Learning and Behavior Term Paper

Pages: 12 (3105 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Teaching


Paul Chance's book Learning and Behavior provides students and teachers with some intriguing and interesting ideas in learning about the psychology of learning. The theme running throughout the book is that "learning is a biologically evolved mechanism for coping with an ever-changing environment." (pg xiv), and it is fairly easy to discover what is meant by that statement, as well as a large number of examples applying the statement's meaning.

A general overview of the book displays the ease under which the reader can read the words and comprehend not only the meaning of the individual words, but the philosophical meaning of the words as well. Unlike many similar texts, Paul Chance's book is an easy read providing a style that allows the readers to follow along as he leads along the rosy and philosophical road to educating teachers and students in the field of learning and behavior.

Paul Chance has written the book with a number of different chapters, each chapter containing information that is beneficial not only on their own merits; covering a different idea or process, but also in regards to how the sections relate to each other and the ideas studied therein. Written in this style, Paul leads the reader not just from chapter to chapter, but from idea to idea, bringing about a fruition of style that is as easy to gain knowledge as it is to read from.

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Chance introduces us to the world of philosophy by referring to a Roman philosopher, quoting Lucretius by telling us that the only constant in the world is change, and then refers the reader to the mighty changes taking place around the planet on a daily basis.

He informs us that what we many times do not realize is that as human beings are only on this planet for a relatively short time, all we see is sameness. Yet this sameness that we see is constantly in a state of flux.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Learning and Behavior Assignment

Our time here is too brief to see continents crash together and tear apart, mountains rise and fall, vast deserts replace oceans; too brief to see thousands of animal and plant species come and go." (pg 1) What the reader does realize is that Chance could be right on the button with his introduction. A good example of this is the 'global warming' hue and cry currently heard from the bastions of science throughout the modern world. it's man's fault, they cry, yet according to Chance many of these changes could be taking place through no human intervention whatsoever. Surrounded by nature's forces, mankind is dwarfed by its overwhelming power. Chance quotes Richard Dawkins from his book the Blind Watchmaker with an analogy about the arrangement of stones on a beach.

What has sorted, arranged, and selected the stones...is the mechanical, unthinking force of the waves." (pg 3) it is interesting to note that Chance, a man devoted to learning and thinking, uses the term 'unthinking' to describe nature. He tells the reader about human beings later in the book by stating; "their extraordinary learning ability has enabled them to reshape their world." (pg 18) Which leaves the reader with the question; isn't that exactly what the waves are doing (reshaping the world)? Chance answers that on the very next page in the book by showing how evolution and learning work together to increase the chances of survival by a particular organism.

Chance then explains how learning ability shown in human beings is an 'evolutionary mechanism'. By explaining this concept he is able to coordinate his efforts to guide the reader in understanding his specific position in how thinking and learning work together, and how the two interact with each other in order to produce behavior.

As thinking and learning, and of course the produced behavior, is studied, human beings can begin to understand why certain actions are taken and why certain input produces specific results. The way the data is studied is almost as important as the data itself. Paul gives the reader the opportunity to discover exactly how some data is extrapolated and how significant, or less significant, the information can be. He also describes the different methods for obtaining such information and provides reasoning as to how and why, and in what circumstances the information can be applied.

Mr. Chance also takes great pains in clarifying exactly what learning is. He states on page 34 that 'learning is a change in behavior', and by that he means that "the individual under study responds differently than it once did." (pg 34) He measures the change in behavior by having the subject repeat processes again and again. This is an excellent example of 'reinforcement' that Chance discusses on page 118. He states; "Chaining makes it clear just how important reinforcement is in operant learning." (pg 118) Operant learning is when people make changes to their environment that in turn makes changes on them.

Chance uses the experiments of Edward Lee Thorndike as examples of studies in operant learning. Thorndike studied animal's intelligence in the late 1800's and early 1900's. There were so many stories of 'supernormal psychology of animals' being told that Thorndike decided to find out if the stories had any merit whatsoever. To do this, he studied a variety of animals and how they learned. The tests he conducted focused on the way that animals learned a specific behavior. An example of this would be when Thorndike studied chicks. He would time how long it would take a chick to make its way through a maze to food and other chicks. Each time he conducted the test the chick would shorten the length of time it took to accomplish the goal. Thorndike learned, that unlike human intelligence, animal intelligence was derived primarily from a process of trying any number of variables until they stumbled across the correct one. Eventually the animal learned to eliminate the wrong guesses until only the right guesses were left.

Thorndike is often said to have studied 'trial and error learning'. In fact, he opposed the term, emphasizing that it is trial and success, not failure that typically produces learning." (pg 103) Thorndike discovered that animals did not have abstract reasoning capabilities, but were able to recognize through trial and success the correct choices they needed to make in order to ensure success.

He also discovered the Law of Effect.

He describes that law as; "that when a response is followed by a satisfying state of affairs, it tends to be repeated; when a response is followed by annoying state of affairs it tends to disappear." (pg 104) Chance states it another way by saying that 'behavior is a function of its consequences.'

Paul Chance depicts in vivid detail what operant behavior is and how it is implemented in human learning, and he does this by citing not only Thorndikes's studies of animals but other psychologists as well. Chance writes about two other psychologists in particular; Clark Hull who 'believed that animals and people behave because of motivational states called drives," (pg 124) and David Premack who generalized; "of any two responses, the more probable response will reinforce the less probable one." (pg 126) According to Chance, this generalization became known as the Premack Principle. Both drives and the Premack Principle play important roles in the defining of Operant Behavior.

More importantly than either the Premack Principle or the drives as defined by Hull, was the work that B.F. Skinner was able to accomplish once Thorndike was able to lay the psychological foundation. Skinner enjoyed testing rats to prove his theories and from his tests he was able to discern four operant procedures. According to Chance, Skinner's four operant procedures included two that strengthened behavior and two that weakened behavior. These procedures that strengthened behavior he called reinforcement, while those procedures that weakened behavior were called punishment. The reinforcements were categorized as positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is something that "ordinarily...the organism seeks out," while negative reinforcement is something that the "organism tries to escape or avoid." The negative reinforcement can be applied in two different methods and they are broken down into Type I Punishment and Type II Punishment. Type I punishment is when a response is 'followed by the appearance of an aversive stimulus' while Type II punishment takes place when 'behavior is followed by the removal of a positive reinforcer.'

Chance shows us how Skinner advanced the field and study of Operant learning and behavior and does so in a straightforward, clear manner that allows the reader to understand exactly what Chance is attempting to portray. When he discusses in detail the differences of Thorndike's studies and Skinner's studies, he does so with a clarity that assists the reader in understanding why both individuals were so important to the advancement of learning.

Paul also goes into detail of Pavlovian procedures, and attempts to be especially clear when he compares the Pavlovian procedures to Operant procedures. This is one part of the book that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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