Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. It is an ongoing process that starts at birth and continues throughout our lifespan to help us adapt and cope in an ever changing world. From an evolutionary point of view learning is critical for for our survival in enabling us to distinguish between edible and inedible foods and to tell apart friends from enemies. The range of possible foods or threats are too great to be prewired into the brain, so instead we have the ability to learn from trial and error, and from observance of others, and to remember this learned information for future use.
Note that in this post I will be using the word organism a lot when describing learning processes that apply to humans as well as animals and insects. I’m not trying to be a cold and calculating science type, but for the purpose of this type of guide it is somewhat necessary… and besides, you are an organism!
By the end of this chapter of Psychology 101, you should be able to:
- Define learning
- Understand the basic principles underlying classical conditioning
- Understand the basic principles underlying operant conditioning
- Understand the various reinforcement schedules
- Explain the basic premise of social cognitive theory.