Welcome to Week 3

Psy 111 General Psychology

This week (Part I)


Because learning is fundamental to human life, early psychologists focused much of their research on understanding how we learn.

What is the definition of learning?

A few examples are listed in the link below.


Broadly defined, learning is a stable change caused by an experience--a change that is reflected in changed behaviors, thoughts, and/or emotions.

Two fundamental models of learning

Through the following models, "we learn to associate a stimulus in the environment (1) or our own behavior (2) with a significant event, such as a reward or a punishment." Both models can be observed and measured by science.

1. Classical (or Pavlovian) conditioning is one of the fundamental ways we learn about the world around us. In fact, Pavlov's research helped us understand why some of us get anxious just looking at a plane in the sky, why we so dislike the sound of our morning alarm, and even why we swear off certain foods we’ve only tried once.

Food for thought: Scientists claim that it is far more than just a theory of learning; "it is also arguably a theory of identity. For, once you understand classical conditioning, you’ll recognize that your favorite music, clothes, even political candidate, might all be a result of the same process that makes a dog drool at the sound of bell."

2. Operant or instrumental conditioning (Edward Throrndike) occurs "when a behavior (as opposed to a stimulus) is associated with the occurrence of a significant event." Here, learning occurs when we perform a sequence of behaviors that are positively reinforced. The behaviors in which we engage are instrumental to achieving some outcome. We choose when and how to respond.

(retrieved from noba.com)

Images: Flammarion

The difference betwee classical and operant conditioning

The difference between classical and operant conditioning - Peggy Andover

Cognitive Learning

Cognition describes a person's typical mode of thinking, perceiving, remembering, or problem solving.

Remember that "the cognitive revolution” occurred in the middle of the 20th century.

"Cognitive views of learning evolved, in part, because behaviorism was unable to explain complex phenomena such as language learning and problem solving as well as a number of everyday events, such as why people respond differently to the same stimulus."

Cognitive learning theory assumes that:

  • learners are active in their attempts to understand the world;
  • new understanding depends on prior learning;
  • learners construct understanding;
  • learning is a change in people’s mental structures instead of changes in observable behavior.

Also, asking yourself how you process experiences and knowledge and how you organize and retain information determines your cognitive learning style.

Do you need to visualize the task before starting? Do you approach learning sequentially or randomly? Do you work quickly or slowly?

These are examples of cognitive learning style characteristics. Cognitive learning styles influence attitudes, values, and social interaction.

(retrieved from wps.prennhall.com)

Image: vangogh.net

Modeling as a powerful process that accounts for diverse forms of learning.

Enjoy the readings and enjoy the week!