Other links are for information. They're optional unless you are invited to "click here" or to view an embedded video.
- Read chapter 10 and 11 (the main topic of this lecture module).
- Read this page. Click the link to video.
- Then go to the Discussion board, and find the section for this chapter. Read the first post. Follow the instructions. Post your reply by the discussion deadline.
Things will now get technical.
Learning theory -- classical conditioning and, in the next chapter, operant conditioning -- have their own special vocabulary. Researchers and clinicians who are very adept with this lingo can speak with impressive precision as they describe the many variations on these two major themes: first, the acquisition of automatic responses to environmental cues; and second, the ways in which the environment encourages organisms to emit behavior in ways that (usually) maximize pleasure and minimize suffering. This includes the development of psychotherapies that use learning theory; we'll explore those toward the end of the course.
It's a testament to the power of these ideas that they have so fully permeated our culture and our consciousness. I think there are lots of reasons why, and I'll get into that a bit more with the next chapter. In this one, I'll build on some ideas in the reading, introduce you to some video, and get you going on the discussion questions.
As a sidebar, we'll continue to draw upon the concepts from the first part of the course. Research methodology, especially issues of research design, should be familiar to you by now. In the midst of it all (and yes, I realize there's a lot of reading!), you may want to go back to Chapter 1 a time or two. The more you have internalized that material, the easier the rest of the assignments will be. You'll be asked to respond to ever more detailed questions, where you should be able to apply your new knowledge to the growing body of content you'll have covered.
Now, before you keep going, make sure that you can pair the following acronyms with the concepts they signify:
|UCS (unconditioned stimulus)||UCR (unconditioned response)|
|CS (conditioned stimulus)||CR (conditioned response)|
In general, I don't expect students in this course to commit researchers' names to memory. But there are some exceptions, and today, there are two. First, Ivan Pavlov. The text gives you a nice introduction to him, in two different spots: page 174, then at the start of Chapter 11, pages 247-251. For some interesting historic video of Pavlov, click here. There's our buddy, Phil, in the lab coat to start us out. But also, the (charmingly crude) animation is worth reviewing to help you get a good handle on the terminology and how it all works. This will reinforce the conceptual diagrams on pages 250 and 251. One thing to point out: the CR and the UCR are the same behavior. What changes is the stimulus. As the organism learns the relationship between the UCS and the CS, then eventually the UCS can be taken away. And, yes, I'm using the abbreviations here on purpose. Dig into the text until you really have, well, learned what they mean!After you see the archival footage of Pavlov (and then one of Zimbardo's goofier demonstrations), Robert Ader describes his own research on conditioned immunosuppression. This is related to the chapter, of course. But it's also interesting for a couple of other reasons. First, it shows how an animal model can be directly informative of the human condition. Second, though, is how Ader's research went a bit awry. Instead of pretending that it didn't happen, he and his colleagues were intrigued and, ultimately, rewarded for their persistent, open-minded pursuit of the cause of their unexpected results. Note also, though, at the end, Zimbardo's back and will introduce the concepts from the next chapter.
Zimbardo also implied that any UCS -> UCR was possible. I think he overstates things just a bit. Carefully read the material on pages 178-180, which covers the basics on how the situation's just not that simple. For one thing, some associations are just stronger -- biologically predisposed. This may be part of why people are inclined to develop a fearful reaction (or phobia) to snakes and spiders: perhaps we tend that way because our predecessors who avoided venomous critters were more likely to survive and reproduce. Also note how this can play out with what's sometimes called one-trial learning, especially in the case of taste aversions. One of my first fried clams was, well, bad. But ignrant me, being the hick from Oklahoma, doing summer stock on Cape Cod (surrounded by all these Ivy League types), I thought, hmm, maybe they're supposed to taste that way. Everybody else was in a deep-fried rapture as we headed to the theater for the evening show. Uh, no. Oh, it was fine, actually, until the second act. Suddenly, that clam wanted out, fast. Dumb luck kept me from making it a truly memorable night at the light opera, as I made it to the (dinky) men's room backstage right after the curtain call. But I still can't quite muster enthusiasm for fried clams <ahem> 24 years later.
Perhaps it's the potentially dire outcome (worse than puking on a pirate) of eating something permanently poisonous: no survival and reproduction for you, proto-humanoid. But conditioned taste aversions are almost a universal. In a vein related to the chapter, many of us have known cancer patients (or expectant mothers) who were careful to time eating their favorite meals, for fear that a later bout of medication-induced (or baby-related) nausea would trick the body. The result: just the thought of a beloved dish would lead to a queasy, woozy feeling. Anything but anticipation.
Part of what makes conditioned taste aversions interesting is that they seem to violate a couple of the "rules" exposed by decades of laboratory research on classical conditioning. The UCS and CS did not need to be immediately paired. There was no multiple-trial training phase (as per the cartoon in the video).
UVM psychology professor, and super-smart guy, Mark Bouton has literally written the book on modern learning theory. Make no mistake. As we'll see, the "cognitive revolution" has taken some of the learning world's thunder. But Pavlov's basic discoveries have led to a long, rich, diverse line of work that cuts across psychology's sub-disciplines. One of Mark's long-term interests is in the context of learning. How is it that the entire situation plays a part in classical conditioning? This line of thought has some interesting implications. For example, people who misuse drugs like heroin are at great risk for overdose when they disrupt their usual drug-taking ritual -- even if they do not alter the amount of drug. That's because it's not simply a matter of the chemical interaction between the drug and the person. Rather, it's the complex interplay of biological and psychological factors that determine the drug-taker's experience (which, for better or worse, is suppsed to be pleasurable).
Granted, discussing the plight of people who inject drugs is a little...heavy. Another aspect of classical conditioning is worth punching up a bit, just because it's everywhere. I'm talking about a puzzling situation in the world of advertising and marketing: the paired association of hyper-sexualized people (usually women) with..just about anything. Cars and beer, of course, figure prominently (those are PG-13 links, and for a ribald send-up, here's a classic from when Saturday Night Live was funny -- even without Betty White's help).
You can do the math. What are the UCS, the UCR, the CS, and the CR? Now, for this to make sense, you have to keep the following things in mind.