a neutral stimulus with a natural stimulus that would cause
a reflexive response. In Pavlovs experiment the sight of Pavlov (neutral
stimulus) was paired with food (natural stimulus). Pavlov, who is responsible
for much of what we know about classical conditioning, developed terms for
this process. He referred to the natural stimulus (food in the dogs mouth) as
the unconditioned stimulus and the response (the dogs salivation) as the

unconditioned response. Pavlov took this experiment further until the dogs
learned to salivate when they heard the sound of a bell (a neutral stimulus),
thus classically conditioning the dogs to associate the sound of the bell with
food. Because of this the bell became whats known as a conditioned
stimulus and the salivation a conditioned response. During his
experimentation, Pavlov also discovered stimulus generalization and
discrimination. Through stimulus generalization once the dogs were
conditioned to respond to a particular stimulus, in this case the bell, any
similar stimulus would elicit the same response. With stimulus discrimination,
the dogs learned to tell the difference between two similar stimuli. For
example a high-pitched tone versus a low pitched tone.
Classical Conditioning led to another discovery, behaviorism, which
was pioneered by John B Watson. Behaviorism is a study that revolves
around the assumption that human behavior is part conditioning, and part
learning due to past experiences or environmental influences. Watson
claimed that behavioral traits such as talent, personality, or intelligence were
not inherited as was generally believed. Watson later showed how human
behavior could be classically conditioned. During the Little Albert
Experiment, Watson showed the infant various types of stimuli and observed
his reactions. Initially, Albert did not cry when he shown any of the stimuli
which included a rat. However when Watson paired the rat (a neutral
stimulus) with a loud noise (unconditioned stimulus) that made Albert cry
(unconditioned response), the infant began to associate the rat with the

noise. After repeatedly doing this, Albert began to cry after seeing the rat
without the noise (a conditioned response). Today an experiment like this
would be considered highly unethical.
The process of classical conditioning can only be used to explain
behaviors that are elicited from a specific stimulus. Edward L. Thorndike,
through experimentation with cats, is responsible for law of effect. According
to Hockenbury, the law of effect states, responses followed by a satisfying
state of affairs are strengthened and more likely to occur in again the same
situation. With this in mind it goes on to say that responses followed by an
unpleasant or annoying state of affairs are weakened and less likely to occur
again. This idea became the foundation of studying how voluntary
behaviors are maintained and acquired.
The law of effect led to the later discovery of operant conditioning by
B.F. Skinner. Operant conditioning, can explain most of our voluntary
behaviors. Operant conditioning builds on the law of effect and shows how
certain behaviors are constructed based on their consequences. A big part
of this is through reinforcement. Reinforcement can either be positive or
negative. In positive reinforcement, a response is strengthened because of
the presentation of a stimulus. For example, a couple of weeks ago we were
asked to log our dreams for a few days (the operant) for five points of extra
credit (the reinforcing stimulus). With negative reinforcement a response is
strengthened because a disliked stimulus is subtracted or removed. For
example, in this class if reflection papers (the operant) are turned in late

points are deducted (the disliked) stimulus. Because of this negative

reinforcement myself, as well as my classmates, are more inclined to make
sure our reflection papers are turned in on time. Reinforcers can either be
primary (naturally occurring for a given species) or conditioned (attained
reinforcing value by being associated with a primary reinforcer).
New behaviors can also be acquired through observational learning,
which is observing the actions of others. In fact, according to Hockenbury,
most human learning occurs through observational learning. A psychologist
by the name of Albert Bandura is responsible for much of what we know
about observational learning. Bandura conducted an experiment where
children were shown a film based on a variety of consequences for
aggressive behavior. In the end he found that the consequences the children
saw in the films were significant. Bandura also rewarded the children if they
were able to show the experimenter what aggressive behaviors were
displayed in the films (reinforcement), and found that all the children were
able to imitate the behaviors they observed. Because of this, Bandura
discovered that watching and processing information about the actions of
others, including their consequences, influence whether or not a behavior
will be imitated.
In conclusion, this chapter was extremely informative. Through reading
about the many experiments, I was able to see how what we know about
learning has evolved. Although I did not have any connection with this
chapter as Ive had with previous chapters, it was interesting to find out the

different processes that go into us learning to do certain things. And with

that, the processes involved in learning to not do certain things.