How we learn: The Principles and Mechanics. Chapter two

So in the last chapter I spoke about the general physiological aspects of how we learn and process information, and continuing from that I will be visiting some principles and concepts discovered by psychologists to help anyone reading this to have a more concise understanding of how learning takes place.

Classical conditioning.
If you have a steady interest in psychology you may have heard of the name ''classical conditioning'' floating around, this is where you have a stimuli along side an emotional response though they have no relationship with each other, now if you repeat this process of activating the stimuli along side this emotional response eventually there will be a cause and effect. The stimuli just by itself will elicit this emotional response. Interesting stuff.
An example of this just to simplify, if you hear a song that you are normally indifferent to you would forget about it right? it would have no significance to you. Now if you are in high spirits for whatever reason (you may have had a pay rise, you've won a luxury car etc.) and you hear this song at that very point, the very next time you hear it you will have a positive emotional response, why? because the last time you heard it you was in a good mood anyway so when you did hear it you unconsciously made the association between those good feelings and that song, I'm gathering most of us has been through this at some point or another. 
This form of learning was discovered by a world renowned Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov who created an experiment with his dog, a bell and dog food. By ringing the bell the dog basically took no notice, nothing. So Pavlov rang the bell and soon after fed it. Eventually after repeating this all Pavlov did was ring the bell without feeding the dog and it would salivate thus the bell creating a physiological response in the dog proving that the dog made an association between the bell and its food.

Operant conditioning.
Another interesting one where you are ''learning by consequences'' as opposed classical conditioning which is learning by automatic preprogrammed responses. In other words operant conditioning teaches the subject to increase their behaviour by reinforcement or decrease it by punishment, much like when a parent wants you to stop misbehaving and do your homework he/she will send you to your room until you behave and do your homework. Once you have behaved and done your homework you are rewarded with ice cream. Being sent to your room is your punishment the ice cream is your reinforcement thus making you more likely to do as your told.

There are four types of operant conditioning by which behaviour may be altered.
Positive reinforcement: This is typically when you are rewarded for your behaviour, e.g. if you help a neighbour clean his car and he lets you borrow his gaming console, you are more likely to clean his car next time.
Negative reinforcement: Negative reinforcement happens when a behaviour is increased as a result of a negative condition or negative stimuli, e.g. if you don't clean your bedroom you will have to clean the toilet instead. To avoid cleaning the toilet you clean your bedroom thus strengthening that behaviour.
Punishment: Punishment is simply a behaviour decreased as a result of a negative consequence, e.g. by placing your hand on a hot stove you end up burning it/feeling discomfort, as a result of this you learn to not place your hand on a hot stove. very simple.
Extinction: Another simple one where a behaviour is decreased by typically no response. There is no negative or positive consequence, e.g. A mischievous young child screams for attention. There is no response. The child learns not to repeat behaviour.
B.F Skinner was the psychologist who introduced these theories of operant conditioning which was based off Edward Thorndikes law of effect that stated any behaviour which had good consequences will be repeated and any behaviour which had bad consequences will be avoided. Skinner conducted experiments where he would put rats and pigeons in a box with an electric grid where there was a lever to press to receive food. They quickly learned to press the leaver.



Observational learning
Also known as social learning theory, where typically you learn by watching your surroundings whether it by watching people advertisements, magazines etc etc. The thinking behind this ''what ever has worked for the this person must work for me'', with children they look up to adults and other children for successful behaviour while adults look to their peers and anyone that may have authority or success over their hobbies and interests. Its the good old game of ''monkey see monkey do.'' 
The opposite is true as well if somebody is seen having a negative response due to a performed action the observer learns not to repeat that action to avoid the same treatment, this similarly goes back to Thorndikes law of effect. Learning by observation involves four different processes...

Attention: The observer cannot learn unless he is paying attention to what's going on around them, this process is influenced by how much they have in common with the model, the characteristics, and how much the observer like the model also. Expectations and mood have an influencing factor also.
Retention: The observer must be able to remember and retain the observed action for an extended period of time and during so rehearse the action mentally or physically but this all depends on the observers ability to structure the said action in his/her mind.

Production: The observer must be able to reproduce this act, how well it is performed is dependant on the observers general skill level, experience and ability. You can watch a gymnast do three somersaults in a row, it doesn't mean you can reproduce it without practice.
Motivation: Motivation is generally dependant on the incentive to perform the observed action, it all depends if the action results in a punishment or a reward.

Attention and retention account for acquiring an action and production and motivation control the performance.

A psychologist named Albert Bandura believed behaviours and actions were learned through imitation. He conducted an experiment with a bobo doll where he had a group of nursery children observe an adult male or female behave aggressively towards a bobo doll, prior the experiment the researchers observed the children just to see how aggressive they were on an everyday basis and take notes of their base/regular behaviour. 


During the experiment the adult participants behaved towards this doll differently each time, some would use a hammer, others would throw around the doll, some would shout ''Pow.'', ''Boom.'' and other random words.


Another group of children were exposed to a non-aggressive model and a final group was not exposed to any model at all.

Soon after each child were invited in to an experimental room containing toys including the bobo doll to be observed on how they interact with the toys and the doll.

It was discovered that the children who observed the aggressive models were found to more aggressive than the ones which observed the non-aggressive model and the ones who didn't have a model. Well no surprise there. Also boys were more likely to imitate same sex models while this didn't prove strong for girls, it was also found that boys were more physical aggressive than girls though when it came to verbal aggression there was no not much difference at all.


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