Ultimate and proximate causes

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Relatively permanent change in behavior or behavior potential that results from experience.

Classical Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov


Discovered classical conditioning while studying dogs saliva in 1927. Found he didn’t have to put food in dogs mouth after while to get saliva.

Something + Food = Salivation

Initially, Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) (food) elicits salivation, but Conditioned Stimulus (CS) (tone) does not.

CS is paired with UCS over time.


CS alone elicits salivation. (No food is  needed to elicit salivation. Ringing bell gives desired response.)


An unlearned complex behavior pattern (building a web).

Humans have unlearned reflexive behavior but no instincts.

Critical Period is the period of time after birth when an instinct kicks in. Baby ducks believe the first thing that moves near them is their mother.

Reflex arc

A behavior that is unlearned and not complex. (Feeling something hot.)

Classical conditioning is done at the reflexive level. Neutral stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus to elicit the unconditioned response. After while, neutral stimulus elicits the unconditioned response without presence of unconditioned stimulus. The neutral stimulus is now the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response is now the conditioned response.

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Involves the temporal relationship between two stimuli

Involves simple reflexive response

The response does not have an effect on the outcome

Classical Conditioning Paradigm

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS) → unconditioned response

Conditioned stimulus (CS) + unconditioned stimulus (UCS) → unconditioned response

Conditioned stimulus → conditional response

In psychology, a lot of emotions are classically conditioned.


the progressive increase in strength of a conditioned response with presentation of CS and UCS.


the progressive decrease in strength in a previously conditioned response with presentation of the CS only.

Spontaneous Recovery

the recurrence of a previously extinguished response after a period of rest. The recurrence is not as strong as the initial acquisition.

Speaking in public – audience is cs and there is not ucs

If you want to get over it, you have to speak in public. If you won’t do that, you can start by just standing in front a large group of people.

Stimulus generalization

when a response classically conditioned to a particular cs will be elicited by a similar cs.

Instrumental Learning (operative learning)

Involves the relationship between a response and the stimulus that follows

The response has an effect on the outcome

Thorndike’s Puzzle Box (Cat, string, door open, food outside)

Trial and error learning (Cat takes time to pull string)

Thorndike’s “law of effect”

If behavior is followed by a reward it will increase the probability that the behavior will occur again. If the behavior is followed by a negative it will decrease the probability that the behavior will occur again.


What causes behavior?

The Behaviorist’s perspective

Behavior is determined by its natural and probably consequences.

Skinner: “Selection by consequences”

No free will.

In other words….Behavior is motivated by the perceived events and conditions that follow it. Importance of “perceieved”

Example: The TN lottery (a tax on the stupid)

A – B – C Model


persons, places, things, or events occurring before a behavior that encourage a person to perform a behavior.

only work when they signal consequences.


any behavior.


the events that follow behavior and change the probability that the behavior will occur again.

Behaviorist believe that consequences are what determine behavior.

The problem with Humanism

Humanism = people believe that people grow towards perfection

Implication = an over-emphasis on antecedents and under-emphasis on consequences.

Categorizing Consequences

Positive/Negative = P/N

Immediate/In the Future = I/F

Certain/Uncertain = C/U

The most effective consequences are PIC and NIC. The least effective consequences are NFU and PFU.

Never ask someone why they did something. Ask what happens to someone when they do something.

If you can’t enforce consequences you are NOT the consequence manager.

Past experiences with rewards and punishments help determine ones behavior.

Burrhus Frederic Skinner


Operant Conditioning

Operant Chamber/Skinner box

Instrumental Conditioning

Trial and error learning?


Behavior shaping?

(rewarding partially correct behavior)

Behavior shaping

reinforcing successive approximations.

What does it mean to be responsible for your behavior?

Important Dimensions of Consequences

Magnitude – has to be something worthwhile


Schedules of Reinforcements

Continuous reinforcement (CFR)

everytime you do it, you get rewarded

Intermittent reinforcement (INT)

don’t reward every response

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Types of Intermittent reinforcement

Fixed Ratio (FR)

Fixed Interval (FV)


Variable Ratio (VR)

Variable Interval (VI)

Ratio strain

too much or too little VR or VI

Social Learning Theory

Observational Learning

What is required for modeling? (The Model, a conducive motivational state, and an opportunity)


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