Learning Approach - AS Psychology (Edexcel)


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Learning Approach
Observation ­ When watching is the main way of obtaining data and when there is no manipulation
of the independent variable.
Participant observation ­ The observer is also a participant. They are involved in the situation
+ Valid as there is no strange observer affecting behaviour
+ Observers are more likely to have additional information.
+ Ecologically valid as they do not make the situation unnatural.
- Difficult to step back and make observations sufficiently. They have other roles.
Non-participant observation ­ The observer is not part of the situation.
+ The observer has no other role to play so can concentrate on the observation and be
impartial and objective.
+ Recording data is easier e.g. tallying.
- Lacks validity because the observer affects behaviour
Overt observation ­ The participants know that the observation is taking place
+ Ethical as participants give an informed consent and are given the right to withdraw.
+ The observer can ask for help in setting up a suitable place for the observation.
- Low in validity as the participants may not act normally because they know that they are
being observed.
Covert observation ­ The participants do not know that the observation takes place.
+ High in validity as behaviour is natural as they do not know the observation is taking place.
- Unethical ­ Lack of informed consent
- Difficult because the observer may be in an unsuitable position to gather the data.
Classical Conditioning ­ Learning through association
Neutral Stimulus (NS) ­ Any environmental stimulus that does not naturally produce a behavioural
Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) ­ Any stimulus that produces a natural, unlearnt behavioural
response e.g. lemon ­ mouth watering
Unconditioned Response (UCR) ­ Any response that occurs naturally without learning e.g. blinking
in sunlight.
Conditioned Stimulus (CS) ­ A stimulus that has been associated with a UCS so that it now produces
the same response as the UCS on its own.
Conditioned Response (CR) ­ A learnt behaviour that is shown in response to the learnt stimulus

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Stimulus generalisation ­ E.g. Pavlov found that dogs would salivate at any stimulus that resembled
a conditioned stimulus. E.g. dogs conditioned to salivate at a circle will also salivate at an oval.
Extinction ­ Pavlov found that he could weaken a learnt behaviour by dissolving the link made
between the conditioned stimulus and conditioned response. Dogs trained to salivate at the sound of
a bell were no longer given food and the bell alone was presented many times. Eventually the dogs
stopped salivation.…read more

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Evaluation for operant conditioning is same as classical conditioning)
Social learning theory ­ Learning through observation.
Behaviour is learnt through observing and imitating another person who acts as a model.
Bandura suggested that learning occurs providing 4 principles are met: -
Attention to the role model ­ if we so do not pay attention we will not learn.
Retention of the observed behaviour
Reproduction of the target behaviour
Motivation to imitate the observed behaviour
The role model should be same-sex and have a high status.…read more

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Evaluation ­
+ The study has contributed greatly to the understanding of how children acquire
behaviour through observing others. Further research has led to censorship and
certificate laws. It highlights how non-aggressive role models in the media can
encourage helpful behaviour.
+ Observation of children's behaviour is potentially subjective. However this was
avoided as before the study there was consultation between the different
- The children were from an American nursery so hard to generalise.…read more

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Even the choice of toys bought for children encourages gender-appropriate behaviour.
+ The theory has a sound rationale basis. It appeals to our common sense. Operant
conditioning can explain how children are selectively reinforced for sex-typed behaviour
e.g. by pressure from peers or approval by parents.
+ Experimental evidence (Bandura) supports the idea that children are more likely to imitate
the behaviour of same-sex role models.
- Tends to ignore biological evidence e.g.…read more


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