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6.E: Learning (Exercises)

6.1: What Is Learning?

Learning, like reflexes and instincts, allows an organism to adapt to its environment. But unlike instincts and reflexes, learned behaviors involve change and experience: learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior or knowledge that results from experience. In contrast to the innate behaviors discussed above, learning involves acquiring knowledge and skills through experience.

Review Questions

Q1

Which of the following is an example of a reflex that occurs at some point in the development of a human being?

  1. child riding a bike
  2. teen socializing
  3. infant sucking on a nipple
  4. toddler walking

Q2

Learning is best defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior that ________.

  1. is innate
  2. occurs as a result of experience
  3. is found only in humans
  4. occurs by observing others

Q3

Two forms of associative learning are ________ and ________.

  1. classical conditioning; operant conditioning
  2. classical conditioning; Pavlovian conditioning
  3. operant conditioning; observational learning
  4. operant conditioning; learning conditioning

Q4

In ________ the stimulus or experience occurs before the behavior and then gets paired with the behavior.

  1. associative learning
  2. observational learning
  3. operant conditioning
  4. classical conditioning

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning. How are they alike? How do they differ?

Q6

What is the difference between a reflex and a learned behavior?

Personal Application Questions

Q7

What is your personal definition of learning? How do your ideas about learning compare with the definition of learning presented in this text?

Q8

What kinds of things have you learned through the process of classical conditioning? Operant conditioning? Observational learning? How did you learn them?

Solution

S1

C

S2

B

S3

A

S4

D

S5

Both classical and operant conditioning involve learning by association. In classical conditioning, responses are involuntary and automatic; however, responses are voluntary and learned in operant conditioning. In classical conditioning, the event that drives the behavior (the stimulus) comes before the behavior; in operant conditioning, the event that drives the behavior (the consequence) comes after the behavior. Also, whereas classical conditioning involves an organism forming an association between an involuntary (reflexive) response and a stimulus, operant conditioning involves an organism forming an association between a voluntary behavior and a consequence.

S6

A reflex is a behavior that humans are born knowing how to do, such as sucking or blushing; these behaviors happen automatically in response to stimuli in the environment. Learned behaviors are things that humans are not born knowing how to do, such as swimming and surfing. Learned behaviors are not automatic; they occur as a result of practice or repeated experience in a situation.

6.2: Classical Conditioning

Pavlov (1849–1936), a Russian scientist, performed extensive research on dogs and is best known for his experiments in classical conditioning. As we discussed briefly in the previous section, classical conditioning is a process by which we learn to associate stimuli and, consequently, to anticipate events.

Review Questions

Q1

A stimulus that does not initially elicit a response in an organism is a(n) ________.

  1. unconditioned stimulus
  2. neutral stimulus
  3. conditioned stimulus
  4. unconditioned response

Q2

In Watson and Rayner’s experiments, Little Albert was conditioned to fear a white rat, and then he began to be afraid of other furry white objects. This demonstrates ________.

  1. higher order conditioning
  2. acquisition
  3. stimulus discrimination
  4. stimulus generalization

Q3

Extinction occurs when ________.

  1. the conditioned stimulus is presented repeatedly without being paired with an unconditioned stimulus
  2. the unconditioned stimulus is presented repeatedly without being paired with a conditioned stimulus
  3. the neutral stimulus is presented repeatedly without being paired with an unconditioned stimulus
  4. the neutral stimulus is presented repeatedly without being paired with a conditioned stimulus

Q4

In Pavlov’s work with dogs, the psychic secretions were ________.

  1. unconditioned responses
  2. conditioned responses
  3. unconditioned stimuli
  4. conditioned stimuli

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

If the sound of your toaster popping up toast causes your mouth to water, what are the UCS, CS, and CR?

Q6

Explain how the processes of stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination are considered opposites.

Q7

How does a neutral stimulus become a conditioned stimulus?

Personal Application Question

Q8

Can you think of an example in your life of how classical conditioning has produced a positive emotional response, such as happiness or excitement? How about a negative emotional response, such as fear, anxiety, or anger?

Solution

S1

B

S2

D

S3

A

S4

B

S5

The food being toasted is the UCS; the sound of the toaster popping up is the CS; salivating to the sound of the toaster is the CR.

S6

In stimulus generalization, an organism responds to new stimuli that are similar to the original conditioned stimulus. For example, a dog barks when the doorbell rings. He then barks when the oven timer dings because it sounds very similar to the doorbell. On the other hand, stimulus discrimination occurs when an organism learns a response to a specific stimulus, but does not respond the same way to new stimuli that are similar. In this case, the dog would bark when he hears the doorbell, but he would not bark when he hears the oven timer ding because they sound different; the dog is able to distinguish between the two sounds.

S7

This occurs through the process of acquisition. A human or an animal learns to connect a neutral stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus. During the acquisition phase, the neutral stimulus begins to elicit the conditioned response. The neutral stimulus is becoming the conditioned stimulus. At the end of the acquisition phase, learning has occurred and the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus capable of eliciting the conditioned response by itself.

6.3: Operant Conditioning

Now we turn to the second type of associative learning, operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, organisms learn to associate a behavior and its consequence (See table below). A pleasant consequence makes that behavior more likely to be repeated in the future.

Review Questions

Q1

________ is when you take away a pleasant stimulus to stop a behavior.

  1. positive reinforcement
  2. negative reinforcement
  3. positive punishment
  4. negative punishment

Q2

Which of the following is not an example of a primary reinforcer?

  1. food
  2. money
  3. water
  4. sex

Q3

Rewarding successive approximations toward a target behavior is ________.

  1. shaping
  2. extinction
  3. positive reinforcement
  4. negative reinforcement

Q4

Slot machines reward gamblers with money according to which reinforcement schedule?

  1. fixed ratio
  2. variable ratio
  3. fixed interval
  4. variable interval

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

What is a Skinner box and what is its purpose?

Q6

What is the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment?

Q7

What is shaping and how would you use shaping to teach a dog to roll over?

Personal Application Questions

Q8

Explain the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, and provide several examples of each based on your own experiences.

Q9

Think of a behavior that you have that you would like to change. How could you use behavior modification, specifically positive reinforcement, to change your behavior? What is your positive reinforcer?

Solution

S1

D

S2

B

S3

A

S4

B

S5

A Skinner box is an operant conditioning chamber used to train animals such as rats and pigeons to perform certain behaviors, like pressing a lever. When the animals perform the desired behavior, they receive a reward: food or water.

S6

In negative reinforcement you are taking away an undesirable stimulus in order to increase the frequency of a certain behavior (e.g., buckling your seat belt stops the annoying beeping sound in your car and increases the likelihood that you will wear your seatbelt). Punishment is designed to reduce a behavior (e.g., you scold your child for running into the street in order to decrease the unsafe behavior.)

S7

Shaping is an operant conditioning method in which you reward closer and closer approximations of the desired behavior. If you want to teach your dog to roll over, you might reward him first when he sits, then when he lies down, and then when he lies down and rolls onto his back. Finally, you would reward him only when he completes the entire sequence: lying down, rolling onto his back, and then continuing to roll over to his other side.

6.4: Observational Learning (Modeling)

In observational learning, we learn by watching others and then imitating, or modeling, what they do or say. The individuals performing the imitated behavior are called models. Research suggests that this imitative learning involves a specific type of neuron, called a mirror neuron.

Review Questions

Q1

The person who performs a behavior that serves as an example is called a ________.

  1. teacher
  2. model
  3. instructor
  4. coach

Q2

In Bandura’s Bobo doll study, when the children who watched the aggressive model were placed in a room with the doll and other toys, they ________.

  1. ignored the doll
  2. played nicely with the doll
  3. played with tinker toys
  4. kicked and threw the doll

Q3

Which is the correct order of steps in the modeling process?

  1. attention, retention, reproduction, motivation
  2. motivation, attention, reproduction, retention
  3. attention, motivation, retention, reproduction
  4. motivation, attention, retention, reproduction

Q4

Who proposed observational learning?

  1. Ivan Pavlov
  2. John Watson
  3. Albert Bandura
  4. B. F. Skinner

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

What is the effect of prosocial modeling and antisocial modeling?

Q6

Cara is \(17\) years old. Cara’s mother and father both drink alcohol every night. They tell Cara that drinking is bad and she shouldn’t do it. Cara goes to a party where beer is being served. What do you think Cara will do? Why?

Personal Application Question

Q7

What is something you have learned how to do after watching someone else?

Solution

S1

B

S2

D

S3

A

S4

C

S5

Prosocial modeling can prompt others to engage in helpful and healthy behaviors, while antisocial modeling can prompt others to engage in violent, aggressive, and unhealthy behaviors.

S6

Cara is more likely to drink at the party because she has observed her parents drinking regularly. Children tend to follow what a parent does rather than what they say.

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