Psychology- Learning Overview

Rene Descartes --French Philosopher 1596-1650

"I think; therefore, I am"

--he divided behaviour into 2 categories: Voluntary and Involuntary -

-humans are governed by reason

Involuntary reflexes-can't control yourself source-non mechanical -hand in fire, knee jerk -non physical

Descartes said voluntary action unique to humans

* Mind is aware of reflex action but can't control it

* Mind can control non reflex action--> subject to reason

* Some human actions law like


Thomas Hobbes--1588-1679

* voluntary action province of mind

* observable actions originated in mind

* "endeavours"--motives concerned with PURSUIT OF PLEASURE

* All human action Law like Associationism

Hobbes argued mind worked in accordance with natural law


John Locke / David Hume 1632-1702 1711-1776

Tabla rasa- born with blank slate

Associationists -source of knowledge is sensory experience

-born with blank slate, we build up knowledge with bits of sensory info

example: young child --sees closed book-sees only patch of colour older child--knows more--it's book pictures, words -custom guides us- we know what to expect

What determines what associations are formed?


Factors affecting contiguity:

1. Intensity of sensation

2. Recency of Pairing

3. frequency of pairing

4. the number of associations (which sensations to be associated)

5. similarity to past associations Associationists developed laws--mind not preformed but shaped by experience

Behaviour Theory

* adult viewed as one who has learned to recognize complex stimuli by building up associations of simple ones and has learned to engage in complex sequences of behaviour by chaining together simple reflexes

Pavlov: Conditioned Reflex (1849-1930)

Russian Physiologist--"psychic reflexes"

* Dogs would salivate when food placed in their mouths

- he studied salivary reflex in digestion Pavlov's Classical Conditioning (Respondent Conditioning) salivary Conditioning= Pairing of 2 stimuli

ACTION= Pairing CS + US = CR ( Conditioned Response)

Result: Previously neutral CS comes to elicit response-->CR US--> UR CS + US----> CR

Pavlov experiment: apparatus measured flow of saliva a tube running from cup attached to dog's cheek

1. Sounded Bell (CS)

2. Presented Food (US) Now : Measure Saliva (UR)

Bottom Line: he discovered an OBJECTIVE MEASUREMENT for science of behaviour Assumption: Fundamental Learning is almost universal


Thorndike: Law Of Effect 1874-1949

* some behaviour occurs in a random trial and error fashion varying in form from moment to moment

* if some variations happen to be followed by pleasurable consequences/rewards they are strengthened or stamped in and become more likely in the future.

* variations followed by unpleasant consequences (punishers) get weakened and become less likely ------> OPERANT (INSTRUMENTAL )


John Watson--1878-1958

-Founded school of Behaviourism

-behaviour could be measured no more introseption

"give me a dozen healty infants well formed and in my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarnatee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist doctor, lawyer, artist"

Little Albert

---11 month old no frear of rat- --when he reached for rat bang hammer Albert jumped and fell for week then nothing Rat--Fear Albert's fear generalized to a variety of objects

For more information see Behaviorism


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copyright 2003Karen E.Hamilton