History and background to learning
A brief history of learning
Definition of Learning
Paradigms of Learning

Classical Conditioning: Associations
Ivan Pavlov's Experiments
Features of Classical Conditioning
Application to Humans: Psychotherapy & Advertising
Limitations: Garcia's experiments

Operant Conditioning: Consequences
Thorndike's & Skinner's Experiments
Schedules of Reinforcement
Positive & Negative Reinforcement, Punishment
Application to Humans i) Shaping children,
"Token economy", Psychotherapy, Utopias

Observational Learning
Bandura's "Bobo doll" Experiment
Application: Role of Modelling, T.V. violence



A Brief History of Learning

Arising from the Darwinian view that organisms acquire new traits, early behaviourists took a "functionalist" approach. Here there was an emphasis on the nature of mind and thinking across animal species where notions of the animal mind or consciousness were considered.

Soon afterwards, in part due to the failure of others to examine their own consciousness through introspection, the interest in action and behaviour came into vogue.

Over a relatively short period of time psychologists went from studying behaviour as a reflection of consciousness, to behaviour as a substitute for consciousness.

In 1913 John B. Watson has established the behaviourist perspective which sought to eliminate consciousness and the mind from psychology and focus on learning only.

Major paradigms of learning:

Classical Conditioning: stimulus substitution

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)- physiologist studying the salivation response- first Russian to get a Nobel prize 1904

Accidentally discovery conditioning as a nuisance when assistant's footstep would lead to saliva before food was placed in dog's mouth. Called it "psychic reflex" as it was not purely a physiological response



UCS: Meat powder - - -> UCR: Saliva 

UCS: Natural stimulus to which natural "reflex" response (UCR)



CS: Footsteps - - - - - - - -> CR: saliva

CS: Neutral stimulus (normally dogs don't salivate to footsteps (CR)



Take a "hardwired" reflex and associate it with a "neutral" stimulus, later the neutral stimulus gives response.

e.g. In a car accident at a particular location, next afraid to drive at that location because of fear associated with cues.
e.g., Watson's Little Albert ; 8 months- loud noise when play with a white rat- feared all furry objects- white beards- including Santa 
e.g. Sexual fetishes can be created.  e.g., - with  partner-> sexual arousal, partner wearing boots- now boots lead to sexual arousal. (also favourite songs, perfumes, shampoo).
  george costanza

Also Aversions to food: (often need only one trial)
Spaghetti dinner - drink too much, now can't eat spaghetti :(

Practical Applications of Classical Conditioning
Chocolate before Chemotherapy Candy elicits aversion!
- patients advised to avoid food before chemo
- also the smell, hospital setting evokes nausea-

Maya the mutt and going to the vet

Implication: Innate responses can be brought under environmental control ->Soviet government had mega research fund for Pavlov and others
- Their goal-->control of the human beings ---> A Clockwork Orange

John Garcia: sheep ranchers in US kill Coyotes - tried in the lab- 1 or 2 exposure to mutton tainted with lithium chloride (illness inducing chemical).  Found the coyotes avoided mutton altogether- ran away and vomitted!- then field tested- scattered the fence with tainted mutton- never came back!

But limitations: certain natural behaviours- rats can be CC to drinking water (taste) when make them ill but not to brightness- survival adaptive value- Except for Kai

The conditioning factors of drugs: tolerance & addictions 

Special features of Classical Conditioning

Acquisition: period of time during which the pairing of the two stimuli occurs.  - best for 1/2 second gap from onset of Cs > UCS

Various time relationships:
Short-delayed: Bell starts then food: end together (best)
Trace: Bell goes on, ends, then food
Simultaneous: Bell and Food goes on and off together
Backward: Food first, then Bell: (worst)

Extinction: repeatedly provide CS (bell), but no food-gradually the effect lessens until no longer responds. Implication: unlearn what is no longer useful .

Spontaneous Recovery: after resting, e.g. 20 minutes- if bell rung, again saliva response to the bell

Stimulus Generalisation: when any other similar stimulus to the CS also give the CR- E.g. piano middle C or B or D. Eg. Fear of elevator after being assaulted- now fear any closed places- any office building- any busy street.

Discrimination: Only specific stimulus works -detect the difference between related stimuli - not generalise-

Reconditioning can be done for fears and phobias best using classical conditioning to establish a positive emotion with a previously negative or fearful stimulus.

This is done in therapy as systematic desentitization where a gradual exposure to the fearful stimulus is accompanied with relaxation and positive emotions.

Also can be done through flooding where exposure to the fearful stimulus is done all at once to attempt to pver come it. (Maya and water..) step1, step2, step3, step4

Sometimes a combination of these classical conditioning techniques can also be used along side operant techniques (see below).

Operant Conditioning :A matter of consequences


If positive consequence bound to repeat action
If negative consequence tend not to repeat action


come to class---> learn what's on the exam
Eat veggies---> get cake Hit your brother---> no cake
Drink alcohol--->feel good  Party Late---> bad hangover
Get all A s-->Scholar$hip  Drive too fast--> pay the ca$h


E. L. Thorndike: Trial and Error Learning

Cats placed in a "puzzle box" gradually find way out. you tube

Law of Exercise: Actions get associated with situations

Doing is learning, bound to repeat in similar situation

Law of Effect: Actions are more likely to reoccur with pleasurable consequences and less likely with painful ones.

" Stamping in and stamping out" of behaviour based upon these two laws.

B.F. Skinner: followed the  Law of effect in developing the skinner box
for training rats to press bar for food pellets.

Any behaviour can be shaped- pigeons play ping pong!

Dog trainers make use of this, sometimes with a clicker for a  discriminant stimulus.

Even Maya the fearful dog can learn to play with other dogs through shaping but not to cross a puddle (also see reconditioning above)

Superstitions and other oddities of behaviour can come about through operant conditioning.

Also it is evident that sometimes the conditioning goes both ways,
parents & children each conditioning the other.

Project ORCON (organic control) during WW II attempted to have pigeons could guide the missiles by pecking at keys

He also built a 'baby tender' know as the baby box

Schedules of reinforcement:

Don't have to reinforce every trial or behaviour, only some

i) Fixed Interval: every 2 min e.g. salary (LEAST effective)

ii) Variable Interval: Averaged: 2, 6, 3, 5 = 4 min average

iii) Fixed Ratio: every 10th e.g. or pay by commission box

iv) Variable Ratio: average 10, 20, 12, 23 - unpredictable when reward will arrive - makes it very difficult to extinguish. 

e.g. of variable interval: child tantrums - tolerated for 5 min, 2 minutes, 12 minutes till give in - if get rewarded will persist.

e.g. of variable ratio: checking phones or vending machines for change (or dumpster diving for treasures) - don't know how many you have to look in before you get rewarded.   Applications to gambling and gaming: Facebook, texting, .... addictions

Positive & Negative reinforcement- (vs. Punnishment)
positive reinfor.= give 'pleasurable' reward after action
-Candies for answering brain game questions
-tickets to Santana for getting straight As

negative reinforcement = stop 'painful' prodding when make action
- jump the bar to avoid shock
- give the kid a candy to stop screaming

Punishment does not work as well because law of exercise increases the action while law of effect tries to reduce it!

Beyond Freedom and Dignity - because we are controlled by our environments there is no sense in praising positive action or blaming bad action. No choice, no dignity!  Pigeons

Comparison of Operant and Classical Conditioning The Office  & BBT


Neurophysiology of Conditioning 
Mesotelencephalic Dopamine  Reward System creates the want and continued usage even when tolerance has diminished the positive effect of the drug or withdrawal has passed and one is clean. I.e., smokers quitting.

Limitations of operant conditioning
Instinctual Drift - while some behaviours can be learned through shaping (i.e. Pigs putting coins in piggy banks, their natural behaviours (instincts) may override that learning and their behaviour may revert (to rooting and burrying the coins). 

Cognitive Critique of Behaviourism

Gestalt Critique of learning - Kohler found Chimps used Insight into the problems to solve them, not trial and error learning, however behaviourist Robert Epstein trained pigeons to do this as well. Banana Box

 E. C. Tolman found that when rats wandered around maze without reinforcement they learned. He suggested that they developed "cognitive maps" which enabled them to find the food faster when it was added. Latent Learning- is done where there is learning without reinforcement.

 Observational (social) Learning

Bandura's famous BOBO doll experiment
- children learn by imitation
- most importantly consequences to the model
- the potential is acquired
   see Video  2

The process of Modeling

1 Attention: Learning requires attending to (noticing) behaviour and consequences of/for models.

2 Retention: Learning requires the remembering of the behaviour and rewards for days, weeks, months.

3 Reproduction: Learning requires the ability to produce or physically re-enact what was modeled

4 Motivation: Must be motivated to enact what has been learned through modeling

This is also called Vicarious learning - learning through the actions of others, without having previously done it oneself, without direct reinforcement.

- the potential is acquired if one views the model as someone to be like and if the model is rewarded, not punished for it.

Neurology of observational learning - Mirror cells that respond when watching other perform behaviours 

Implications for T.V. violence>- 
- Give children  the increased potential for violence?
- Modus Operandi- acquired "copy cat" crimes.
- Do we need censorship?  What about Sept 11th? War?

Slife (1997) Taking sides: Does TV increase child's aggression?


 Point  Counter Point
-Parents who watch more TV  punish more severely  -Boys watching non-violent  more aggressive than those who watch violent TV
-Children are indiscriminant    -Good parents teach discrimination
-Studies relate TV exposure and physical aggression    -Parents can help interpret physical punishment on TV
-must eliminate TV violence   -Censorship is wrong way

Application of of Conditioning to everyday life: The Media

Eating Disorders and Killing us softly through advertising.

Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing Consent - media making is conform and but the message of certain political or ideological groups, such as those supporting the Bush Doctrine.


Manufacturing Consent >9-11 >
Fake News and Alternate Facts
Joel Bakan's The Corporation.... # 9(911$), (1:29)(News?), #19(Nazi$)


Fear is used to motivate and mange populations, War on Terror & Weapons of Mass Destruction, Swine Flu,....

Big Corporations make use of these conditioning techniques to manipulate the public into supporting their imperialistic control of Oil, Pharmaceuticals, Water, all based upon propaganda.