The role of operant conditioning in non human animal learning

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Psychology unit 3 intelligence revision
The role of operant conditioning in non human animal learning
Description
Operant conditioning is when behaviour is followed by a reward resulting in it
being more likely to occur again. There are 4 types of reinforcement:
Positive reinforcement- adding something that makes the animal happy
Negative reinforcement- removing something that would make the animal
happy
Positive punishment- adding something that makes the animal unhappy
Negative punishment- taking away something that results in the animal being
unhappy
Schedules of reinforcement include continuous reinforcement where you reward an
animal every time the behaviour is seen and partial schedules which include fixed
ratio (the animal is rewarded after it shows the behaviour a certain amount of
times), variable ratio (the animal is rewarded after it shows a behaviour an
average certain amount of times although the exact number of times does randomly
change), fixed interval (the animal is rewarded after a certain length of time as
long as it shows the correct behaviour) and variable interval (the animal is
rewarded after a random time as long as it has done the desired behaviour).
Evaluation
Can explain a range of behaviours when used alongside the process of
shaping such as complex behaviours such as squirrels doing assault courses.
Explains situations where no obvious reward or punishment is seen. This is
called avoidance learning where the animal behaves in a way to avoid a
punishment so operant conditioning can explain more than just rewarding
behaviours
Explains depression through learnt helplessness which is when no matter
what you do to escape a punishment nothing will work so you will give up on
trying to escape it. This is supported by Seligman who found that a dog in a
box with an electric floor would give up on trying to escape after a while
when it realises it cannot. After a few weeks the dog was given the option
to escape but chose not to as he had learnt he couldn't escape it. This
provides a suggestion on how depression is caused.
Reductionist- reduces complex human learning down to small sets of
measureable variables, so only a limited understanding of how animals learn
is possible as there are other ways in which animals can learn.
Deterministic- lead to useful applications such as training animals and
mentally ill people to behave correctly e.g. token economies.

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Psychology unit 3 intelligence revision
Latent learning- rats explore a maze with no reward but will go to food
when it is provided. Therefore they can learn the maze with no reward or
punishment. This undermines operant conditioning as it shows that learning
doesn't always need the behaviours to be rewarded.
Insight learning- animals solve problems by a sudden rearrangement of the
problem. Research has found that apes were able to reach bananas even
with a small number of resources.…read more

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