Updating Pavlov's Understanding

Topic: Updating Pavlov's Understanding

Posted by: Sunnah Baek

Key Terms:

  • cognitive process : thoughts, perceptions, expectations
  • expectancy : an awareness of how likely it is that the UCS will occur
  • Garcia Effect (taste aversion) : highly selected nature of food aversion
  • Rescorla-Wagner model : model of classical conditioning in which the animal is theorized to learn from the discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens


Cognitive Processes

- Before, behaviorists believed that the learned behaviors of various organisms could be reduced to mindless mechanisms
-HOWEVER, Robert Rescorla and Allan Wagner argued that when two significant events occur close together in time, animals learn predictability of the second event

Ex. a shock is preceded by a tone, sometimes by a light that accompanies a tone
=> the rat will react with fear to the tone but not the light ; the tone better predicts
impending shock

=> more predictable the association, stronger the conditioned response

- By understanding the cognitive process, Rescorla surmised that classical conditioning IS NOT a stupid process by which organisms form associations with any two stimuli

From here, we can conclude that even in classical conditioning, it is not only the simple CS-UCS association but also the thought that counts

Biological Predispositions

-In the past, Pavlov and Watson believed the basic laws of learning were essentially similar in all animals => WRONG
-An animal's capacity for conditioning is constrained by its biology; biological predispositions of each species dispose it to learn the particular associations that enhance its survival

Ex. John Garcia and Robert Koelling was doing a research on the effects of radiation on laboratory animals.Rats began to avoid drinking the water from the plastic bottles in radiation chambers.They thought, maybe it was because of the classical conditioning; plastic tasting water (CS) to sickness (UCR) triggered by internal state (UCS)
HOWEVER, they found out,
1) if sickened after tasting a particular novel flavor even after several hours, rats thereafter avoided that flavor=> violate the notion that UCS must follow the CS immediately,
2) sickened rats developed aversion to the tasts but not to the sights or sound => contradicted the idea that any perceivable stumulus could serve as a CS

-Birds, which hunt by sight, appear biologically primed to develop aversion to the sight of tainted food
-Humans develop an aversion to the taste of contaminated mussels, but not the sight

=>natural selecion favors traits that aid survival

*Such research results may controlling predators and agricultural pests

The discovery of biological constraints on learning affirms a deep principle : Learning enables animal to adapt to their environments

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Related Videos and Pictures:

taste aversion

Updating Pavlov's Understanding - The Neuron

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