Psychology AS learning approach

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  • A natural stimulus creates a natural response.
  • If we want to associate another behaviour with a natural stimulus to create a natural response then we must learn this, we do that through conditioning. 
  • Before we learn any new conditioned stimulus = responses, ours are natural, therefore they are unconditioned.
  • conditioning: Produce a neutral stimulus (bell), immediately after produce an unconditioned stimulus (food) this will produce an unconditioned response (saliva). This process is then repeated several times, eventually the subject (dog) will learn to associate the neutral stimulus (bell) with the unconditioned stimulus (food), creating the unconditioned response (saliva) to the point that you will be able to take away the unconditioned stimulus (food) and the subject (dog) will still have the same unconditioned response (saliva) to only the neutral stimulus (bell). This will have created a conditioned stimulus (bell) and a conditioned response (saliva).
  • Unconditioned stimulus - Something you're naturally going to respond to (occurrence).
  • Unconditioned response - A natural response to a natural occurrence/unconditioned stimulus.
  • Neutral stimulus - A stimulus that does not cause the same unconditioned response.
  • Conditioned stimulus - A stimulus that has been created through a mix of the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus.
  • Conditioned response - A response that you have learnt to associate with the conditioned stimulus.
  • Higher order conditioning - Creating a conditioned stimulus through associating it with the previous conditioned stimulus which has now become an unconditioned stimulus.
  • Stimulus generalisation - Conditioned responses can still occur with something similar to the conditioned stimulus.
  • Extinction - If you stop making the association between the unconditioned and conditioned stimulus, then the response will fade away.
  • Spontaneous - If you reintroduce the association of conditioned and unconditioned stimulus then you will automatically have a response, there is no need to go through the conditioning process again.
  • This is used on alcoholics. An unconditioned stimulus is Antabuse (a drug that induces vomiting) and the unconditioned response is vomiting. Alcohol is the neutral stimulus at this stage because it does not produce the desired effect. Alcohol and vomiting are then paired together to produce unpleasant consequences. The drug will then no longer be needed because hopefully the conditioning will have worked and the alcoholic will now associate drinking with sever vomiting. The neutral stimulus of alcohol has now become the conditioned stimulus with vomiting as the conditioned response.
    • Disadvantages: Effects are not long term, the alcoholic will take a drink without the drug, they will feel ill, but will not vomit, and therefore the feeling will eventually wear off. There are ethical issues facing aversion therapy as giving them a drug to make them ill is very distressing to the patient.


  • This is the theory of learning through consequence. Such as if a behaviour is met with an unpleasant consequence, you will not repeat the behaviour, however, if your behaviours is met with a pleasant consequence then you will repeat it. We will also repeat behaviour if it avoids…


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