CHAPTER 6 Learning

Classical Conditioning

Pavlov’s Demonstration: “Psychic Reflexes”

Terminology and Procedures

Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life

Basic Processes in Classical Conditioning


Operant Conditioning

Thorndike’s Law of Effect

Skinner’s Demonstration: It’s All a Matter of Consequences

Terminology and Procedures

Basic Processes in Operant Conditioning

Reinforcement: Consequences That Strengthen Responses

Intermittent Reinforcement: Effects of Basic Schedules

Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement and the Study of Choice

Positive Reinforcement Versus Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement and Avoidance Behavior

Punishment: Consequences That Weaken Responses


Changing Directions in the Study of Conditioning

Recognizing Biological Constraints on Conditioning

Recognizing Cognitive Processes in Conditioning


Observational Learning

Basic Processes

Acquisition Versus Performance



Putting It in Perspective

Personal Application     Achieving Self-Control Through Behavior Modification

Specifying Your Target Behavior

Gathering Baseline Data

Designing Your Program

Executing and Evaluating Your Program

Ending Your Program

Classical Conditioning in Advertising

Classical Conditioning in Business Negotiations

Classical Conditioning in the World of Politics

Becoming More Aware of Classical Conditioning Processes

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe Pavlov’s demonstration of classical conditioning and the key elements in this form of learning.
  2. Discuss how classical conditioning may shape phobias and physiological processes, including sexual arousal.
  3. Describe the classical conditioning phenomena of acquisition, extinction, and spontaneous recovery.
  4. Describe the processes of generalization and discrimination, and summarize the classic study of Little Albert.
  5. Explain what happens in higher-order conditioning.
  6. Discuss the nature of operant responding in comparison to the types of responding typically governed by classical conditioning.
  7. Describe Thorndike’s work, and explain his law of effect.
  8. Describe Skinner’s principle of reinforcement and the prototype experimental procedures used in studies of operant conditioning.
  9. Describe the operant conditioning phenomena of acquisition, shaping, and extinction.
  10. Explain how stimuli govern operant behavior and how generalization and discrimination occur in operant conditioning.
  11. Discuss the role of delayed reinforcement and conditioned reinforcement in operant conditioning.
  12. Identify various types of schedules of reinforcement, and discuss their typical effects on responding.
  13. Explain how operant psychologists study choice, and summarize what they have learned.
  14. Explain the distinction between positive and negative reinforcement.
  15. Describe and distinguish between escape learning and avoidance learning.
  16. Explain two-process theory and the role of negative reinforcement in avoidance behavior.
  17. Describe punishment and its effects.
  18. Discuss the phenomena of instinctive drift, conditioned taste aversion, and preparedness.
  19. Explain the evolutionary perspective on learning.
  20. Describe research on signal relations and response-outcome relations, and explain their theoretical importance.
  21. Discuss the nature and importance of observational learning.
  22. List the basic processes in observational learning, and discuss Bandura’s view on whether reinforcement affects learning or performance.
  23. Explain how the chapter highlighted two of the text’s unifying themes.
  24. Describe how to specify your target behavior and gather baseline data for a self-modification program.
  25. Discuss your options for increasing or decreasing a response in designing a self-modification program.
  26. Discuss how to execute, evaluate, and end a self-modification program.
  27. Describe how classical conditioning is used to manipulate emotions.

Glossary of Terms


Chapter 6


The formation of a new conditioned response tendency.


In behavior modification, events that typically precede the target response.


Orientations that locate objects of thought on dimensions of judgment.

Avoidance learning

Learning that has occurred when an organism engages in a response that prevents aversive stimulation from occurring.

Behavior modification

A systematic approach to changing behavior through the application of the principles of conditioning.

Behavioral contract

A written agreement outlining a promise to adhere to the contingencies of a behavior modification program.

Classical conditioning

A type of learning in which a neutral stimulus acquires the ability to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.

Concurrent schedules of reinforcement

Two or more reinforcement schedules that operate simultaneously and independently, each for a different response.

Conditioned reinforcers

See Secondary reinforcers.

Conditioned response (CR)

A learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of previous conditioning.

Conditioned stimulus (CS)

A previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a conditioned response.

Continuous reinforcement

Reinforcing every instance of a designated response.

Cumulative recorder

A graphic record of reinforcement and responding in a Skinner box as a function of time.

Discriminative stimuli

Cues that influence operant behavior by indicating the probable consequences (reinforcement or nonreinforcement) of a response.

Electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB)

Sending a weak electric current into a brain structure to stimulate (activate) it.


To draw out or bring forth.


To send forth.


Forming a memory code.

Escape learning

A type of learning in which an organism acquires a response that decreases or ends some aversive stimulation.


The gradual weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency.

Fixed-interval (FI) schedule

A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given for the first response that occurs after a fixed time interval has elapsed.

Fixed-ratio (FR) schedule

A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given after a fixed number of nonreinforced responses.

Higher-order conditioning

A type of conditioning in which a conditioned stimulus functions as if it were an unconditioned stimulus.

Immune response

The body's defensive reaction to invasion by bacteria, viral agents, or other foreign substances.

Instinctive drift

The tendency for an animal's innate responses to interfere with conditioning processes.

Instrumental learning

See Operant conditioning.

Intermittent reinforcement

A reinforcement schedule in which a designated response is reinforced only some of the time.

Law of effect

The principle that if a response in the presence of a stimulus leads to satisfying effects, the association between the stimulus and the response is strengthened.


A relatively durable change in behavior or knowledge that is due to experience.

Matching law

The fact that, under concurrent schedules of reinforcement, organisms' relative rate of responding to each alternative tends to match each alternative's relative rate of reinforcement.


A person whose behavior is observed by another.

Negative reinforcement

The strengthening of a response because it is followed by the removal of an aversive (unpleasant) stimulus.

Observational learning

A type of learning that occurs when an organism's responding is influenced by the observation of others, who are called models.

Operant chamber

See Skinner box.

Operant conditioning

A form of learning in which voluntary responses come to be controlled by their consequences.

Optimal foraging theory

The idea that the food-seeking behaviors of many animals maximize the nutrition gained in relation to the energy expended to locate, secure, and consume various foods.

Partial reinforcement

See Intermittent reinforcement.

Pavlovian conditioning

See Classical conditioning.


Irrational fears of specific objects or situations.

Positive reinforcement

Reinforcement that occurs when a response is strengthened because it is followed by the presentation of a rewarding stimulus.


A species-specific predisposition to be conditioned in certain ways and not others.

Primary reinforcers

Events that are inherently reinforcing because they satisfy biological needs.

Reciprocity norm

The rule that people should pay back in kind what they receive from others.


An event following a response that strengthens the tendency to make that response.

Reinforcement contingencies

The circumstances or rules that determine whether responses lead to the presentation of reinforcers.


Largely unconscious defensive maneuvers a client uses to hinder the progress of therapy.

Resistance to extinction

In operant conditioning, the phenomenon that occurs when an organism continues to make a response after delivery of the reinforcer for it has been terminated.

Respondent conditioning

See Classical conditioning.


Recovering information from memory stores.

Schedule of reinforcement

A specific presentation of reinforcers over time.

Secondary (conditioned) reinforcers

Stimulus events that acquire reinforcing qualities by being associated with primary reinforcers.


The reinforcement of closer and closer approximations of a desired response.

Skinner box

A small enclosure in which an animal can make a specific response that is systematically recorded while the consequences of the response are controlled.

Spontaneous recovery

In classical conditioning, the reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of nonexposure to the conditioned stimulus.


Any detectable input from the environment.

Stimulus discrimination

The phenomenon that occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus does not respond in the same way to stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.

Stimulus generalization

The phenomenon that occurs when an organism that has learned a response to a specific stimulus responds in the same way to new stimuli that are similar to the original stimulus.


Maintaining encoded information in memory over time.

Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon

A temporary inability to remember something accompanied by a feeling that it's just out of reach.

Token economy

A system for doling out symbolic reinforcers that are exchanged later for a variety of genuine reinforcers.


A progressive decrease in a person's responsiveness to a drug.


In classical conditioning, any presentation of a stimulus or pair of stimuli.

Unconditioned response (UCR)

An unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without previous conditioning.

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS)

A stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response without previous conditioning.

Variable-interval (VI) schedule

A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given for the first response after a variable time interval has elapsed.

Variable-ratio (VR) schedule

A reinforcement schedule in which the reinforcer is given after a variable number of nonreinforced responses.