Psychology of Learning


Leaving refers to a relatively durable change in behavior or knowledge that is due to experience.

This broad definition means that learning is one the most fundamental concepts in all of psychology. Learning includes the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but it also shapes personal habits, such as nail biting; personality traits, such as shyness; emotional responses, such as fears of storms; and personal preferences, such as taste for tacos or distaste for formal clothes. Much of the behaviour is the result of learning. If it were possible to strip away your learned responses, little behaviour would be left. You would not be able to read a book, find your way home, or cook yourself food.


Conditioning is a specific kind of learning.

Conditioning involves learning associations between events that occur in an organism’s environment.

Classical Conditioning:

First describe by Iran Pavlov (1900) and sometimes called “Pavlovian conditioning”.

Classical conditioning is a type of learning in which stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.


Unconditional stimulus (UCS) evokes on conditioned response without previous conditioning.

UCR—- reaction to unconditional stimulus without previous conditioning.

CS— previously neutral stimulus that has through conditioning acquired the capacity to evoke CR.

CR.— reaction to CS because of previsions conditioning.

Classical conditioning in Everyday life:

Conditioned Fears:-

Classical Conditioning often plays a key role in shaping emotional responses such as fears. Phobias are a good example of such responses. Case studies of patients suffering from phobias suggest that many irrational fears can be traced back to experiences that involve classic conditioning.

Example: A person had a bridge phobia. The reason of that phobia was something that happened during childhood. In childhood, whenever they were about to across a dilapidated bridge, his father would terrify him by telling about enormous danger of crossing that bridge. Hence the bridge became a conditioned stimulus eliciting great fear.

Everyday fear responses that are less severe than phobias may also be product of classical conditioning.


It you cringe at the sound of dentist drill, this is due to Classical Conditioning. In this case, the pain you have experienced from dental drilling in the UCS. The pain has been paired with the sound of the drill, which became a CS eliciting your cringe.

Advertising campaigns often try to take advantage of Classical Conditioning. Advertisers often pair their products with UCS that elicits present emotions. Most common strategy is to pair a product with an attractive person as enjoyable surroundings. Advertisers hype that those pairings will make their products CS that woke good feelings.

Conditioning & Physiological Responses:

Classical Conditioning affects not only overt behaviour but physiological processes as well.

Recent advances have shown that the functioning of the immune system can be influenced by conditioning. Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen have shown that Classical conditioning leads to immune suppression (a decrease in the production of antibodies). In a typical study, animals are injected with a drug (a UCS) that chemically causes immune suppression while they are simultaneously given an unusual tasting liquid to drink (the CS). Days later, after the chemical immune suppression has ended, some of the animals are re-exposed to CS by giving them unusual-tasting solution, measurement of antibody production indicate that animals exposed to the CS show a reduced immune response.

Basic Process is in Classical Conditioning:

Acquisition: Forming New Responses:

Acquisition refers to the initial stage of learning something.

Pavlov theorized that the acquisition of a conditioned response depends on stimulus contiguity. Stimuli are contiguous if they occur together in time and space.

Stimulus contiguity is important but learning theorists now realize that contiguity alone does not automatically produce conditioning. People are bombarded daily with countless stimuli that could be perceived as being paired, yet only some of those paring produce Classical Conditioning.

Evidence suggests that stimuli that are novel, unusual or is especially intense have more potential to become “CS” then routine stimuli probably because they are more likely to be stand out among other stimuli.

Extinction: Weakening conditioned responses:-

The gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency.

Fortunately, a newly formed stimulus-responses bond does not necessarily last indefinitely. If it did, learning would be inflexible and organisms would have difficulty adapting to new situations.

Extinction happens if CS in consistently presented alone without UCS.

Duration of extinction depends on the strength of the conditioned bond when extinction begins.

Spontaneous recovery:

Resurrecting responses

Spontaneons recovery is the reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of non-exposure to the conditioned stimulus.

Renewal effect:

Recent studies have also demonstrated that if a response is extinguished in a different environment than it was acquired, the extinguished response will reappear if the animal is returned to original environment.

Spontaneous recovery and renewal effect suggests that extinction somehow suppresses a conditioned response rather than erasing it.

Even if you get rid of unwanted conditioned response, there is an excellent chance that it make a surprise reappearance later.

Stimulus Generalization:-

Stimulus Generalization occur when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus responds in a same way to a new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.

For example:

Pavlov’s dogs might have salivated in response to a different sounding tone.

You may cringe at the sound of a jewellers as well as a dentist’s drill.

Phobia of a specific bridge, ultimately generalized to all bridge.

Stimulus discrimination occur when learned to response to specific stimulus does not respond in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.

Like generalization, discriminations is adaptive in that an animal’s survival may hinge on its being able to distinguish friend from foe; edible food from poisonous food.

Organisms can gradually learn to discriminate between original CS and similar stimuli if they have adequate experience with both.

The less similar new stimuli are to the original CS, the greater the likelihood ( and case) of discrimination.

High- order conditioning:

CS functions as if it were an unconditioned stimulus.

High order C shows that CE does not depends on the presence of a genuine, natural UCS. An already established CS will do just fine.

Operant Conditioning:

OC is a form of learning in which responses can be controlled by their consequences.

Thorndike’s Law of Effect:

Another name for OC is instrumental learning, a term introduced by Edward L Thorndike.

Thorndike’s law of Effect: if a response in the presence in the presence of a stimulus leads to satisfying effects, the association between the stimulus and the response is strengthened.

Skinner Demonstration: It is all a matter of Consequences:-

Skinner demonstrates that organism tend to repeat those responses that are followed by favourable consequences. This fundamental principle is embodied in skinner’s concept of reinforcement.

“Reinforcement occurs when an event following a response increases an organisms tendency to make that response”

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