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LEARNING THEORIES

a. Behavioral Approaches
1.Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning (Ivan Pavlov: 1849-1936)

Classical conditioning is a reflexive or automatic type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity
to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.

PAVLOV’S DOGS- In the early twentieth century, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov did Nobel prize-winning
work on digestion. While studying the role of saliva in dogs’ digestive processes, he stumbled upon a
phenomenon he labeled “psychic reflexes.” While an accidental discovery, he had the foresight to see the
importance of it. Pavlov’s dogs, restrained in an experimental chamber, were presented with meat powder and
they had their saliva collected via a surgically implanted tube in their saliva glands. Over time, he noticed that
his dogs who begin salivation before the meat powder was even presented, whether it was by the presence of
the handler or merely by a clicking noise produced by the device that distributed the meat powder.
Fascinated by this finding, Pavlov paired the meat powder with various stimuli such as the ringing of a bell.
After the meat powder and bell (auditory stimulus) were presented together several times, the bell was used
alone. Pavlov’s dogs, as predicted, responded by salivating to the sound of the bell (without the food). The bell
began as a neutral stimulus (i.e. the bell itself did not produce the dogs’ salivation). However, by pairing the
bell with the stimulus that did produce the salivation response, the bell was able to acquire the ability to
trigger the salivation response. Pavlov therefore demonstrated how stimulus-response bonds (which some
consider as the basic building blocks of learning) are formed. He dedicated much of the rest of his career
further exploring this finding.
In technical terms, the meat powder is considered an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) and the dog’s salivation
is the unconditioned response (UCR). The bell is a neutral stimulus until the dog learns to associate the bell
with food. Then the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) which produces the conditioned response (CR)
of salivation after repeated pairings between the bell and food.
Like many great scientific advances, Pavlovian conditioning (aka classical conditioning) was discovered
accidentally.

During the 1890s, Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being
fed when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was
not bringing them food.

Pavlovian Conditioning

Pavlov (1902) started from the idea that there are some things that a dog does not need to learn. For
example, dogs don’t learn to salivate whenever they see food. This reflex is ‘hard-wired’ into the dog.

In behaviorist terms, it is an unconditioned response (i.e., a stimulus-response connection that required no


learning). In behaviorist terms, we write:

Unconditioned Stimulus (Food) > Unconditioned Response (Salivate)


Pavlov showed the existence of the unconditioned response by presenting a dog with a bowl of food and
the measuring its salivary secretions However, when Pavlov discovered that any object or event which the dogs
learned to associate with food (such as the lab assistant) would trigger the same response, he realized that he
had made an important scientific discovery. Accordingly, he devoted the rest of his career to studying this type
of learning.
This must have been learned, because at one point the dogs did not do it, and there came a point where
they started, so their behavior had changed. A change in the behavior of this type must be the result of
learning. In behaviorist terms, the lab assistant was originally a neutral stimulus. It is called neutral because it
produces no response. What had happened was that the neutral stimulus (the lab assistant) had become
associated with an unconditioned stimulus (food).

In his experiment, Pavlov used a bell as his neutral stimulus. Whenever he gave food to his dogs, he also
rang a bell. After a number of repeats of this procedure, he tried the bell on its own. As you might expect, the
bell on its own now caused an increase in salivation. So the dog had learned an association between the bell
and the food and a new behavior had been learned. Because this response was learned (or conditioned), it is
called a conditioned response (and also known as a Pavlovian response). The neutral stimulus has become a
conditioned stimulus.

Pavlov found that for associations to be made, the two stimuli had to be presented close together in time.
He called this the law of temporal contiguity. If the time between the conditioned stimulus (bell) and
unconditioned stimulus (food) is too great, then learning will not occur. Pavlov and his studies of classical
conditioning have become famous since his early work between 1890-1930. Classical conditioning is
"classical" in that it is the first systematic study of basic laws of learning / conditioning.

Summary

To summarize, classical conditioning (later developed by John Watson) involves learning to associate an
unconditioned stimulus that already brings about a particular response (i.e., a reflex) with a new (conditioned)
stimulus, so that the new stimulus brings about the same response. Pavlov developed some rather unfriendly
technical terms to describe this process. The unconditioned stimulus (or UCS) is the object or event that
originally produces the reflexive / natural response.

The response to this is called the unconditioned response (or UCR). The neutral stimulus (NS) is a new
stimulus that does not produce a response. Once the neutral stimulus has become associated with the
unconditioned stimulus, it becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS). The conditioned response (CR) is the
response to the conditioned stimulus.

2. Skinner’s Operant

Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior.
Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and a
consequence (Skinner, 1938).

Skinner's views were slightly less extreme than those of Watson (1913). Skinner believed that we do have
such a thing as a mind, but that it is simply more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal
mental events.

The work of Skinner was rooted in a view that classical conditioning was far too simplistic to be a complete
explanation of complex human behavior. He believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at
the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning.

Skinner is regarded as the father of Operant Conditioning, but his work was based on Thorndike’s (1898)
law of effect. According to this principle, behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be
repeated, and behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated.

Skinner introduced a new term into the Law of Effect - Reinforcement. Behavior which is reinforced tends
to be repeated (i.e., strengthened); behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished
(i.e., weakened).

Skinner (1948) studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals which he placed in a
'Skinner Box' which was similar to Thorndike’s puzzle box.

Skinner identified three types of responses, or operant, 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.

We can all think of examples of how our own behavior has been affected by reinforcers and punishers. As a
child you probably tried out a number of behaviors and learned from their consequences. For example, if
when you were younger you tried smoking at school, and the chief consequence was that you got in with the
crowd you always wanted to hang out with, you would have been positively reinforced (i.e., rewarded) and
would be likely to repeat the behavior. If, however, the main consequence was that you were caught, caned,
suspended from school and your parents became involved you would most certainly have been punished, and
you would consequently be much less likely to smoke now.

Positive Reinforcement

Skinner showed how positive reinforcement worked by placing a hungry rat in his Skinner box. The box
contained a lever on 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 quickly learned to go straight to the lever after a few times of being put in the box. The
consequence of receiving food if they pressed the lever ensured that they would repeat the action again and
again.

Positive reinforcement strengthens a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding.


For example, if your teacher gives you £5 each time you complete your homework (i.e., a reward) you will be
more likely to repeat this behavior in the future, thus strengthening the behavior of completing your
homework.

Negative Reinforcement

The removal of an unpleasant reinforcer can also strengthen behavior. This is known as negative
reinforcement because it is the removal of an adverse stimulus which is ‘rewarding’ to the animal or person.
Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior because it stops or removes an unpleasant experience. For
example, if you do not complete your homework, you give your teacher £5. You will complete your homework
to avoid paying £5, thus strengthening the behavior of completing your homework.

Skinner showed how negative reinforcement worked by placing a rat in his Skinner box and then subjecting
it to an unpleasant electric current which caused it some discomfort. As the rat moved about the box it would
accidentally knock the lever. Immediately it did so the electric current would be switched off. The rats quickly
learned to go straight to the lever after a few times of being put in the box. The consequence of escaping the
electric current ensured that they would repeat the action again and again.

In fact Skinner even taught the rats to avoid the electric current by turning on a light just before the electric
current came on. The rats soon learned to press the lever when the light came on because they knew that this
would stop the electric current being switched on.

These two learned responses are known as Escape Learning and Avoidance Learning.

Punishment (weakens behavior)

Punishment is defined as the opposite of reinforcement since it is designed to weaken or eliminate a


response rather than increase it. It is an aversive event that decreases the behavior that it follows.

Like reinforcement, punishment can work either by directly applying an unpleasant stimulus like a
shock after a response or by removing a potentially rewarding stimulus, for instance, deducting someone’s
pocket money to punish undesirable behavior.

Note: It is not always easy to distinguish between punishment and negative reinforcement.

There are many problems with using punishment, such as:

 Punished behavior is not forgotten, it's suppressed - behavior returns when punishment is no longer
present.

 Causes increased aggression - shows that aggression is a way to cope with problems.

 Creates fear that can generalize to undesirable behaviors, e.g., fear of school.

 Does not necessarily guide toward desired behavior - reinforcement tells you what to do,
punishment only tells you what not to do.
Schedules of Reinforcement

Imagine a rat in a “Skinner box.” In operant conditioning, if no food pellet is delivered immediately after the
lever is pressed then after several attempts the rat stops pressing the lever (how long would someone
continue to go to work if their employer stopped paying them?). The behavior has been extinguished.

Behaviorists discovered that different patterns (or schedules) of reinforcement had different effects on the
speed of learning and extinction. Ferster and Skinner (1957) devised different ways of delivering reinforcement
and found that this had effects on

1. The Response Rate - The rate at which the rat pressed the lever (i.e., how hard the rat worked).

2. The Extinction Rate - The rate at which lever pressing dies out (i.e., how soon the rat gave up).

Skinner found that the type of reinforcement which produces the slowest rate of extinction (i.e., people will
go on repeating the behavior for the longest time without reinforcement) is variable-ratio reinforcement. The
type of reinforcement which has the quickest rate of extinction is continuous reinforcement.

(A) Continuous Reinforcement

An animal/human is positively reinforced every time a specific behavior occurs, e.g., every time a lever is
pressed a pellet is delivered, and then food delivery is shut off.

 Response rate is SLOW

 Extinction rate is FAST

(B) Fixed Ratio Reinforcement

Behavior is reinforced only after the behavior occurs a specified number of times. e.g., one reinforcement
is given after every so many correct responses, e.g., after every 5th response. For example, a child receives a
star for every five words spelled correctly.

 Response rate is FAST

 Extinction rate is MEDIUM

(C) Fixed Interval Reinforcement

One reinforcement is given after a fixed time interval providing at least one correct response has been
made. An example is being paid by the hour. Another example would be every 15 minutes (half hour, hour,
etc.) a pellet is delivered (providing at least one lever press has been made) then food delivery is shut off.

 Response rate is MEDIUM

 Extinction rate is MEDIUM

(D) Variable Ratio Reinforcement

Behavior is reinforced after an unpredictable number of times. For examples gambling or fishing.

 Response rate is FAST

 Extinction rate is SLOW (very hard to extinguish because of unpredictability)

(E) Variable Interval Reinforcement

Providing one correct response has been made, reinforcement is given after an unpredictable amount of
time has passed, e.g., on average every 5 minutes. An example is a self-employed person being paid at
unpredictable times.

 Response rate is FAST


 Extinction rate is SLOW

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is a set of therapies / techniques based on operant conditioning (Skinner, 1938,
1953). The main principle comprises changing environmental events that are related to a person's behavior.
For example, the reinforcement of desired behaviors and ignoring or punishing undesired ones.

This is not as simple as it sounds — always reinforcing desired behavior, for example, is basically bribery.

There are different types of positive reinforcements. Primary reinforcement is when a reward strengths
a behavior by itself. Secondary reinforcement is when something strengthens a behavior because it leads
to a primary reinforcer. Examples of behavior modification therapy include token economy and behavior
shaping.

Token Economy

Token economy is a system in which targeted behaviors are reinforced with tokens (secondary
reinforcers) and later exchanged for rewards (primary reinforcers).

Tokens can be in the form of fake money, buttons, poker chips, stickers, etc. While the rewards can range
anywhere from snacks to privileges or activities. For example, teachers use token economy at primary school
by giving young children stickers to reward good behavior.

Token economy has been found to be very effective in managing psychiatric patients. However, the
patients can become over reliant on the tokens, making it difficult for them to adjust to society once they
leave prison, hospital, etc.

Staff implementing a token economy programme have a lot of power. It is important that staff do not favor
or ignore certain individuals if the programme is to work. Therefore, staff need to be trained to give tokens
fairly and consistently even when there are shift changes such as in prisons or in a psychiatric hospital.

Behavior Shaping

A further important contribution made by Skinner (1951) is the notion of behavior shaping through
successive approximation. Skinner argues that the principles of operant conditioning can be used to produce
extremely complex behavior if rewards and punishments are delivered in such a way as to encourage move an
organism closer and closer to the desired behavior each time.

To do this, the conditions (or contingencies) required to receive the reward should shift each time the
organism moves a step closer to the desired behavior.

According to Skinner, most animal and human behavior (including language) can be explained as a product
of this type of successive approximation.

Educational Applications

In the conventional learning situation, operant conditioning applies largely to issues of class and student
management, rather than to learning content. It is very relevant to shaping skill performance.

A simple way to shape behavior is to provide feedback on learner performance, e.g., compliments,
approval, encouragement, and affirmation. A variable-ratio produces the highest response rate for students
learning a new task, whereby initially reinforcement (e.g., praise) occurs at frequent intervals, and as the
performance improves reinforcement occurs less frequently, until eventually only exceptional outcomes are
reinforced.

For example, if a teacher wanted to encourage students to answer questions in class they should praise
them for every attempt (regardless of whether their answer is correct). Gradually the teacher will only praise
the students when their answer is correct, and over time only exceptional answers will be praised.
Unwanted behaviors, such as tardiness and dominating class discussion can be extinguished through
being ignored by the teacher (rather than being reinforced by having attention drawn to them). This is not an
easy task, as the teacher may appear insincere if he/she thinks too much about the way to behave.

Knowledge of success is also important as it motivates future learning. However, it is important to vary the
type of reinforcement given so that the behavior is maintained. This is not an easy task, as the teacher may
appear insincere if he/she thinks too much about the way to behavior.

Summary

Looking at Skinner's classic studies on pigeons’ / rat's behavior we can identify some of the major
assumptions of the behaviorist approach.

• Psychology should be seen as a science, to be studied in a scientific manner. Skinner's study of behavior in
rats was conducted under carefully controlled laboratory conditions.

• Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior, as opposed to internal events like thinking and
emotion. Note that Skinner did not say that the rats learned to press a lever because they wanted food. He
instead concentrated on describing the easily observed behavior that the rats acquired.

• The major influence on human behavior is learning from our environment. In the Skinner study, because
food followed a particular behavior the rats learned to repeat that behavior, e.g., operant conditioning.

• There is little difference between the learning that takes place in humans and that in other animals.
Therefore research (e.g., operant conditioning) can be carried out on animals (Rats / Pigeons) as well as on
humans. Skinner proposed that the way humans learn behavior is much the same as the way the rats learned
to press a lever.
So, if your layperson's idea of psychology has always been of people in laboratories wearing white coats and
watching hapless rats try to negotiate mazes in order to get to their dinner, then you are probably thinking of
behavioral psychology.

Behaviorism and its offshoots tend to be among the most scientific of the psychological perspectives. The
emphasis of behavioral psychology is on how we learn to behave in certain ways.

We are all constantly learning new behaviors and how to modify our existing behavior. Behavioral
psychology is the psychological approach that focuses on how this learning takes place.

Critical Evaluation

Operant conditioning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviors, from the process of learning, to
addiction and language acquisition. It also has practical application (such as token economy) which can be
applied in classrooms, prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

However, operant conditioning fails to take into account the role of inherited and cognitive factors in
learning, and thus is an incomplete explanation of the learning process in humans and animals.

For example, Kohler (1924) found that primates often seem to solve problems in a flash of insight rather
than be trial and error learning. Also, social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) suggests that humans can learn
automatically through observation rather than through personal experience.

The use of animal research in operant conditioning studies also raises the issue of extrapolation.
Some psychologists argue we cannot generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy and
physiology is different from humans, and they cannot think about their experiences and invoke reason,
patience, and memory or self-comfort.

3. John B. Walton

Significant Contributions

John B. Watson considered himself to be a behaviorist and his greatest contribution to psychology was
behaviorism. He published his views on this psychological theory in 1913. The article was entitled "Psychology
as the Behaviorist Views It." But it is commonly considered "The Behaviorist Manifest." It outlined behaviorism
as an objective branch of science that would base its theories and findings on experimental research. It also
outlines a goal to predict and control animal and human behavior.

With behaviorism, Watson was not particularly concerned with thought, cognition, introspection, or other
forms of internal consciousness. He thought it was foolish to interpret the inner workings of the mind and
believed instead psychologists should concern themselves with only what they could see. In sum, John B.
Watson believed psychology should be the science of behavior rather than the mind.

Watson applied his views to all parts of human behavior including language and memory. He believed
language is a "manipulative habit." This term was meant to describe the human ability to manipulate the
sounds made with the larynx (or "voice box"). He believed that language is conditioned (taught) just like any
other behavior, in this case through imitation. Further, certain sounds become associated with certain objects
or printed shapes (words).

Simultaneously, as people learn to associate sounds with objects or symbols, they are also forming and
displaying memories. Those memories are learned associations that can also be unlearned when they are no
longer needed or used very frequently. When someone needs to relearn a memory, they can do so by
experiencing the same pairings or similar pairings to what they initially did.

Some of Watson's most influential and well-known work is his study of emotions. He was particularly
interested in studying the way that emotions could be learned. He believed that emotions were merely physical
responses. He also believed that rage, fear, and love were all unlearned at birth. Watson said that rage is a
natural response to being constrained or forced to do something they would prefer not to. He believed love
was an automatic response to pleasant sensations, whereas love towards people is conditioned because of
frequent associations with those pleasant associations.

4. Thorndike’s Connectionism

Edward Thorndike put forward a “Law of effect” which stated that any behavior that is followed by pleasant
consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be
stopped.

The prominent role of Aristotle’s laws of association in the 1900s may largely be due to the work of Edward L.
Thorndike—the recognized founder of a “learning theory [that] dominated all others in America” for “nearly
half a century” (Bower & Hilgard, 1981, p. 21). Thorndike’s theory was based initially on a series of puzzle box
experiments that he used to plot learning curves of animals. In these experiments learning was defined as a
function of the amount of time required for the animal to escape from the box. A full account of his
experiments, including detailed descriptions of the puzzle boxes he used and examples of learning curves
that were plotted, can be found in Animal intelligence (Thorndike, 1898).

In Thorndike’s view, learning is the process of forming associations or bonds, which he defined as “the
connection of a certain act with a certain situation and resultant pleasure” (p. 8). His work leading up to 1898
provided “the beginning of an exact estimate of just what associations, simple and compound, an animal can
form, how quickly he forms them, and how long he retains them” (p. 108).

Although his original experimental subjects were cats, dogs, and chicks, Thorndike clearly expressed his
intention of applying his work to human learning when he said, “the main purpose of the study of the animal
mind is to learn the development of mental life down through the phylum, to trace in particular the origin of
human faculty” (1898, p. 2). From his work with animals he inferred “as necessary steps in the evolution of
human faculty, a vast increase in the number of associations” (p. 108). A decade and a half later he expanded
on the theme of human learning in a three volume series entitled, Educational psychology, with volume
titles, The original nature of man (1913a), The psychology of learning (1913b), and Mental work and fatigue
and individual differences and their causes (1914b). The material in these books was very comprehensive and
targeted advanced students of psychology. He summarized the fundamental subject matter of the three
volumes in a single, shorter textbook entitled, Educational psychology: briefer course (Thorndike, 1914a). In
these volumes Thorndike provided a formative culmination of his theory of learning in the form of three laws
of learning:
1. Law of Readiness – The law of readiness was intended to account for the motivational aspects of learning
and was tightly coupled to the language of the science of neurology. It was defined in terms of the conduction
unit, which term Thorndike (1914a) used to refer to “the neuron, neurons, synapse, synapses, part of a
neuron, part of a synapse, parts of neurons or parts of synapses—whatever makes up the path which is ready
for conduction” (p. 54). In its most concise form, the law of readiness was stated as follows, “for a conduction
unit ready to conduct to do so is satisfying, and for it not to do so is annoying” (p. 54). The law of readiness is
illustrated through two intuitive examples given by Thorndike:

The sight of the prey makes the animal run after it, and also puts the conductions and connections involved in
jumping upon it when near into a state of excitability or readiness to be made….When a child sees an
attractive object at a distance, his neurons may be said to prophetically prepare for the whole series of fixating
it with the eyes, running toward it, seeing it within reach, grasping, feeling it in his hand, and curiously
manipulating it. (p. 53)

2. Law of Exercise – The law of exercise had two parts: (a) the law of use and (b) the law of disuse. This law
stated that connections grow stronger when used—where strength is defined as “vigor and duration as well as
the frequency of its making” (p. 70)—and grow weaker when not used.

3. Law of Effect – The law of effect added to the law of exercise the notion that connections are strengthened
only when the making of the connection results in a satisfying state of affairs and that they are weakened
when the result is an annoying state of affairs.

These three laws were supplemented by five characteristics of learning “secondary in scope and importance
only to the laws of readiness, exercise, and effect” (Thorndike, 1914a, p. 132). They are

1. Multiple response or varied reaction – When faced with a problem an animal will try one response after
another until it finds success.

2. Set or attitude – The responses that an animal will try, and the results that it will find satisfying, depend
largely on the animal’s attitude or state at the time.

The chick, according to his age, hunger, vitality, sleepiness, and the like, may be in one or another attitude
toward the external situation. A sleepier and less hungry chick will, as a rule, be ‘set’ less toward escape-
movements when confined; its neurons involved in roaming, perceiving companions and feeding will be less
ready to act; it will not, in popular language, ‘try so hard to’ get out or ‘care so much about’ being out.
(Thorndike, 1914a, p. 133)

3. Partial activity or prepotency of elements – Certain features of a situation may be prepotent in determining a
response than others and an animal is able to attend to critical elements and ignore less important ones. This
ability to attend to parts of a situation makes possible response by analogy and learning through insight.

Similarly, a cat that has learned to get out of a dozen boxes—in each case by pulling some loop, turning some
bar, depressing a platform, or the like—will, in a new box, be, as we say, ‘more attentive to’ small objects on
the sides of the box than it was before. The connections made may then be, not absolutely with the gross
situation as a total, but predominantly with some element or elements of it. (Thorndike, 1914a, p. 134)

4. Assimilation – Due to the assimilation of analogous elements between two stimuli, an animal will respond to
a novel stimulus in the way it has previously responded to a similar stimulus. In Thorndike’s words, “To any
situations, which have no special original or acquired response of their own, the response made will be that
which by original or acquired nature is connected with some situation which they resemble.” (Thorndike,
1914a, p. 135)

5. Associative shifting – Associative shifting refers to the transfer of a response evoked by a given stimulus to
an entirely different stimulus.

The ordinary animal ‘tricks’ in response to verbal signals are convenient illustrations. One, for example, holds
up before a cat a bit of fish, saying, “Stand up.” The cat, if hungry enough, and not of fixed contrary habit, will
stand up in response to the fish. The response, however, contracts bonds also with the total situation, and
hence to the human being in that position giving that signal as well as to the fish. After enough trials, by
proper arrangement, the fish can be omitted, the other elements of the situation serving to evoke the
response. Association may later be further shifted to the oral signal alone. (Thorndike, 1914a, p. 136)

Sixteen years after publishing his theory in the Educational Psychology series based on experiments with
animals, Thorndike published twelve lectures that reported on experiments performed with human subjects
between 1927 and 1930 (see Thorndike, 1931). The results of these experiments led Thorndike to make some
modifications to his laws of connectionism.

The first change was to qualify the law of exercise. It was shown that the law of exercise, in and of itself, does
not cause learning, but is dependent upon the law of effect. In an experiment in which subjects were
blindfolded and repeatedly asked to draw a four-inch line with one quick movement Thorndike discovered that
doing so 3,000 times “caused no learning” because the lines drawn in the eleventh or twelfth sittings were “not
demonstrably better than or different from those drawn in the first or second” (Thorndike, 1931, p. 10). He
summarized this finding by saying,

Our question is whether the mere repetition of a situation in and of itself causes learning, and in particular
whether the more frequent connections tend, just because they are more frequent, to wax in strength at the
expense of the less frequent. Our answer is No. (p. 13)

However, in drawing this conclusion, Thorndike was not disproving the law of exercise, but merely qualifying
it (by saying that repetition must be guided by feedback):

It will be understood, of course, that repetition of a situation is ordinarily followed by learning, because
ordinarily we reward certain of the connections leading from it and punish others by calling the responses to
which they respectively lead right or wrong, or by otherwise favoring and thwarting them. Had I opened my
eyes after each shove of the pencil during the second and later sittings and measured the lines and been
desirous of accuracy in the task, the connections leading to 3.8, 3.9, 4.0, 4.1, and 4.2 would have become
more frequent until I reached my limit of skill in the task. (p. 12-13)

The second change was to recast the relative importance of reward and punishment under the law of effect.
Through a variety of experiments Thorndike concluded that satisfiers (reward) and annoyers (punishment) are
not equal in their power to strengthen or weaken a connection, respectively. In one of these experiments
students learned Spanish vocabulary by selecting for each Spanish word one of five possible English meanings
followed by the rewarding feedback of being told “Right” or the punishing feedback of being told “Wrong.”
From the results of this experiment Thorndike concluded that punishment does not diminish response as
originally stated in the law of effect. In his own words,

Indeed the announcement of “Wrong” in our experiments does not weaken the connection at all, so far as we
can see. Rather there is more gain in strength from the occurrence of the response than there is weakening by
the attachment of “Wrong” to it. Whereas two occurrences of a right response followed by “Right” strengthen
the connection much more than one does, two occurrences of a wrong response followed by “Wrong” weaken
that connection less than one does. (p. 45)

In another experiment a series of words were read by the experimenter. The subject responded to each by
stating a number between 1 and 10. If the subject picked the number the experimenter had predetermined to
be “right” he was rewarded (the experimenter said “Right”), otherwise he was punished (the experimenter said
“Wrong”). Other than the feedback received from the experimenter, the subject had no logical basis for
selecting one number over another when choosing a response. Each series was repeated many times, however,
the sequence of words was long, making it difficult for the subject to consciously remember any specific right
and wrong word-number pairs. From the results of this and other similar experiments Thorndike
demonstrated what he called the “spread of effect.” What he meant by this was that “punished connections do
not behave alike, but that the ones that are nearest to a reward are strengthened” and that “the strengthening
influence of a reward spreads to influence positively not only the connection which it directly follows…but also
any connections which are near enough to it” (Thorndike, 1933, p. 174). More specifically,

A satisfying after-effect strengthens greatly the connection which it follows directly and to which it belongs,
and also strengthens by a smaller amount the connections preceding and following that, and by a still smaller
amount the preceding and succeeding connections two steps removed. (p. 174)
In addition to these two major changes to the law of exercise and the law of effect, Thorndike also began to
explore four other factors of learning that might be viewed as precursors to cognitive learning research, which
emerged in the decades that followed. They are summarized by Bower and Hilgard (1981):

1. Belongingness – “a connection between two units or ideas is more readily established if the subject
perceives the two as belonging or going together” (p. 35).
2. Associative Polarity – “connections act more easily in the direction in which they were formed than in
the opposite direction” (p. 35). For example, if when learning German vocabulary a person always tests
themselves in the German-to-English direction it is more difficult for them to give the German
equivalent when prompted with an English word than to give the English word when prompted with the
German equivalent.
3. Stimulus Identifiability – “a situation is easy to connect to a response to the extent that the situation is
identifiable, distinctive, and distinguishable from others in a learning series” (p. 36).
4. Response Availability – the ease of forming connections is directly proportional to the ease with which
the response required by the situation is summoned or executed:

Some responses are overlearned as familiar acts (e.g., touching our nose, tapping our toes) which are readily
executed upon command, whereas more finely skilled movements (e.g., drawing a line 4 inches as opposed to
5 inches long while blindfolded) may not be so readily summonable. (p.36-37)

b. Humanistic Approach
1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human
needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From
the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and
self-actualization.

The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:

Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take
precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that
motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

1. Physiological needs - these are biological requirements for human survival, e.g. air, food, drink, shelter,
clothing, warmth, sex, sleep.

If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot function optimally. Maslow considered physiological
needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

3. Love and belongingness needs - after physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, the third level of
human needs is social and involves feelings of belongingness. The need for interpersonal relationships
motivates behavior
Examples include friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love.
Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).

4. Esteem needs - which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement,
mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).

Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and
precedes real self-esteem or dignity.

5. Self-actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak
experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”(Maslow, 1987, p. 64).

c. Cognitive Approach
1. Gestalt’s Insight Theory

This theory is also called Gestalt Theory of Learning. An explanation of Gestalt School of Psychology. The
word Gestalt in German language means ‘whole’, ‘total pattern’ or ‘configuration’. This school believes that
the whole is more important than the parts. So learning also takes place as a whole’. In this respect Kohlar
performed a number of experiments on monkeys, and arrived at the result that highest types of learning is
through insight.

Learning by insight means sudden grasping of the solution, a flash of understanding, without any process
of trial and error. All discoveries and inventions have taken place through insight. Of course the discoverer
possessed a complete knowledge of the whole situation in peace-meal.

The Gestalt psychologists dismiss the theory of ‘trial and error’, hit and miss’ strive and succeed’. Another
modern psychologist E.C. Tolman also rejects the trial and error theory and approaches the insight theory.

2. Tolman’s Purposive Behavior

Sign Learning (E. Tolman)


Tolman’s theorizing has been called purposive behaviorism and is often considered the bridge between
behaviorism and cognitive theory. According to Tolman’s theory of sign learning, an organism learns by
pursuing signs to a goal, i.e., learning is acquired through meaningful behavior. Tolman emphasized the
organized aspect of learning: “The stimuli which are allowed in are not connected by just simple one-to-one
switches to the outgoing responses. Rather the incoming impulses are usually worked over and elaborated in
the central control room into a tentative cognitive-like map of the environment. And it is this tentative map,
indicating routes and paths and environmental relationships, which finally determines what responses, if any,
the animal will finally make.” (Tolman, 1948, p192)

Tolman (1932) proposed five types of learning: (1) approach learning, (2) escape learning, (3) avoidance
learning, (4) choice-point learning, and (5) latent learning. All forms of learning depend upon means-end
readiness, i.e., goal-oriented behavior, mediated by expectations, perceptions, representations, and other
internal or environmental variables.

Tolman’s version of behaviorism emphasized the relationships between stimuli rather than stimulus-
response (Tolman, 1922). According to Tolman, a new stimulus (the sign) becomes associated with already
meaningful stimuli (the significate) through a series of pairings; there was no need for reinforcement in order
to establish learning. For this reason, Tolman’s theory was closer to the connectionist framework of Thorndike
than the drive reduction theory of drive reduction theory of Hull or other behaviorists.
Application
Although Tolman intended his theory to apply to human learning, almost all of his research was done
with rats and mazes. Tolman (1942) examines motivation towards war, but this work is not directly related to
his learning theory.
Example
Much of Tolman’s research was done in the context of place learning. In the most famous experiments,
one group of rats was placed at random starting locations in a maze but the food was always in the same
location. Another group of rats had the food placed in different locations which always required exactly the
same pattern of turns from their starting location. The group that had the food in the same location performed
much better than the other group, supposedly demonstrating that they had learned the location rather than a
specific sequence of turns.

Principles
1. Learning is always purposive and goal-directed.
2. Learning often involves the use of environmental factors to achieve a goal (e.g., means-ends-analysis)
3. Organisms will select the shortest or easiest path to achieve a goal.

3. Bandura’s Observational Learning

In social learning theory, Albert Bandura (1977) agrees with the behaviorist learning theories of classical
conditioning and operant conditioning. However, he adds two important ideas:

1. Mediating processes occur between stimuli & responses.


2. Behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.

Observational Learning

Children observe the people around them behaving in various ways. This is illustrated during the
famous Bobo doll experiment (Bandura, 1961).

Individuals that are observed are called models. In society, children are surrounded by many influential
models, such as parents within the family, characters on children’s TV, friends within their peer group and
teachers at school. These models provide examples of behavior to observe and imitate, e.g., masculine and
feminine, pro and anti-social, etc.

Children pay attention to some of these people (models) and encode their behavior. At a later time they
may imitate (i.e., copy) the behavior they have observed. They may do this regardless of whether the behavior
is ‘gender appropriate’ or not, but there are a number of processes that make it more likely that a child will
reproduce the behavior that its society deems appropriate for its gender.

First, the child is more likely to attend to and imitate those people it perceives as similar to itself.
Consequently, it is more likely to imitate behavior modeled by people of the same gender.

Second, the people around the child will respond to the behavior it imitates with either reinforcement or
punishment. If a child imitates a model’s behavior and the consequences are rewarding, the child is likely to
continue performing the behavior. If a parent sees a little girl consoling her teddy bear and says “what a kind
girl you are,” this is rewarding for the child and makes it more likely that she will repeat the behavior. Her
behavior has been reinforced (i.e., strengthened).

Reinforcement can be external or internal and can be positive or negative. If a child wants approval from
parents or peers, this approval is an external reinforcement, but feeling happy about being approved of is an
internal reinforcement. A child will behave in a way which it believes will earn approval because it desires
approval.

Positive (or negative) reinforcement will have little impact if the reinforcement offered externally does not
match with an individual's needs. Reinforcement can be positive or negative, but the important factor is that it
will usually lead to a change in a person's behavior.

Third, the child will also take into account of what happens to other people when deciding whether or not
to copy someone’s actions. A person learns by observing the consequences of another person’s (i.e., models)
behavior, e.g., a younger sister observing an older sister being rewarded for a particular behavior is more
likely to repeat that behavior herself. This is known as vicarious reinforcement.
This relates to an attachment to specific models that possess qualities seen as rewarding. Children will have
a number of models with whom they identify. These may be people in their immediate world, such as parents
or older siblings, or could be fantasy characters or people in the media. The motivation to identify with a
particular model is that they have a quality which the individual would like to possess.

Identification occurs with another person (the model) and involves taking on (or adopting) observed
behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes of the person with whom you are identifying.

The term identification as used by Social Learning Theory is similar to the Freudian term related to the
Oedipus complex. For example, they both involve internalizing or adopting another person’s
behavior. However, during the Oedipus complex, the child can only identify with the same sex parent,
whereas with Social Learning Theory the person (child or adult) can potentially identify with any other person.

Identification is different to imitation as it may involve a number of behaviors being adopted, whereas
imitation usually involves copying a single behavior.

Mediational Processes

SLT is often described as the ‘bridge’ between traditional learning theory (i.e., behaviorism) and the
cognitive approach. This is because it focuses on how mental (cognitive) factors are involved in learning.

Unlike Skinner, Bandura (1977) believes that humans are active information processors and think about the
relationship between their behavior and its consequences. Observational learning could not occur unless
cognitive processes were at work. These mental factors mediate (i.e., intervene) in the learning process to
determine whether a new response is acquired.

Therefore, individuals do not automatically observe the behavior of a model and imitate it. There is some
thought prior to imitation, and this consideration is called mediational processes. This occurs between
observing the behavior (stimulus) and imitating it or not (response)

There are four mediational processes proposed by Bandura:

1. Attention: The extent to which we are exposed/notice the behavior. For a behavior to be imitated, it
has to grab our attention. We observe many behaviors on a daily basis, and many of these are not
noteworthy. Attention is therefore extremely important in whether a behavior influences others
imitating it.

2. Retention: How well the behavior is remembered. The behavior may be noticed but is it not always
remembered which obviously prevents imitation. It is important therefore that a memory of the
behavior is formed to be performed later by the observer.

Much of social learning is not immediate, so this process is especially vital in those cases. Even if the
behavior is reproduced shortly after seeing it, there needs to be a memory to refer to.

3. Reproduction: This is the ability to perform the behavior that the model has just demonstrated. We see
much behavior on a daily basis that we would like to be able to imitate but that this not always
possible. We are limited by our physical ability and for that reason, even if we wish to reproduce the
behavior, we cannot.

This influences our decisions whether to try and imitate it or not. Imagine the scenario of a 90-year-old-
lady who struggles to walk watching Dancing on Ice. She may appreciate that the skill is a desirable
one, but she will not attempt to imitate it because she physically cannot do it.
4. Motivation: The will to perform the behavior. The rewards and punishment that follow a behavior will
be considered by the observer. If the perceived rewards outweigh the perceived costs (if there are any),
then the behavior will be more likely to be imitated by the observer. If the vicarious reinforcement is
not seen to be important enough to the observer, then they will not imitate the behavior.

Critical Evaluation

The social learning approach takes thought processes into account and acknowledges the role that they
play in deciding if a behavior is to be imitated or not. As such, SLT provides a more comprehensive
explanation of human learning by recognizing the role of mediational processes.

However, although it can explain some quite complex behavior, it cannot adequately account for how we
develop a whole range of behavior including thoughts and feelings. We have a lot of cognitive control over our
behavior and just because we have had experiences of violence does not mean we have to reproduce such
behavior.

It is for this reason that Bandura modified his theory and in 1986 renamed his Social Learning Theory,
Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), as a better description of how we learn from our social experiences.

Some criticisms of social learning theory arise from their commitment to the environment as the chief
influence on behavior. It is limiting to describe behavior solely in terms of either nature or nurture and
attempts to do this underestimate the complexity of human behavior. It is more likely that behavior is due to
an interaction between nature (biology) and nurture (environment).

Social learning theory is not a full explanation for all behavior. This is particularly the case when there is
no apparent role model in the person’s life to imitate for a given behavior.

The discovery of mirror neurons has lent biological support to the theory of social learning. Although
research is in its infancy the recent discovery of "mirror neurons" in primates may constitute a neurological
basis for imitation. These are neurons which fire both if the animal does something itself, and if it observes
the action being done by another.

d. Define
1. Learning

Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values,
or preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines; there is also
evidence for some kind of learning in some plants.[2] Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event
(e.g. being burned by a hot stove), but much skill and knowledge accumulates from repeated experiences. The
changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to
be "lost" from that which cannot be retrieved.

2. Principles
It is a concept or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rulethat has to be or
usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something,
such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a
system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's
designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the
principles was to be ignored.[2] A system may be explicitly based on and implemented from a document
of principles as was done in IBM's 360/370 Principles of Operation.

PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING by BRENDA CORPUS