Learning (AQA) Topic Notes

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  • Created by: Alannaire
  • Created on: 19-05-16 08:15


What is learning?

A relativley perminant change in behaviour due to experience.


Classical Conditioning is a procedure in during which an animal or person learns to associate a reflex response with a new stimulus.

BEFORE:   UCS -----> UCR

                  food  -----> salivation


                  food + bell -----> salivation 

AFTER:      CS -----> CR

                  bell -----> salivation

(definitions for all stimuli and responses are avaliable)

Extinction; A conditioned response dies out.

Sponaneous Response; A conditioned response that has disappeared suddenly appears again.

Generalisation; The conditioned response is produced when a similar stimulus to the original                                conditioned stimulus is presented.

Discrimmination (with reference to learning); The conditioned response is only produced when a                                                                     specific stimulus is presented.

WATSON & RAYNER 1920 (Little Albert) 

Aim; To see if the emotional response of fear can be conditioned in a human being.

Method; Albert was 11 months old. He seemed to like a white laboratory rat and had no fear of any white furry objects. In the conditioning trials the rat was shown to Albert and, as he reached for it, a metal bar was hit very hard with a hammer behind Albert's back. This was done several times.

Results; After seven times, when the rat was presesnted again, Albert screamed and tried to get away. He did this even though the metal bar was not hit by the hammer and there was no loud noise. Albert also screamed when he was shown a Santa Claus mask and a fur coat.

Conclusion; Watson and Rayner showed that fear responses could be learnt and even very young children could learn in the way suggested by classical conditioning.


  • Unethical, caused distress in a very young child.
  • Only involved one child, cannot be generalised to everyone especially adults.
  • Study certainly seems to fit with what you might already know about any phobia you might have.


  • In everyday life, advertising companies can get us to build up a favourable association between the advert and the producer, then we might buy the product more often. e.g. celebrities in adverts, talking about products. Companies want the audience to associate the 'attractive/nice' person with the brand they're selling.


Operant Conditioning is learning due to the consequences of behaviour, through positive or negative reinforcement.

Thorndike = Cat in puzzle box.


If a certain response has pleasant consequences, it is more likely than other responses to occur in the same circumstances. 

Law of Effect; behaviours that are followed…


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