Cognitive and Behavioural Views of Learning - Essay Example

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Learning is involved in literally all aspects of human life. From the cradle, we learn to crawl, then walk, and use our hands; by lapse of time we acquire more complex skills, such as reading or writing, or playing football; we learn how to persuade people, make them give us what we want; and during most part of our life we also learn how to learn…
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Cognitive and Behavioural Views of Learning
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Download file to see previous pages Representatives of behaviourism, cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, and other perspectives demonstrate variety of views regarding the nature of learning. Learning as conditioning, learning as the formation and alteration of symbolic structures, learning as the adjustment of weights in a neural net - these are only some of them. The views of learning adopted by representatives of the most widely known schools - behaviourist and cognitive - provide a bright illustration to the origins and gravity of these differences.
The concept of learning is the central axis of behaviourism. J. Watson B. Skinner and E. Thorndike, the founding fathers of behavioural approach in psychology, are concerned not with what is going on inside the brain but rather with establishing cause-effect relationship between the act of behaviour and observable causes produced by that act.
The origins of behaviourist perspective are traced back to John Watson (1878 - 1958) whom was the first formulate the principles of modern behaviourism. His definition of this approach was highly practical. Thus, Watson believed psychology should be a purely objective field of knowledge used to accurately predict and control human behaviour. Introspection and self-analysis are useless if applied to psychology and there is no difference between humans and animals. In fact, Watson neglected the concept of the conscious as such (Littleton, Toates, & Braisby, 2002).
Formulating his views Watson relied heavily on the Ivan Pavlov's discovery of the mechanism of classical conditioning. Pavlov's studies of dog's digestion transformed the common understanding of learning. The scientist carried out a series of experiments in order to test his initial conclusions. He provided a sound or light signal that was immediately followed by some food placed in the dog's moth. The dog started to perceive the signal in conjunction with the food and after several repetitions the dog salivated immediately after the signal even without any food. This fact made Pavlov introduce a new psycho-physiological concept of a conditional stimulus in distinction to an unconditioned stimulus (Littleton, Toates, & Braisby, 2002: 170-171).
Although Pavlov revealed the phenomenon of classical conditioning during experimental studies, which involved animals, the key principle of this process is valid in human behaviour too. Watson described an example of the classical conditioning in human beings. Albert, an infant with a pet rat, was not afraid of it until once Watson banged a metal plate while the boy was reaching for his pet. Subsequently, Albert started to demonstrate fear of the rat (Littleton, Toates, & Braisby, 2002: 172). Another good example of the classical conditioning in humans is the bell-and-pad technique that is often used to cope with bed-wetting in children. Two perforated metal sheets connected to a low-tension battery are placed under the bed sheet. When a child moistens the bed urine short-circuits the sheets, and the battery produces a laud alarm making the child wake up. After several alarms the child is able to wake up without the alarm: the sensation of a full bladder ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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