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Chapter 1

Human Learning:  Science and Theory


To understand behavior, psychologists need to simplify, to discover regularity and predictability, and to invent comparisons.
Theories, Principles, Laws, and Beliefs
    A scientific theory is a collection of related statements whose main function is to summarize and explain observations.
    Hypotheses are “if-then” statements about relationships that researchers believe exist.
    Principles are statements that relate to some predictability in nature or behavior. (maybe empirical generalizations)
    Laws are statements whose accuracy is beyond reasonable doubt. (Not truth; truth can never be found to be untrue.)
    Beliefs describe statements that are more private and more personal than are principles or laws; attempts to describe general facts.
    Bubba psychology and folk beliefs – large bodies of commonly held beliefs about human behavior held by all societies; may or may not be true.

Characteristics of good theories:
    summarize and organize observations accurately
    clear and understandable
    adhere to principle of parsimony
    is falsifiable
    internally consistent
    based on not a large number of assumptions
    thought-provoking and provide satisfying explanations

Learning Theory
Recent origins of learning theory
early attempts to explain behavior on the basis of instincts and emotion
William James and Edward Bradford Titchener relied heavily on introspection, examining one’s feelings and motives and generalizing from these.
Establishment of a psychological lab in Leipzig, Germany by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879, is considered by many as the beginning of psychology as a science.
Wundt used objective methods of science to study mentalistic concepts such as consciousness, sensation, feeling, imagining, and perceiving.

Classifications of learning theories
    stimuli – conditions that lead to behavior
    responses – actual behavior
Cognitivism – interested in human mental activity, specifically information processing, representation, and self-awareness.
    gestalt theories
    Bruner, Piaget, and Vygotsky
    More recent computer models of thinking
    Current investigations of memory
    Current investigations of motivation

Psychology and Learning
Psychology is the study of human behavior and thinking.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge; asks how we know the world and how we know that what we think is real, actually is.