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Psychology and Learning

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There are many different kinds of ways that people and animals learn. People can adjust the way they learn to the different situations in which they are learning and what they have to learn. One form of learning is known as conditioning. Conditioning emphasises the relationship between stimuli and responses. The two types of conditioning found are Classical conditioning and Operant conditioning. Learning may occur in different ways. Psychologists have distinguished between different types of learning, these being Observational Learning and Insight Learning.

Classical conditioning refers to a simple form of learning, which occurs through the repeated association of two or more different stimuli. Learning is only said to have occurred once a particular stimulus always produces a response which it did not previously produce. Classical conditioning involves an unconditioned stimulus and an unconditioned response, as well as a conditioned stimulus and a conditioned response. The unconditioned stimulus is any stimulus, which consistently produces a naturally occurring, automatic response. The unconditioned response is a reflexive and involuntary response, which occurs as a result of the unconditioned stimulus. The conditioned stimulus is the stimulus that is neutral at the beginning of the conditioning process and does not produce the unconditioned response. But through repeated association with the conditioned stimulus, triggers the same response as the unconditioned stimulus. The conditioned response is the learned response that is brought forth by the conditioned stimulus. The conditioned response occurs after the conditioned stimulus has been associated with the unconditioned stimulus.

An example of classical conditioning is when a person walks past a certain house each day and every time is attacked by a large dog. They then associate that house with the dog and avoid walking past there again.

In this example the unconditioned stimulus is the dog, the unconditioned response is fear, the conditioned stimulus is the house, and the conditioned response is avoidance of the house.

Operant conditioning is the learning process in which the likelihood of a particular behavior occurring is determined by the consequences of that behavior. It is based on the assumption that a person or animal will tend to repeat behavior that brings forth a positive consequence such a praise, and tend not to repeat behavior that brings forth negative consequences such as punishment.

And example of operant conditioning is the training of rats to press a lever in order to obtain a food reward. The pressing of the lever (conditioned response) is associated with the food reward (unconditioned stimulus). After a training period, the rat will show the conditioned response of pressing the lever even without the presence of the unconditioned stimulus of the food.

Observational learning occurs when a person or an animal uses observation of another's actions and their consequences to guide their own future actions. The person being observed is referred to as a model. For this reason observational learning is also referred to as modeling. Observational learning involves four stages, attention, retention, reproduction and motivation-reinforcement. Attention is when the learner observers the actions of the model (The higher the status of the model the more attention the learner will pay and the closer their imitations will be to the models actions). Retention is when the learner retains in their memory what they have just observed. Reproduction is when the learner will reproduce or imitate the actions of the model that they have just observed. Reproduction is when the learner reproduces or imitates what they have just observed. Motivation-reinforcement can come in various ways. External reinforcement, through praise for doing something well, self-reinforcement, through the learner setting themselves a goal in which they must achieve, and vicarious self-reinforcement, in which the learner can see others joy in their achieving this goal. An example of observational learning is when a person begins to learn a dance. The person will observe their dancing instructor (attention) when they are shown the dance moves. They then retain the information that they have just observed. The person will then reproduce/imitate the dance moves that they have just been shown (reproduction). The motivation reinforcement can come from praise from the instructor or fellow dancers, or seeing others dance well and wanting to be able



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