Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior - Sensation & reality - Perceiving the World - States of Consciousness

Conditioning & Learning - Cognition & Creativity - Artificial Intelligence - Enhancing Creativity

Emotion - Health, Stress & Coping - ANS Effects

Theories of Personality - Dimensions of Personality - From Birth to Death - Child Development

Conditioning and

Learning creates mental expectancies about events. Information processing (rather than a 'stamping in' of responses) and expectation affect learning. Once acquired, these expectancies alter behavior. If expectations change, behavior will too. And, the adaptive value of information helps explain why much human learning occurs without obvious reinforcement by food, water, and the like. Humans readily learn responses that merely have a desired effect or that bring a goal closer. In computer use, in the playing of a musical instrument, in cooking, solving math problems -- the reinforcement comes from knowing that you succeeded at getting a desired result. [A machine's responsiveness and the information flow it provides can be very motivating if the player's goal is to win or to master the game.] A responsive environment and Information are two key elements that underlie learning. Learning. Some learning can be thought of as just a connection between stimuli and response. But, even basic conditioning has "mental" elements. As a human, you can anticipate future reward or punishment and react accordingly. Human learning includes a large cognitive, or mental, dimension. We are greatly affected by information, expectations, perceptions, mental images, and the like.


Two-factor learning - Classical and operative learning interact.

Feedback [knowledge of results - KR] It is information about what effect a response had. It improves performance. Essential to learning. Most effective when immediate, frequent and detailed. It provides an opportunity to adjust mistakes, make improvements on performance --to sing, speak a second language, deliver a speech, sports. [Note: Replays are most helpful when a skilled coach directs attention to key details] Feedback combined with operant learning in interesting ways:

Programmed instruction - Breaks down learning into series of small steps and gives immediate feedback. The purpose of frequency is to keep learner from practicing errors. Student doesn't move on until mastering initial phase. Teaches in a format that requires precise answers about information as it is presented. Another advantage is it allows students to work at their own pace.

Computer-assisted instruction [CAI] - Provides alternative exercises to understand a concept. Closely related to practice for exam --constantly drilling and taking tests simulating the real thing. Students work at individual computer terminals. Computer displays lessons on screen, and students type answers. Newest CAI programs, which use artificial intelligence programs, can even give hints about why an answer was wrong and what is needed to correct it. Rapid feedback and individualized pacing. Can accelerate learning for business, military, learning various college subjects. Doesn't improve skill or level. Does save time and effort. Self-paced drill and practice format is simplest, instantly providing correct answers and KR (knowledge of results --how fast you worked, your % correct, how work compared with previous scores, etc) Instructional games and educational simulations increase interest and motivation with use of stories, competition with a partner, sound effects, and gamelike graphics. Students can discover basic principles of physics, biology, psychology by seeing the effects of their choices in an imaginary situation or 'microworld.'

Spaced practice - Learning that increases with practice [4-5 minute intervals] and is most effective when short practice sessions are alternated with rest periods. Keeps fatigue and boredom to a minimum. It can also prevent the learner from practicing errors when tired. (Perfect practice makes perfect.)

Massed practice - Little or no rest is given between learning sessions of massed practice lowers performance during training. In the long run, skills learned with spaced practice are retained better than those learned by massed practice.

Positive transfer - Mastery of one task aids mastery of a second task (skis get longer, ride bike before ride motorcycle).

Negative transfer - Skills developed in one situation conflict with those required to master a new task . Most likely to occur when a new response must be made to an old stimulus. (A trailer attached to car forces steering to be turned opposite from direction you want trailer to go)

Motor skill - A series of actions molded into a smooth and efficient performance. Typing, walking, pole-vaulting, shooting baskets, playing golf, driving a car, writing, and skiing are examples. Begin as simple response chains. As skills improve, we typically develop motor programs for them. Motor skills are actually very mental.

Motor Programs - Mental plans or models of what a skilled movement should be like. (Musical skills in the head, not in the fingers)

Mental practice - Merely thinking about or imagining a skilled performance can aid learning. Seems to help by refining motor programs. The more familiar you are with a skill, the more mental rehearsal helps.

Biofeedback - Applying the principle of feedback to bodily control. It promotes learning by converting bodily processes into a clear signal that provides information about correct responses. It holds promise as a way to treat psychosomatic problems (illnesses caused mainly by stress or emotional factors), psychosomatic illnesses, anxiety, phobias, drug abuse, etc. Has proved helpful but not an instant cure. It can definitely relieve muscle-tension headaches and migraine headaches. It shows promise of lowering blood pressure and alleviating irregular heart rhythms. The technique has even been used with some success to control epileptic seizures. How? Benefits arise from general relaxation. Perhaps just acts as a "mirror" to help a person perform tasks involving self-regulation. But, doesn't do anything by itself. It can help people make desired changes in their behavior. Has special promise for the rehabilitation of people suffering from nerve damage, muscular disorders, and stroke.

Negative reinforcement. Response is followed with an end to discomfort or with the removal of a negative state of affairs. Occurs when a response ends or removes an unpleasant event: Your aspirin taking will be negatively reinforced if headache stops. Like positive reinforcement, it increases responding --but, by ending discomfort. Rat presses bar until it turns off the shock, etc. Bar pressing increases because it leads to a desired state of affairs --food or end to pain.

Positive reinforcement. Response is followed by a reward or other positive event. A pleasant or desired event follows a response. Positive and negative reinforcement often combine --relieving hunger with good tasting food (positive reinforcement) and end of nagging hunger (negative reinforcement).

Punishment. Response is followed with pain or an otherwise negative event, such as the removal of a positive reinforcer (response cost). It is any event that follows a response and decreases its likelihood of occurring again. For better or worse, it is one of the most popular ways to control behavior. Spanking, reprimands, loss of privileges such as "grounding," fines, jail sentences, and firings, failing grades, etc. Dangerous situations reguire decisive action. More effective than counsel or coaxing, especially if its a life or death situation! And, it should be clear that it is the behavior and not the person that is punished. And, a child should know the rules and the consequences before punishment unforced. Also, punishment should never be enforced while one is angry. The anger is never fair. To rely upon punishment alone for training or discipline is most common error. Frequent punishment makes a person or an animal unhappy, confused, anxious, aggressive, and fearful of the source of punishment.

Response cost - a reinforcer or positive state of affairs is removed.

Variables affecting punishment:
l. Timing. As response is being made or immediately afterward --this suppresses behavior best.

2. Consistency. Each time a response occurs.

3. Intensity. Severe punishment may permanently suppress behavior (even something as basic as eating), while behavior is apt to reoccur when mild punishment is given (especially if the positive reward for snacking is equal to or exceeds mild punishment for doing it).

Requirements for Effective punishment:
1. Must be equivalent to crime.
2. Must be consistent.
3. Must be intense and harsh.

Ways of eliminating undersirable behavior [3 basic tools to control simple learning]:
1. Reinforcement strengthens responses -- of good behavior (no attention for negative behavior)

2. No reinforcement causes responses to extinguish --Ignore it. Don't reinforce negative behavior.

3. Punishment suppresses responses.

[These tools work best in combination. If you choose to use punishment, it is best to also reward
an alternate, desirable response. If reinforcement is missing from the formula, punishment becomes less effective.
From an informational view, punishment tells a person or an animal that a response was "wrong" without
saying what the "right" response is, so punishment does not teach new behaviors.]

Negative Aspects of Punishment [side effects]:
l. Punishment creates a fear of the punishing agent (teacher or parent). Punishment is aversive (painful or uncomfortable). Thus people and situations associated with punishment tend, through classical conditioning, to also become aversive (feared, resented, or disliked). Thus, punishment is especially poor to use when teaching children to eat politely or when toilet training them.

2. Kids learn to escape from and avoid the punishing agent. Aversive stimuli usually encourage escape learning (after warning, but before the punishment) and avoidance learning (before the expected warning of the punishment). Running away (escape) and lies (avoidance) may be encouraged.

3. Encourages aggression. Animals consistently react to pain by attacking whomever or whatever else is around. Most common responses to frustration is aggression. It may feel good if frustration or induced hostility or anger are released or relieved (punch someone or something else). Thus the positive reinforcement or reward for release will tend to stimulate it to occur again in other frustrating situations.

[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989; Zigler, Edward F. and Matia Finn-Stevensen, Yale University. Children, Development and Social Issues. Lexington, MA & Toronto:]



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