Animal Learning and Intelligence

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Animal Learning and Intelligence

  • Classical and operant conditioning form the basis of behaviourism, which sees learning occuring from experience via the process of association.
  • In classical conditioning a stimulus becomes associated with a response, while operant conditioning involves learning behaviour due to its consequence.
  • Classical conditioning is associated with behaviour not under concious control, while operant conditioning is associated with voluntary behaviour.

Key Terms:

  • Classical Conditioning - learning occurs through association of a neutral stimulus with an involuntary unconditioned stimulus.
  • Operant conditioning - learning occurs via reinforcement of behaviour, thus increasing the chances of behaviour occuring again.
  • Social learning - learning occurs by the observation and imitation of others.
  • Self-recognition - the ability to identify one's own self-image, suggesting the possession of a self-concept.
  • Theory of mind - the ability to attribute mental states of oneself and others.
  • Machiavellian intelligence - the ability to serve one's own interests by manipulation of or cooperation with others, which does not upset the social cohesion of a group.

Classical Conditioning

  • Classical condition was done by Pavlov; he researched the salivation reflex and noticed that the dogs salivated before food was presented, as they could predict the arrival due to an environmental factor, such as the food bowl being in sight.
  • Therefore the dogs learned to produce a natural reflex of salivation to a stimulus which is not normally associated with the response.
  • Pavlov found that by pairing the presentation of food with the sound of a bell, he could condition the dogs to salivate at the sound of the bell alone.
  • This process of classical conditionin is as follows:
  • Before conditioning: FOOD BEING PRESENTED (unconditioned stimulus: UCS) ----> SALIVATION FROM THE PRESENCE OF FOOD. (unconditioned response: UCR)
  • After learning: BELL BEING RUNG (conditioned stimulus: CS) ----> SALIVATION FROM BELL BEING RUNG (conditioned response: CR).
  • Pavlov also performed a series of experiments that highlighted various features of classical condition:
  • One trial learning: 
  • This is a form of classical conditioning where just one pairing of a UCS and a CS produces a CR.
  • For example, being thrown into a swimming pool as a child leads to a lifetime fear of water.
  • First and second order conditioning:
  • First-order conditioning involves pairing a CS, e.g. a bell, with an UCS that directly satisfies a biological urge, e.g. food.
  • Second-order conditioning pairs a CS, e.g. a bell, with a UCS that indirectly satisfies the biological urge by its motivational value, e.g. light.
  • Generalisation:
  • The conditioning process can be generalised by slightly varying the CS to produce weaker forms of the CR, e.g. bells with increasingly different tones produce an increasingly weaker CR.
  • Discrimination:
  • Discrimination occurs when the UCS is paired with one specific CS and the CR occurs to this pairing only.
  • For example, feeding dogs only whe a bell of a certain tone is rung.
  • Extinction:
  • If the CS is continually


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