- Where Psychology Becomes Easy

Psychology Unit 2

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Unit 2 Learning Approach Revision

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Key Assumptions:

  • Focus on the environment: 
    -the environment shapes people by reinforcement in order to develop in specific ways. When people are punished for an action they are less likely to repeat it, unless when the person is punished they accept that as attention, and therefore repeat the action as attention is rewarding.
  • Focus on scientific measures:
     -This is because behaviour is hard to study; it is therefore more difficult to draw scientific conclusions from it. Specific actions are isolated and studied to find out how to stop them and what’s in place for these actions.

Key terms

  • Classical Conditioning:
      - Stimulus and response of reflexes -Eye-blinking, breathing               -Good when explaining phobias
  • Operant Conditioning:
      - Behaviour is voluntary and considers punishments and rewards        -Stickers, token economy, detention
  • Social Learning Theory:
      - We learn though watching and copying others especially role models and people we look up to.
  • Stimulus & response:


Classical Conditioning:

It is how a stimulus is associated with a response, and it can explain how someone can be conditioned into a response from a stimulus that wouldn’t normally happen.

Classical conditioning is learning by association.

UCS: unconditioned stimulus

UCR: unconditioned response

NS: neutral stimulus

CS: conditioned stimulus

CR: conditioned response

Pavlov’s dog explanation:

Food = saliva


Bell + food = saliva

NS     UCS    UCR

Bell = saliva

CS       CR

Operant Conditioning:

  • Uses reinforcement:

       Primary, secondary, negative, positive, punishment

  • Explores the learning of voluntary actions
  • Consequences come after response

Skinner (1935)

  • Developed the theory of operant conditioning
  • He used animals so that he could isolate measurable behaviour and reinforce it in various ways in investigate the effects.
  • As the rats were so hungry the food was a reward and therefore encouraged them
  • He could vary conditions: the rat could only work the lever id the red light was on, rather than the green.

Thorndike (1911)

  • Put a cat in a box and there was only one exit that could be opened by a system of levers
  • As the cat tried to get out by pushing a few levers, it realised what it was supposed to do, and therefore realising by pushing the levers meant that the food would be released.


An important aspect of operate conditioning as the desired behaviour may not be immediate, therefore can’t be reinforced. The outcome (desired behaviour) may have to be shaped by reinforcing steps towards that desired behaviour.

Shaping is when behaviour is arrived at by:

  1. Rewarding more towards the desired behaviour
  2. Then, waiting for an action near the desired behaviour
  3. Finally, waiting for the actual behaviour before offering reinforcement

This is a ONE step “cure”, where clients are placed in a safe environment and then confront their fear head-on.

It can either be done in vivo (in a real, live situation)

Or it can be done in an illustrated or imagined scene (implosion therapy), where the fear is destroyed privately.

Evaluation of operant and classical conditioning in terms of explaining human behaviour:

+Both Operate and Classical conditioning are conditioning in a Lab experiment, this means there are high levels of control, easy to isolate and control and shows cause-and-effect relationships. In a lab it also adds a scientific value.

+Therapies: evidence for real life application

-Animals are used and therefore not generalisable to humans (different brains)

-Lab experiments and animals are being used means there is a lack of validity.

Treatments/therapy for Classical and Operant conditioning

Aversion therapy (funny)

Social Learning Theory:

Theorists suggest we learn through observational learning.

  1. Modeled
  2. Identified
  3. Remembered
  4. Imitated.

Models behavior rewarded means that you’re more likely to imitate

Models behavior punished means that you’re less likely to imitate

Vicarious reinforcement:

We learn how to imitate behavior by watching others.

4 aspects:

  1. Modeling effect – people copy behavior that you wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t have seen it
  2. Eliciting effect – copies the behavior but does something slightly different
  3. Inhibiting effect: people stop doing something as they see someone punished for it
  4. Disinhibiting effect – would not carry out an action even after seeing someone else successfully carry it out with no punishment

Cognitive processes in observational learning

  1. Attention
  2. Retention
  3. Reproduction
  4. Motivation

Social Learning Theory as an explanation of human behavior

+There is a great deal of experimental evidence to support the theory and the behavior that was learned is visible.

+Rise to practical application e.g. in therapies

-There might be a lack of validity s the behavior might not be exhibited immediately.

-Studies often are carried out on animals and therefore are hard to generalize to humans.


  • It relies on objective data for diagnoses, for example chemical levels, tumors etc.
  • Results tend to be easy to measure quantitatively because they are measured accurately, often with machines.
  • Proven effectiveness of treatments.

  • its reductionist, because it ignores the other approached.
  • It ignores the role of environmental factors and those such as experiences and feelings.
  • Cause & effect can't always be determined, e.g. does a disorder cause higher levels or a neurotransmitter, or do high levels of a neurotransmitter cause a disorder?

Study to support the SLT

Bandura, Ross and Ross 1961

Studies in detail

Describe and evaluate Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961) Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models and one other study.

The other study pick was:

Watson and Rayner (1920) Little Albert


Bobo Doll Experiment

Little Albert study

Pavlov's Dog Experiment