Psychology with Mr. Duez                    UNIT 3  "Learning"                                                           LEARNING TARGETS


If you learn only 6 things from this chapter...

1. Learning refers to a relatively permanent change in behavior based on experience.

2. Classical conditioning involves the pairing of one stimulus with another, so that eventually the first neutral stimulus will evoke a reflex.

3. Classical conditioning is associated with Pavlov and Watson; Operant conditioning is associated with Skinner.

4. According to operant conditioning, the consequences of a behavior influence whether or not the behavior will be performed again.

5. Reinforcements are used to increase the likelihood a behavior will be repeated 

6. Punishments are used to decrease the likelihood a behavior will be repeated.


Key People to know: Albert Bandura - John Garcia - Ivan Pavlov - Robert A. Rescorla - Martin Seligman - B. F. Skinner - Edward Thorndike - John B. Watson

Vocabulary:

Acquisition - The formation of a new conditioned response tendency.

Avoidance learning - A conflict situation in which a choice must be made between two unattractive goals.

Behavior modification - A systematic approach to changing behavior through the application of the principles of conditioning.

Behavioral contract - A written agreement outlining a promise to adhere to the contingencies of a behavior modification program.

Classical conditioning - A type of learning in which a neutral stimulus acquires the ability to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.

Conditioned reinforcers - See Secondary reinforcers.

Conditioned response (CR) - A learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of previous conditioning.

Conditioned stimulus (CS) - A previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a conditioned response.

Continuous reinforcement - Reinforcing every instance of a designated response.

Cumulative recorder - A graphic record of reinforcement and responding in a Skinner box as a function of time.

Discriminative stimuli  - Cues that influence operant behavior by indicating the probable consequences (reinforcement or nonreinforcement) of a response.

Elicit - To draw out or bring forth.            

Emit - To send forth.

Escape learning - A type of learning in which an organism acquires a response that decreases or ends some aversive stimulation.

Evaluative conditioning - Efforts to transfer the emotion attached to a UCS to a new CS.

Extinction - The gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency.

Fixed-interval (FI) schedule - A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given for the first response that occurs after a fixed time interval has elapsed.

Fixed-ratio (FR) schedule         - A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given after a fixed number of non-reinforced responses.

Higher-order conditioning - A type of conditioning in which a conditioned stimulus functions as if it were an unconditioned stimulus.

Instinctive drift - The tendency for an animal’s innate responses to interfere with conditioning processes.

Instrumental learning - See Operant conditioning.

Intermittent reinforcement - A reinforcement schedule in which a designated response is reinforced only some of the time.

Latent learning - Learning that is not apparent from behavior when it first occurs.

Law of effect - The principle that if a response in the presence of a stimulus leads to satisfying effects, the association between the stimulus and the response is strengthened.

Learning - A relatively durable change in behavior or knowledge that is due to experience.

Negative symptoms - Schizophrenic symptoms that involve behavioral deficits, such as flattened emotions, social withdrawal, apathy, impaired attention, and poverty of speech.

Observational learning - A type of learning that occurs when an organism’s responding is influenced by the observation of others, who are called models.

Operant chamber - See Skinner box.

Operant conditioning - learning in which voluntary responses come to be controlled by their consequences.

Partial reinforcement - See Intermittent reinforcement.

Pavlovian conditioning - See Classical conditioning.

Phobias - Irrational fears of specific objects or situations.

Positive reinforcement - Reinforcement that occurs when a response is strengthened because it is followed by the presentation of a rewarding stimulus.

Primary reinforcers - Events that are inherently reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs.

Punishment - An event that follows a response that weakens or suppresses the tendency to make that response.

Reinforcement - An event following a response that strengthens the tendency to make that response.

Reinforcement contingencies - The circumstances or rules that determine whether responses lead to the presentation of reinforcers.

Resistance to extinction        - In operant conditioning, the phenomenon that occurs when an organism continues to make a response after delivery of the reinforcer for it has been terminated.

Respondent conditioning         - See Classical conditioning.

Schedule of reinforcement - A specific presentation of reinforcers over time.

Secondary (conditioned) reinforcers - Stimulus events that acquire reinforcing qualities by being associated with primary reinforcers.

Shaping - The reinforcement of closer and closer approximations of a desired response.

Skinner box - A small enclosure in which an animal can make a specific response that is systematically recorded while the consequences of the response are controlled.

Spontaneous recovery - In classical conditioning, the reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of non-exposure to the conditioned stimulus.

Stimulus discrimination - The phenomenon that occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus does not respond in the same way to stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.

Stimulus generalization -  The phenomenon that occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus and responds in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.

Trial - In classical conditioning, any presentation of a stimulus or pair of stimuli.

Unconditioned response (UCR) - An unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without previous conditioning.

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS) - stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response w/o  previous conditioning.

Variable-interval (VI) schedule -  A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given for the first response after a variable time interval has elapsed.

Variable-ratio (VR) schedule  - A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given after a variable number of non-reinforced responses.


Did you have to learn how to yawn?  Learning is relatively permanent change in behavior as a result of experience. For a change to be considered learning, it cannot simply have resulted from maturation, inborn response tendencies, or altered states of consciousness. You didn’t need to learn to yawn; you do it naturally. Learning allows you to anticipate the future from past experiences and control a complex and ever-changing environment.

This chapter reviews three types of learning: Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, and Cognitive Learning. All three emphasize the role of the environment in the learning process.

Cognitive vs. Behavioral. Psychology is filled with controversies. For example, in the history of psychology, there has long been a debate about the causes of human behavior. Specifically, people have been interested in debating whether human behavior is best captured by understanding people's thoughts (cognitive approach) or their overt behavior (the behavioral approach).

This debate began with the work of Wilhelm Wundt. He believed that if we could understand human consciousness, we could understand behavior. To gain an understanding of consciousness, Wundt advocated the use of introspection as a research technique. Introspection involved having a research participant observe his own thoughts and record them as accurately as possible. The study of introspection went on for several years as people worked feverishly to describe the contents of consciousness.

However, there were rumblings of disagreement among many psychologists over the issue of introspection. Many thought that it did not place enough emphasis on observable behavior.

Classical Conditioning (CC).  In classical conditioning, the subject learns to give a response it already knows to a new stimulus. The subject associates a new stimulus with a stimulus that automatically and involuntarily brings about the response. A stimulus is a change in the environment that elicits (brings about) a response. A response is a reaction to a stimulus. When food -- a stimulus -- is placed in our mouths, we automatically salivate -- a response. Because we do not need to learn to salivate to food, the food is an unconditional or unconditioned stimulus, and the salivation is an unconditional or unconditional response.

Pictured above:  Illustration of Pavlov's Experiment in Classical Conditioning

****TIP*** If you are having trouble figuring out the difference between the UCS and the CS, ask yourself these questions:

What did the organism LEARN to respond to? This is the CS.

What did the organism respond to REFLEXIVELY? This is US.

The UCR and the CR are usually the same response.

John B. Watson was one of the psychologists who disagreed with Wundt and his ilk. Watson thought it would be more beneficial to look at the work of Ivan Pavlov as a model for understanding humans. Pavlov had recently developed a technique for understanding learned reflexes; the technique demonstrated the notion that reflexes can be brought under experimental control by controlling the association between a reflex-inducing stimulus and a neutral stimulus.

Watson demonstrated classical conditioning by using emotional responses - training a young child (Albert, age 1) to show fear in the presence of a white rat. When the white rat was first brought into the room with Albert, the child showed no fear. But during conditioning phase of the experiment a metal bar was struck and it rung making a loud noise when the rat was introduced again. 6 times the rat and noise were introduced together, 6 times the child cried. Then afterwards the child began to fear the rat alone (without the loud sound).

Watson - all human behavior is acquired in such a manner. All that is needed to control behavior is to control the environment surrounding humans.

Strength of Conditioning and Classical Aversive Conditioning

Does the timing of presentation of the NS and US matter in establishing the association for classical conditioning?

Different experimental procedures have tried to determine the best presentation time for the NS and the UCS, so that the NS becomes the CS. Delayed conditioning occurs when the NS is presented  just before the UCS, with a brief overlap between the two. Trace conditioning occurs when the NS is presented and then disappears before the UCS appears. Simultaneous conditioning occurs when the UCS and the NS are paired together at the same time. In backward conditioning, the UCS comes before the NS. In general, delayed conditioning produces the strongest conditioning, trace conditioning produces moderately strong conditioning, simultaneous conditioning produces weak conditioning, and backward conditioning produces no conditioning except in unusual cases. A pregnant woman who vomits hours after eating a burrito often will not eat a burrito again, which is a case of rare backward conditioning.

The strength of the UCS and the saliency of the CS in determining how long acquisition takes have also been researched. In the 1920s, John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner conditioned a nine-month-old infant known as Baby Albert to fear a rat. Their research would probably be considered unethical today. The UCS in the experiment was a loud noise made by hitting a steel rod with a hammer. Immediately Albert began to cry, a UCR. Two months later, the infant was given a harmless rat to play with. As soon as Albert went to reach for the rat (NS), the loud noise (UCS) was sounded again. Baby Albert began to cry (UCR).

A week later, the rat (CS) was reintroduced to Albert and without any additional pairings with the loud noise, Albert cried (CR) and tried to crawl away. Graphs of the learning curve in most classical conditioning experiments show a steady upward trend over many trials until the CS-UCS connection occurs, but when an unconditioned stimulus is strong and the neutral stimulus is striking or salient, classical conditioning can occur in a single trial.

Because the loud noise (UCS) was so strong and the white rat (CS) was salient, which means very noticeable, the connection between the two took only one trial of pairing for Albert to acquire the new CR of fear of the rat (CS). This experiment is also important because it shows how phobias and other human emotions might develop in humans through classical conditioning. Conditioning involves an unpleasant or harmful unconditioned stimulus or reinforcer, such as this conditioning of Baby Albert, is called aversive conditioning.

Unfortunately, Watson and Rayner did not get a chance to rid Baby Albert of his phobia of the rat. In classical conditioning, if the CS is repeatedly presented without the UCS, eventually the CS loses its ability to elicit the CR. Removal of the UCS breaks the connection and extinction, weakening of the conditioned association, occurs. If Watson had continued to present the rat (CS) and taken away the fear-inducing noise (UCS), eventually Baby Albert would probably have lost his fear of the rat. Although not fully understood by behaviorists, sometimes the extinguished response will show up again later without the repairing of the UCS and the CS. This phenomenon is called spontaneous recovery. If Baby Albert had stopped crying whenever the rat appeared, but 2 months later saw another rat and began to cry, he would have been displaying spontaneous recovery. Sometimes a CR needs to be extinguished several times before the association is completely broken.

Generalization occurs when stimuli similar to the CS also elicit the CR without any training. For example, when Baby Albert saw a furry white rabbit, he also showed a fear response. Discrimination occurs when only the CS produces the CR. People and other organisms can learn to discriminate between similar stimuli if the US is consistently paired with only the CS.


In Operant Conditioning, an active subject voluntarily emits behaviors and can learn new behaviors. The connection is made between the behavior and its consequence, whether pleasant or not. Many more behaviors can be learned in operant conditioning because they do not rely on a limited number of reflexes. You can learn to sing, dance, or play an instrument as well as study or clean your room through operant conditioning.

Thorndike’s Instrumental Conditioning

About the same time that Pavlov was classically conditioning dogs, E.L. Thorndike was conducting experiments with hungry cats. He put the cats in “puzzle boxes” and placed fish outside. To get to the fish, the cats had to step up on a pedal, which released the door bolt on the box. Through trial and error, the cats moved about the box and clawed at the door. Accidentally at first, they stepped on the pedal and were able to get the reward of the fish. A learning curve shows that the time it took the cats to escape gradually fell. The random movements disappeared until the cat learned that just stepping on the pedal caused the door to open. Thorndike called this instrumental learning, a form of associative learning in which a behavior becomes more or less probable depending on its consequences. He studied how the cats’ actions were instrumental or important in producing the consequences. His Law of Effect states that behaviors followed by satisfying or positive consequences are strengthened (more likely to occur), while behaviors followed by annoying or negative consequences are weakened (less likely to occur).

Operant Conditioning (OC). Instead of antecedents of behavior (what comes before) a new focus on consequences of behavior. BF Skinner argued that, CC did not explain complex behavior.

2 categories of consequences: Reinforcement & Punishment:

Reinforcement is designed to increase the probability that a behavior will occur again.

Punishment is designed to decrease the probability that a behavior will occur again. (see Premack)

Positive reinforcement - when something is given (apply an aversive stimulus).

Negative reinforcement - when something is removed (remove an aversive stimulus).

Skinner - punishment should be judicious, immediate, consistent, & severe enough actually to be a punishment.

Efficient systems of reinforcement:

1. Fixed-interval - after a certain time has gone by - reinforce.

2. Fixed-ratio - after a certain fixed number of behaviors have been emitted - reinforce.

3. Variable-interval - reinforce after time has gone by, but the amount of time between reinforces varies.

4. Variable-ratio - reinforce after a number of behaviors have been emitted, but the numbers of behaviors required for reinforcement varies.

5. Extinction - when reinforcement schedule is fixed-ratio, behavior is performed until reinforcement is stopped. (variable schedule will correct)

6. Shaping - reinforcement by watching others vicariously.

7. Imitative learning or social learning - Bandura showed in several studies that both reinforcement and punishment influence an observer's subsequent behavior.

Essential Questions:

1. Every time a tone sounds, Diana has a puff of air blown into her eyes. This causes Diana to twitch. After a while, she twitches as soon as the tone sounds. The twitching that is caused by the air puff is called ________.

(A) the conditioned stimulus (B) the unconditioned response (C) the unconditioned stimulus (D) the conditioned response

2. Every time Mario  does well on his report card, his parents take him out for ice cream. This is an example of ___.

(A) negative reinforcement (B) negative punishment (C) positive punishment (D) positive reinforcement

3. Heidi is interested in helping her daughter learn manners. Each time her daughter says something that is close to appropriate, Heidi rewards her. Eventually, her daughter should learn good manners. This is an example of ______.

(A) habituation (B) positive reinforcement (C) generalization (D) shaping

4. If a dog named Gryff  is provided with reinforcement after every 10 commands that his owner gives to him, the schedule is called _______.

(A) fixed-ordinal (B) fixed- interval (C) variable-interval(D) fixed-ratio

5. An example of a fixed-interval schedule of reinforcement is _______.

(A) a dog getting a treat every time it sits on command (B) winning money at a slot machine

(C) getting paid each widget you sell (D) being paid by the week

6. Aidan is eating a 5 Guys Burger and Fries cheeseburger. Shortly after eating the burger, he comes down with the flu. After this, Aidan hates eating burgers. Even the thought of any cheeseburgers  makes him sick. In this example, the flu is ______.

(A) generalized (B) the unconditioned response

(C) the unconditional stimulus (D) the conditioned stimulus

7. Tom is given candy each time he studies for an hour. Eventually, his parents observe an increase in studying behavior for Tom. This is an example of _______.

(A) positive reinforcement (B) negative punishment (C) positive punishment (D) shaping

8. The tendency for stimuli similar to a conditioned stimulus to elicit the conditioned response is referred to as _____.

(A) response bias (B) generalization (C) extinction (D) priming

9. According to Skinner, punishment is effective only under very specific conditions. Which of the following is one of these conditions?

(A) the punishment is mild (B) the punishment is delayed

(C) the punishment is threatened but not given (D) the punishment immediately follows the behavior

10. An example of positive punishment is _________.

(A) time out (B) spanking (C) taking away privileges (D) removing chores

11. An example of negative reinforcement is ________.

(A) receiving candy (B) spanking (C) taking away privileges (D) removing chores

12. One of the biggest differences between negative reinforcement and punishment is that ______.

(A) only punishment involves the use of aversive stimuli

(B) only negative reinforcement involves the use of aversive stimuli

(C) negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of a desired behavior

(D) negative reinforcement decreases the likelihood of a desired behavior

13. According to Skinner, the most important environmental aspect that controls human behavior is the ______ .

(A) antecedents of the behavior (B) consequences of the behavior (C) strength of the behavior

14. Witnessing the reinforcement of someone else's behavior has been found to increase the likelihood of that behavior in the witness. This is referred to as ____.

(A) differential reinforcement (B) shaping (C) vicarious reinforcement (D) habituation

15. The person responsible for developing the framework of classical conditioning was ___.

(A) Pavlov (B) Watson (C) Skinner (D) Bandura

16. After having been struck by a car, a dog now exhibits fear response every time a car approaches. The dog also exhibits a fear response to the approach of a bus, a truck, a bicycle, and even a child’s wagon. The dog has undergone a process of

            (A) stimulus discrimination (B) stimulus generalization (C) spontaneous recovery  (D) backward conditioning

17. The psychologist who was responsible for developing the framework for operant conditioning was ____.

(A) Pavlov (B) Skinner (C) Watson (D) Bandura

18. In a classic study, John Watson demonstrated that he could create fear in a child in response to a neutral stimulus (a rat). By pairing the rat with a fear-inducing stimulus (a loud noise), the child eventually became fearful of related stimuli. That is called _____.

(A) habituation (B) spontaneous recovery (C) unconditioned stimulus (D) generalization

19. Classical conditioning and operant conditioning differ in that classical conditioning deals with _____ behavior.

(A) Classical conditioning deals with voluntary behavior. (B) Operant conditioning deals with reflexive behavior.

(C) Classical conditioning deals with shaping. (D) Classical conditioning deals with reflexive behavior.

20. Getting paid a piecework at (x dollars per item made) is an example of _______ schedule of reinforcement.

(A) Habituation (B) Fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement.

(C) Variable-ratio schedule of reinforcement. (D) Fixed-interval schedule of reinforcement.

21. Kohler’s studies involving problem solving in chimpanzees are associated with

(A) negative reinforcement (B) positive reinforcement (C) insight learning (D) vicarious reinforcement

22. According to Albert Bandura, observational learning can occur even in the absence of

(A) observed consequences of behavior (B) direct attention to the behavior

(C) retention of the observed behavior over time (D) ability to reproduce the behavior

23. In the Little Albert experiment conducted by John B. Watson, the white rat, prior to conditioning, served as what?

(A) Neural stimulus (NS) (B) Unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (C) Unconditioned response (UCR)

(D) Conditioned stimulus (CS) (E) Conditioned response (CR)

24.  Jake is training his dog to sit on command. Jake gives his dog a treat every time the dog sits. Which type of reinforcement schedule is Jake displaying?

(A) Partial reinforcement (B) Continuous reinforcement

(C) Fixed-interval reinforcement (D) Variable-interval reinforcement

25. Lian has an intense phobia of birds. Her psychologist believes that in order to alleviate her phobia, Lian must be placed in a room where she is surrounded by birds. Lian’s therapist believes in the effectiveness of what type of phobia- reduction technique?

(A) Systematic desensitization (B) Counterconditioning (C) Flooding (D) Second-order conditioning