PSYCH101 Study Guide

Unit 4: Learning and Memory

4a. Discuss research conducted by notable scholars such as John B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov

  • What field of psychology did John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov develop?
  • What were each of these psychologists' contributions?

John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov were founders and developers of the school of behaviorism. Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson developed classical conditioning, the learning theory that suggests that the pairing of stimuli explains behavior. B.F. Skinner, on the other hand, focused on the immediate consequences of behaviors and used punishments and rewards to condition animals to engage in certain behaviors (e.g., teaching pigeons to bowl).

Behaviorism focuses primarily on overt/observable behavior and exploring what motivates animals and humans to repeat or avoid certain behaviors. To date, behavioral theories as those introduced by these researchers are still used widely in clinical and educational settings, among others.

To review, see sections 6.2 and 6.3 of the textbook and "Conditioning and Learning".


4b. Describe major learning theories, including operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and observational learning

  • What is operant conditioning? Who founded it?
  • What is classical conditioning? Who founded it?
  • What is observational learning?

B.F. Skinner largely founded the area of operant conditioning. In this type of conditioning, a rewarding stimulus is presented for desirable behavior whereas a punishment is presented following undesirable behavior. The theory suggests that reinforced or rewarded behavior is more likely to be repeated than behavior that has been punished.

Classical conditioning was developed by Ivan Pavlov in his work with dogs. John B. Watson applied the same principles to humans. Classical conditioning examines pairing a neutral stimulus to behavior or interactions. For example, Watson paired the presentation of a neutral stimulus like a cute animal with a loud sound that would cause a fear reaction in a young child. Through numerous paired presentations, the child will eventually become afraid of a cute animal.

Albert Bandura focused on modeling or observational learning. His most famous study focused on children watching an aggressive act on a video and then having opportunity to replicate the same behavior they watched.

To review, see sections 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4 of the textbook and "Conditioning and Learning".


4c. Understand real-world applications of learning theories, including reinforcement and reinforcement schedules, punishment, and shaping

  • What are some real-world examples of reinforcement, punishment, and shaping?

Educational settings are a prime example of the principles of behaviorism. For example, teachers may reward certain behaviors like raising hands or sitting still by rewarding children with stars or stickers. Similarly, if children fail to follow directions, teachers may remove stickers from a reinforcement chart.

When teaching new skills such as writing neatly, teachers often utilize shaping or successive approximation. For example, a teacher might reward a student for correctly spelling the word the first time, and then only reward correctly spelled and also neatly written worked the next time around.

To review, see section 6.3 of the textbook.


4d. Understand how memory functions, memory processes, and the parts of the brain involved in memory processing

  • What are the stages of memory processing?
  • What parts of the brain are involved in memory processing?

Memory, our system of storing and retrieving information, can be thought of as an information processing system similar to a computer. Memory is processed in the following order: Encoding – Storage – Retrieval. During the encoding stage, our brain receives or inputs new information. This process may be enhanced if there is meaning attached to new information. After information gets encoded, it moves onto storage for retention. Memory must pass through the following stages in order to move to storage: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Retrieval or recall is the last part of the system and refers to drawing on memory when we need it. It can be further differentiated between recall (accessing information without cues) and recognition (identifying previously learned information via comparisons).

Some scientists argue that specific parts of the brain are involved in the memory process.

The amygdala regulates and controls emotions and can thus affect how memories are stored (for example, by the stress or emotion they are associated with). There is also evidence that the hippocampus is involved in retaining spatial memories and attaching meaning to memories. Finally, the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex are responsible for forming implicit memories i.e. procedural memory. Aside from specific parts of the brain, there is also reason to suggest that neurotransmitters affect memory storage.

To review, see sections 8.1 and 8.2 of the textbook"Information Processing", and "Memory (Encoding, Storage, Retrieval)".


4e. Differentiate among the various types of memory, including semantic, episodic, sensory, short-term, long-term, declarative (explicit), procedural, and implicit

  • What's the difference between semantic and episodic memory?
  • How is long-term memory further divided?

Long-term memory can be further divided into explicit/declarative memory (memory we personally experience) and implicit/non-declarative memory (not part of our consciousness such as the memory that is formed during behaviors).

Semantic and episodic memory are both components of explicit/declarative memory (memories that we can try to recall consciously). Semantic memory refers to words, concepts, and facts, whereas episodic memory refers to our previous experiences. Only long-term memory can be recalled at a later point in time.

To review, see section 8.1 of the textbook.


4f. Explain how the various types of memory work together, the causes of memory problems, and methods to improve memory

  • What's the difference between retrograde and anterograde amnesia?
  • What common memory problems occur in forensic/criminal matters?
  • What are common strategies to enhance memory functioning?

The various parts of the brain that have been thought to affect memory (amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex) work together to form, store, and retrieve information. However, sometimes our brains fail (such as if we experience head trauma), and we cannot form new information or retrieve previous memories. For example, patients diagnosed with anterograde amnesia cannot remember new information, whereas those suffering from retrograde amnesia cannot recall events or information prior to a memory-related injury.

Forensic, criminal, and social psychologists also point out that people are susceptible to false memories or can be subjected to conditions in which their memories are recalled incorrectly. Common memory problems that impede adequate recall of events witnesses commonly experience include suggestibility, eyewitness misidentification, and the misinformation effect.

There are also a number of strategies you can use to improve your memory such as chunking, elaborative rehearsal, and mnemonic devices. Chunking refers to organizing information into chunks or bits of information, e.g., remembering your social security number in a pattern of three and two digits (XXX-XX-XXX) rather than memorizing individual digits. Elaborative rehearsal is a process in which you attribute meaning of new information to already stored information. Mnemonic devices are aids to help you retain new information.

To review, see sections 8.3 and 8.4 of the textbook and "Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Biases".


Unit 4 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Operant conditioning
  • Classical conditioning
  • Shaping
  • Modeling
  • Reinforcement
  • Punishment
  • Reinforcement schedule
  • Neutral stimulus
  • Conditioned response
  • Conditioned stimulus
  • Short-term memory
  • Long-term memory
  • Semantic memory
  • Episodic memory
  • Declarative (explicit) memory
  • Procedural memory
  • Implicit memory
  • Amnesia
  • Chunking
  • Elaborative rehearsal
  • mnemonic devices
  • Suggestibility
  • Eyewitness misidentification
  • Misinformation effect