Complete notes on Learning approach

My complete revision notes on the learning approach for the Edexcel examination board. Quite long... (:

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  • Created on: 02-06-11 16:47
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Learning approach
Key assumptions
Focus on the environment
Focus that nurture influences behaviour.
States behaviour is learnt through learning + looks at how and why we learn
Says that environment experienced shapes people + their behaviours by
reinforcements and punishments
Reinforcement: people will imitate behaviour if they get reward + therefore will
continue with behaviour
o E.g. 2 sisters. Big sister eats correctly using knife + fork
and mom praises her for that. Young sister will imitate her
to get positive attention too.
Punishment: when people are punished, they are less likely to repeat behaviour
o E.g. Boy starts moaning. His mother speaks harshly to
him. Unlikely he repeats it.
Scientific methodology
Difficult to draw scientific conclusions on behaviours + why they happen.
Approach looks at observable behaviour, which can be measured.
Approach tries to study an isolated behaviour and what triggers the behaviour
being learnt
Measurable, reliable experiments used to ensure studies are scientific.
o Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961) conducted reliable
scientific lab experiment to see if children imitated
aggressive role models.
Nature and nurture debate
Focus of environmental influences on behaviour
Approach supports the nurture debate as it believes role + influence of
environment is + important than our genes.
It states we should be only concerned about the environment we are brought
Classical conditioning- we learn through association
o E.g. Watson and Raymer (1920)- Each time a rat was
presented to B.A, a loud noise made. B.A scared on loud
noise but not of the rat. At the end, B.A scared of the rat
as he paired it with loud noise.

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Operant conditioning- we learn through consequence
o E.g. Boy does not do the homework. When he does not
do the homework, he has no computer. In order to get
computer, he does homework. Learns behaviour in order
to avoid something unpleasant.
Social learning theory- learning through observation
o E.g. Young sister sees how her older sister studies and her
parents gave her positive attention. Young sister will
imitate older sister (her role model) in order to get
positive attention.…read more

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Not reliable, take place in natural setting, uncontrolled
environment- difficult to replicate as behaviour is not likely to be
Non-participant observations
Researchers are not part of observation
Sit away from activity + are not involved.
E.g. Researcher sits down in job interview + observes candidates levels of
Observer can concentrate on observation + be partial and objective.
Recording data is easier + more efficient, more data can be recorded.
Able to carry out tallying + systematically.…read more

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Difficult to carry out as Ps would be watching observers + what
they are doing.
Covert observations
Ps don't know they are being observed.
It's done secretly
E.g. Researcher observes behaviour of people at a shop and Ps don't know.
Valid as Ps don't know they're being observed therefore they will act as
they do normally, usual behaviour.
Observation is easier to carry out as Ps are not looking at what the
observer is doing.…read more

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Classical conditioning
Neutral stimulus (NS) = any environmental stimulus that does not naturally produce a
behavioural response. E.g. a TV does not naturally make you feel scared.
Unconditioned stimulus (UCS) = any stimulus that produces a natural, unlearnt
behavioural response (natural response). E.g. tasting a lemon and blinking because it's
Unconditioned response (UCR) = any response which occurs without learning. E.g.
tasting a lemon and blinking because it's sour.…read more

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After associating bell + food and making dogs salivate, buzzer was paired
with bell many times.
Bell + buzzer= salivation
This further conditioning= high order conditioning
Explains why behaviours can occur from abstract stimuli.
Dogs would salivate at any stimulus similar to conditioned stimulus.
E.g. Dogs which salivated at the sight of a circle would salivate at the
sight of an oval.
This extended association= stimulus generalisation
Pavlov found he could weaken learnt behaviour by dissolving link
between conditioned stimulus and conditioned response.…read more

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Punishment- giving something unpleasant so behaviour stops. If
someone is punished for showing certain behaviour, that certain
behaviour will not be repeated.
Primary reinforcers- basic need. E.g. food, sex, water.
Secondary reinforcers- linked by association with primary reinforcers e.g.
The Skinner box
A rat in box with a lever that when pressed delivers food.
A= Stimulus to trigger behaviour- lights.
B= Behaviour by pressing the lever
C= a reward (food) or punishment (shock) after the behaviour.…read more

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Social Learning Theory
Learning through observation
3 main key ideas
Bandura's (1977) 4 steps of modelling:
1. Attention- to role model
2. Retention- the capacity to remember it
3. Reproduction- capability to reproduce the behaviour
4. Motivation- reward we believe we will have as a result of imitating
Role models (people we imitate and therefore learn behaviours from)
Effective role models- same sex, identifiable, admired, respected or
Vicarious reinforcement- when we learn through others' mistakes or
o E.g.…read more

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They are investigated mainly with animal experiments. Although they are
scientific, there are many differences between animals and humans, so it is
difficult to generalise findings from animal experiments to human behaviour.
Both operant and classical conditioning lack of validity. Experiments isolate a
behaviour from a more complex and usual behaviour and repeat it in labs. There
is a lack of ecological validity and task validity, as what is being studied is
unnatural.…read more

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Operant conditioning and social learning theory as explanations for gender
Operant conditioning as an explanation for gender development
Reward- girls are more likely to be rewarded for "girlish" behaviour (wearing pink
and playing dolls) and boy for "boyish" behaviour (sports). E.g. Fathers praise
their small son for being a "man" as he plays football really well.…read more


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