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PSYCH305: The Psychology of Learning and Behavior

Unit 5: Behaviorism: Basic Concepts and Processes   Behaviorism, a specific subfield of psychology, has much to contribute to learning theory.  Behaviorism’s emphasis on data collection and observable behaviors has led to a deeper understanding of how humans process information, particularly reinforcers and punishments.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit will take 15 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 2.0 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 5.0 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 3.0 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the differences between primary and secondary reinforcers.
  • Explain the process of behavioral shaping and the role of successive approximation.
  • Identify the difference between positive and negative punishment.
  • Explain the difference between one-process and two-process theories of punishment.
  • Explain some of the problems associated with punishment.

5.1 Reinforcement and Shaping   - Reading: AnimalBehavior.net: Judith K. Blackshaw’s “Learning Theory: Shaping” Link: AnimalBehavior.net: Judith K. Blackshaw’s "Learning Theory: Shaping" (HTML)
 
Instructions: The author of this brief work points out a vital component of providing reinforcement—the timing of the behavior and the reinforcement. A former professor of mine pointed out often the principle of “catch them when they are good” but also “catch them when they are bad.”  If your dog messes the carpet and four hours later you return from work, reprimanding the dog and rubbing the dog’s nose in the mess, you have effectively punished the dog for greeting you at the door!
 
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  • Web Media: YouTube: Vancouver Island Assistance Dog’s “Shaping Explained” Link: YouTube: Vancouver Island Assistance Dog’s "Shaping Explained"(YouTube)
     
    Instructions: This is another interesting and informative video on the subject.  The video explains how to teach a dog to turn off a light switch.  Please watch the brief 4-minute video in its entirety.
     
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5.2 Punishment and Extinction   - Reading: StrangeLoops.com’s “Controlling Behavior: Reward and Punishment” Link: StrangeLoops.com’s "Controlling Behavior: Reward and Punishment" (HTML)
 
Instructions: As the source paper notes, sometimes reinforcing behaviors, such as gambling, can have negative consequences such as losing all your money or becoming addicted.  You could use punishment to reduce the behavior.  For instance, if a gambler were to encounter a painful shock every time a coin was placed in a slot machine, this would result in a decrease in this behavior (hopefully!).  Alternately, we could simply prevent the machine from paying off (extinction), which is a better alternative if—and only if—the money received was truly the reinforcer.  If the person played because he liked to watch the wheels spin, the playing behavior would not be extinguished.  If you enjoy gambling (i.e., losing money) and happen to become a psychologist, explain your presence at the slot machines and table games in a casino by saying you are not gambling, but, in fact, are “just doing research on behavioral principles and statistical probability theory!”
 
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  • Reading: University of Iowa: Ed Wasserman’s “Punishment” Link: University of Iowa: Ed Wasserman’s "Punishment" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please review the terms in this brief glossary, which nicely defines the differences between positive and negative punishers. 
     
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  • Reading: EzineMark.Com: Niki Tudge’s “Why Is Punishment so Hard to Get Right in Dog Training?” Link: EzineMark.Com: Niki Tudge’s "Why Is Punishment so Hard to Get Right in Dog Training?"(HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this entire article to explore the answer to the question: why is punishment so hard to get right in dog training?
     
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  • Reading: Purdue University: Ed Vockell’s “Negative Side Effects of Punishment” Link: Purdue University: Ed Vockell’s "Negative Side Effects of Punishment" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This is an excellent resource on the relationship between reinforcement and punishment.  Please read the entire webpage.
     
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  • Reading: Articles Base: Niki Tudge’s “Spare the Rod and Train the Dog: Punishment and Its Fallout” Link: Articles Base: Niki Tudge’s "Spare the Rod and Train the Dog: Punishment and Its Fallout" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this brief, interesting piece involving dog training.
     
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5.3 Corporal Punishment   - Reading: Humanism by Joe: Joe C. Sommer’s “Corporal Punishment of Children Is Harmful” Link: Humanism by Joe: Joe C. Sommer’s "Corporal Punishment of Children Is Harmful” (HTML)
 
Instruction: Please read this entire article.  Corporal punishment (i.e., spanking) is much more controversial in modern times than it was 50 years ago.  Now, parents who spank (especially in public) often are frowned upon.  This reading attempts to make the case against spanking, using learning principles as a platform.
 
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  • Reading: Preserve Articles: Saurab’s “5 Important Features that Determine the Effectiveness of Operant Conditioning in Controlling Behavior” Link: Preserve Articles: Saurab’s “5 Important Features that Determine the Effectiveness of Operant Conditioning in Controlling Behavior” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article.  This reading provides a basic overview of primary, secondary, and generalized reinforcers.
     
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  • Reading: Psychiatry.HealthSE.com’s “Emergence of Instrumental and Operant Learning” Link: Psychiatry.HealthSE.com’s "Emergence of Instrumental and Operant Learning" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article. The terms operational and instrumental learning are often considered to be synonymous.  A principal, and often confusing, distinction between the two is that “operant” refers the operations of the organism, while instrumental refers to the “Behavior—Reinforcement” connection.
     
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