February 14, 2011
Learning and Cognition Paper
Learning is a very well-known topic in psychology today. Over the years there have been many definitions for what learning is. Many of these definitions are disputed and replaced with newer up-to-date definitions. The definition that most psychologists like to use is Kimble's; "a relatively permanent change in behavioral potentiality that occurs as a result of reinforced practice" (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 1). This paper will focus on what role behavior plays in learning, it will also take a look at two different types of learning, and last this paper will focus on the relationship between learning and cognition. Definition of Learning
Learning can be defined in different ways by different people. One definition is to gain knowledge through experience (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The definition that most psychologists like to use is Kimble's; "a relatively permanent change in behavioral potentiality that occurs as a result of reinforced practice" (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 1). The behavioral change does not have to actually occur immediately for learning to have occurred, there just has to be potential for a behavioral change. Sometimes as we research something (cooking) that interests us we learn more about it but until we have had the chance to actually try what we learned a behavioral change has not occurred, but there is the potential. Role of Behavior in Learning
Behavior is very important in learning because theorists over the ages have come to the conclusion that any results of learning require observable behavior changes. Learning is relatively permanent. The reason that learning is relatively permanent is that what we have learned will stay with us until we learn something new or we forget what we previously learned. Learning being permanent was added to the definition in order it rule out that the behavioral change was due to other events such as fatigue or drug use or other things. If a person was using drugs their behavior would change, but only during the time of use, whereas if the behavioral change is due to learning it will last till we forget or learn something new (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Two Different Types of Learning
There are different types of learning as well as different definitions. It is agreed that there are at least two types of learning: Classical Conditioning and Instrumental Conditioning. "In classical conditioning, reinforcement is not contingent on any overt response made by the organism" (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 7). "With instrumental conditioning, the organism must act in a certain way before it is reinforced; that is, reinforcement is contingent on the organism's behavior" (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 7). In both types of learning there is a relationship between a stimulus and reinforcement. Pavlov is a psychologist who believed in classical conditioning. He showed us “the importance of serendipity, or accidental discovery, in science” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 164). Pavlov started out studing the physiology of digestion, but began to study the conditioned reflex when he was fifty years old. He used a dog in his study of digestion. His method of study included a surgical procedure to reroute the food out a fistula in the throat to prevent it from reaching the stomach. He then put a fistula in the stomach to catch the gastric juices. Pavlov discovered that the dog would start to salivate at the mere sight of the food or even at the sound of the experimenter’s footsteps and he called this a “psychic reflex” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Skinner on the other hand was more prone to the use of instrumental conditioning. “A small experimental test chamber called the Skinner box is often used to demonstrate instrumental conditioning” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 8). The box is usually equiped with a floor that is...