Julianna's Learning Perspective

...all you ever needed to know...

The Learning Perspective: An Overview


The Learning Perspective is..

 ...all about behavior and modifying behavior. It originated as a criticism of ther psychodynamic perspective and is known for its uniquely scientific method. The pioneers of this perspective were Thorndike, Skinner, Pavlov and Watson. Thorndike was arguably the very first to investigate learning and behavior, and created the Law of Effect. But this will all be discussed later. For now, just remember that the learning perspective is all about training and modifying behavior, be it through reinforcement or association. It should definitely help in training your pets.


The key concepts for this perspective are....

  • Classical Conditioning
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Behaviorism
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Law of Effect
  • Latent Learning

The basic assumptions for this perspective are...

  • Humans are the products of their environments
  • There is an innate predisposition to learning
  • Learning can take place in the absence of reinforcement
  • Only observable behaviors should be studied if psychology is to be objective.


Digging Deeper...


So you read the basic assumptions, but what do they mean anyways?

Classical Conditioning:

Classical Conditioning was an innovation of Ivan Pavlov's. Pavlov noticed that when bringing a dog his food, the dog would begin to salivate when he saw the food. Pavlov then began to notice that if he rang a bell right before bringing the dog his food, the dog would salivate when he heard the bell, expecting food to follow. Click here to see a diagram of Pavlov's dog experiment. Pavlov named the stimuli in this experiment and used them as a template for future studies of classical conditioning.

There are 5 different stimuli and responses:

  • Unconditioned stimulus (U.S.)
  • Unconditioned response (U.R.)
  • Neutral stimulus (N.S.)
  • Conditioned stimulus (C.S.)
  • Conditioned response (C.R.)

At first, when the bell rings (N.S.) and the food is presented (U.S.), salivation is an unconditioned response. Eventually, when the dogs salivate when just hearing the bell, the bell is the C.S. and the salivation is the C.R.

This is classical conditioning.


Operant Conditioning:

 Operant Conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner. It is slightly easier to understand than classical conditioning. Skinner created a box for pigeons and trained them to peck a light through reinforcement. Skinner noticed that when he gave pigeons a food reward for pecking the light, their behavior was reinforced and they continued their behavior. There were several variations on behavior reinforcement, shown to the right. Click the diagram to enlarge it!

Social Learning Theory:

Bandura studied the social learning theory by presenting children with examples of violence towards a bobo doll. When the children imitated this physical or verbal violence, Bandura hypothesized that people learn from the examples they see. This is called the social learning theory.

 Law of Effect:

 The principle that behaviors are selected by their consequences; behavior having good consequences tends to be repeated whereas behavior that leads to bad consequences is not repeated. Basically, if behavior produces good feelings, then it will be repeated. If it produces bad feelings, it will not be repeated.

Latent Learning:

Learning you didn't know you had. This is the learning that you acquire without obvious reinforcement.


If you had to choose one of the key concepts for an essay which would be easiest to write about?

Conditioning! There are lots of studies, for instance Pavlov and Skinner, that can support an essay about conditioning.

If you had to choose one of the assumptions for an essay which would be the easiest to write about?

"We are the products of our environment." This could be supported by any of the studies in this perspective.


On to further learning!

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