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PSYCH305: The Psychology of Learning and Behavior

Unit 2: Philosophy and Psychology: Thinking about Learning   Learning theories may be thought of as a progression from philosophical takes on introspection to specific theories developed to explain the many ways that learning develops in animal and human organisms.  Initially, learning was explained through the philosophical musings of Aristotle and Plato, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s, scientists such as John Watson argued that the best way to understand learning was to study observable phenomena, not consciousness or the mind.  From that perspective grew behaviorism, a strict focus on observable behaviors and data gathering.  Although learning theory has greatly expanded from the initial behaviorist perspectives to include areas such as social learning theory and cognitive theory, the initial influence of philosophy must not be overlooked.  In particular, the earlier philosophical approaches are most integrated in the discussion of ethical practices, particularly in the area of research. 

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take approximately 5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 2 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify differences between case study and traditional experimental studies of behavior.
  • Explain the role of ethics in human and animal research.
  • List and explain the precursors of modern learning theories

2.1 Experimental Studies   - Reading: ResearchMethodsinPsychology.com’s “Experimental and Non-experimental Research” Link: ResearchMethodsinPsychology.com’s “Experimental and Non-experimental Research” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Pay special attention to the pivotal strengths and limitations of each research approach.  While traditional experimental studies are considered desirable, it should be notes that case studies often include quantitative evidence.
 
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  • Reading: Animal Behavior Society: Dr. Charles Snowdon’s “Significance of Animal Research Behavior” Link: Animal Behavior Society: Dr. Charles Snowdon’s “Significance of Animal Research Behavior” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: The importance of animal research in the study of psychology cannot be overstated.  Although this type of research is often controversial, modern researchers, particularly in behavioral neuroscience, continue to rely on animal models to examine relevance to human behavior.
     
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2.2 Ethics in Research   - Reading: Texas A&M; University: Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health’s “The Arguments for and against Animal Testing” Link: Texas A&M University: Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health’s “The Arguments for and against Animal Testing” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down to find the PDF titled: “Pros and Cons of Animals in Research.”  This reading should facilitate some serious thinking about where you stand on the use of animals in behavioral research.
 
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