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Chapter: Psychology: Learning

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Classical Conditioning

Habituation is important, but it tells the organism about only a single stimu-lus—is the stimulus novel and so worth exploring, or familiar and therefore safe to ignore?

CLASSICAL CONDITIONING

Habituation is important, but it tells the organism about only a single stimu-lus—is the stimulus novel and so worth exploring, or familiar and therefore safe to ignore? Other forms of learning provide more information and, in particular, provide the organism with information about the relationships among events in the world.

Relationships  come  in  many  varieties.  One  event  might  cause  another;  an action  might  prevent  some  outcome; a  certain  circumstance  might  magnify  an experience; and so on. Overall, though, relationships can usually be understood in  terms  of  associations: Your  dog  learns  to  associate  the  sound  of  your  foot-steps with the possibility of a treat; you have learned to associate thunder with light-ning;  the  farmer’s  cows  learn  to  associate  a  certain  time  of day  with  milking.  Th importance  of these  associations  was,  as  we’ve  seen,  highlighted  by  the  empiricistphilosophers, but the experimental study of these associations did not begin until theend of the late 1800s,  when the work of the Russian physiologist Ivan PetrovichPavlov (1849–1936) made a major contribution (Figure 7.2).


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