Early Behaviorism: Pavlov, Watson, and Guthrie
Classical conditioning – the process that any distinctive stimulus could bring about a specific response if the two are paired often enough.
unconditioned stimulus (US)
unconditioned response (UR)
learning through stimulus substitution or signal learning
Human reflexes – simple, non-intentional, unlearned behaviors
Explanations for stimulus-response associations
contiguity – the simultaneous or nearly simultaneous occurrence of events will cause behavior to change (and learning to occur).
reinforcement – when the effects of a stimulus (such as satisfaction of hunger) leads to learning.
Variations in Contiguity
contingency – when the occurrence of one event depends on the occurrence of another; Pavlov uses contiguity; Skinner uses contingency.
simultaneous pairing – when the CS starts and ends at exactly the same time as the US (3rd most effective method).
delayed pairing – CS is presented before the US and continues during presentation of the US (most effective method).
trace pairing – CS starts and ends before the US so that there is a very brief time lapse between the two (2nd most effective)
backward pairing – US has already been presented and removed before presentation of the CS (least effective)
Phenomena in Classical Conditioning
Acquisition, the formation of the stimulus-response association
Extinction and Recovery – elimination of a CR by presenting the CS repeatedly without the US
Higher order conditioning
Lefrancois (2000) recommends:
teachers need to do whatever they can to maximize frequency, distinctiveness, and potency of pleasant unconditioned stimuli in their classrooms.
teachers need to try to minimize the unpleasant aspects of classroom learning to reduce the number and potency of negative unconditioned stimuli in their classrooms.
teachers need to know what is being paired with what in their classrooms.
crucial role in early development of psychology
- many principles of classical conditioning (generalization and extinction, for instance) continue to be applied in clinical psychology, education, industry, etc.
We are born with certain stimulus-response connections called reflexes (I.e. sneezing when nose is irritated, knee-jerk reflex)
These reflexes are the entire behavioral repertoire that we inherit
Classical conditioning origin: any distinctive stimulus that is present at the time a reflexive response is brought about can serve as a CS. If the stimulus is present often enough, it will eventually become associated with the response.
Learning involves building a multiplicity of new stimulus-response (S-R) connections.
All learning is a matter of responses to stimuli that are selected and sequenced.
Complex behaviors involve a series of sequence and responses. In such cases, each simple behavior (or response) produces muscular or emotional sensations that become stimuli for the next response, and so on.
When a complex sequence of S-R bonds becomes predictable, habits are formed.
Watson was not interested in reinforcement. To Watson, the ideas of reward and punishment as causes of learning were too subjective for scientific scrutiny.
Contiguity – we learn a connection between a stimulus and a response simply because the two occur together (S-R learning).
A contiguity theorist believes that contiguity alone, without reinforcement, is sufficient to produce learning.
Frequency – the more frequently we have made a given response to a given stimulus, the more likely we are to make that response to that stimulus again
Recency – the more recently we have made a given response to a given stimulus, the more likely we are to make it again
People are born with the same emotional reflexes of fear, love, and rage.
Emotional reflexive responses initially occur only in response to certain specific stimuli like loud noises, sudden loss of support, or fondling.
Eventually humans react emotionally to a variety of things that previously had no emotional significance at all.
Emotional responses are conditioned to various stimuli as a result of pairings that occur between CS such as distinctive sounds, smells, sights, or tastes, and US such as those that produce fear or love or anger.
emotional responses can spread to stimuli to which they have not been conditioned, but that resemble CS.
transfer, spread, or stimulus generalization – the making of similar responses for a variety of related stimuli.
positive emotions – stimulus can be paired with pleasurable stimuli that elicit positive emotions; counterconditioning – can occur even after a stimulus has been paired with neg. emotions
Watson stated, “give me a dozen healthy infants well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”
Educational and other applications
All humans are basically equal
Rigid prescriptions for child rearing and education, training and control in the military, in industry, etc.
Attitudes and emotions learned as a result of often-unconscious process of classical conditioning
profound effect on child-rearing and educational practices
exaggerated role of learning in behavior and underemphasized role of heredity
more a spokesperson for behaviorism than a rigorous researcher searching new data.
profound influence on other psychologists, such as Guthrie.
Guthrie’s law of one-shot learning
When an organism does something on one occasion, it will tend to do exactly the same thing if the occasion repeats itself.
If a stimulus leads to a specific response during the first pairing, it will neither be weakened nor strengthened by practice; learning occurs and is complete in a single trial.
One Basic Principle
People often do different things in the same situation. So which of their many responses will occur next time? Guthrie simply replies - “The last one”
This concept is similar to Watson’s principle of recency
Guthrie does not use Watson's other principal of frequency
For Watson a stimulus-response connection is something that varies in strength and grows stronger with practice, for Guthrie it is an all-or-nothing bond.
A response will tend to be repeated but may not appear to be identical because the “combination of stimuli” will not ever be identical.
While practice may not make perfect, it usually does produce gradual improvement. So how can Guthrie say that all the improvement takes place in a single experience?
We must understand the difference between a “movement” and an act or an accomplishment
Acts or accomplishments are made up of multiple stimulus response movements
Practice and repetition provide an opportunity for making the same response in a wide variety of situations; an act is learned in the single occurrence.
Movement produced stimuli (MPS)
Learning involves associating a response to a combination of stimuli.
continguity through MPS – sequence of responses and the proprioceptive stimulation that results; each response and their corresponding MPS occur at the same time.
Very complex sequences of behavior result from the chaining of sequences of stimuli that are often internal.
When all stimulus-response combinations are linked so that a particular combination of stimuli reliably leads to a particular combination of responses = habit.
Forgetting = associations are not wiped out with time, but that time allows new learning to replace the old.
Reward and punishment – change stimulus-response relationship
Exclusion of reinforcement
A person/animal doesn’t necessarily learn a new response but merely changes associations.
responses are never forgotten but merely replaced by more recently learned responses.
unconditioning involves inhibitory conditioning, or conditioning of a response that inhibits the habit that is to be broken:
Method of incompatible stimuli
Made the subjective objective by emphasizing the role of movement-produced stimuli.
Clear and simple theory; to understand behavior, look at specific responses and the conditions under which they occur.
Practical; shows how habits might be changed.
Evaluation of Early Behavioristic Theories
Fit the facts well as the facts were known then; many observations had yet to be made.
Did what they were intended to do well: explain behavior, not higher mental processes.
Clear and understandable, parsimonious, internally consistent, falsifiable.
Significant contribution to the development of a science that might not yet explain all of human behavior but that explains more behavior, more clearly, with each succeeding theoretical contribution.