Learning and Cognition

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Learning and Cognition Paper

Learning and Cognition / PSY 390

April 18, 2010

Dr. Christa Lynch


Learning and Cognition

Learning is a process in which the change in behavior occurs. In more detail it is a relatively permanent change in behavioral potentiality that occurs as a result of reinforced practice (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2005, p. 12). There are five key characteristics that signify the learning process: the results of learning must translate into observable behavior, the behavior change must be relatively permanent, the change in behavior does not need to occur immediately, the change in behavior is the result of experience or practice, and the act of practicing the new behavior is reinforced (2005). Many psychologists would argue that the learning process cannot be observed directly; rather the nature of learning can be inferred from observing changes in specific behaviors.

Behavior and Learning

Behavior and learning are closely related. Behavioral Psychologists working from John B. Watson's theory of behaviorism defines learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behaviors, and identify conditioning as universal learning processes (Eversole, 2010). Edward Thorndike implied that if a change in behavior is correlated with positive outcomes or emotions, the behavior is likely to be repeated. If the outcome is negative, the behavior is less likely to take place.

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning involves forming an association among various stimuli and learning to anticipate subsequent events. For example, people learn to associate lightning with thunder; consequently, they expect to hear thunder after they see lightning. Pets that run toward their food dishes after hearing the sound of a can opener have been classically conditioned. Animal trainers use the principles of classical conditioning when they teach animals to associate commands or sounds with...