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Thoughts on Learning

“Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival.”

– W. Edwards Demming

“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”

– B.F. Skinner

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

– Pablo Picasso

What is Learning?

A relatively permanent change in behavior

that results from experience

Types of Learning

• Classical conditioning

• Operant conditioning

• Cognitive and social learning

Classical Conditioning: Examples

• Sound of a dentist’s drill: sweaty palms

• Smell of mom’s perfume: smiling

• Sight of certain restaurant: nausea

• Noise of a can opener: cat comes running

• Smell of a hospital: weakened immunity

Classical Conditioning

• Discovered (accidentally) by Ivan Pavlov

Pavlov’s Observation

• Studied digestion in dogs

Pavlov’s Experiment: Phase 1

• Food (US): salivation (UR)

– Reflexive response

• Tone (CS): nothing (CR)

Pavlov’s Experiment: Phase 2

• CS is repeatedly paired with the US

– A tone is sounded before the food is presented

Pavlov’s Experiment: Phase 3

• Eventually, the CS elicits a new CR

– Hearing the tone by itself causes salivation

Classical Conditioning:

Conditioned Emotional Response

• Avoidance learning

• Conditioned phobias

– Little Albert

Classical Conditioning

• Extinction

• Spontaneous recovery

Classical Conditioning

• Stimulus generalization

• Stimulus discrimination

Higher Order Conditioning

• Pair CS1 with a new CS2

• CS2: CR

• But, CR will be weaker

Classical Conditioning Applied

• Drug overdoses

• Smoking: environmental cues

• Systematic desensitization

• Advertising: sex appeal

• Taste aversion

• Conditioning and the immune system

Types of Learning

• Classical Conditioning

• Operant Conditioning

• Cognitive and Social Learning

Operant Conditioning: Examples

• Tantrums are punished: fewer tantrums

• Tantrums bring attention: more tantrums

• Slot machine pays out: gamble more

• Reward dog for sitting: dog is likely to sit

Operant Conditioning

• Thorndike’s puzzle box

– Law of Effect: actions that have positive outcomes are likely repeated

• Skinner box

Operant Conditioning: Principles

• Stimulus-Response

• Reinforcement

– Positive reinforcement

– Negative reinforcement

Effective Punishment

• Should be

– Swift

– Consistent

– Appropriately aversive

• Challenges

– Physical punishment may be imitated

– May fear the person who punishes

• Most effective when paired with reinforcers

Reinforcement

• Primary reinforcers

• Secondary reinforcers

• Behavior modification

• Immediate versus delayed reinforcement

Beyond Basic Reinforcement

• Generalization

• Discrimination

– Discriminative stimulus

• Extinction

• Spontaneous recovery

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