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Flashcards in Animal Behaviour-Learning Deck (28)
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What is learning?

A change in cognitive state due to experience


How do scientists test whether an animal has learned something?

Have control and test group (in which test group undergoes a certain experience). Then subject them to a standard test
E.g- Testing whether canaries had learnt to sing more. One group lives with other adults whereas the controls live alone/are isolated. They are then placed with females later on in life and if the experimental group have more success and sing more then they have learnt a behaviour. This learnt behaviour could be that they have learnt how to sing their songs due to listening to other songs or could just be that they are not scared of other birds due to their experience so other tests may have to distinguish this


What is meant by 'General process learning'?

It was thought in the 1950s that there are general rules of learning that governs learning in all animals (including humans)


What happened in the 1960s after the general process learning theory was introduced?

It was seen that there were constraints on learning and that animals couldn't just learn anything e.g rats avoided shock in experiment but by behaviour that is already natural to them, not new behaviour


By the 1970s, what was the theory about animals learning behaviour?

Adaptive specialisations- species specific behaviour, different for different species in different contexts


What is the current understanding in terms of learning behaviour of animals?

Mixture. There are underlying general processes of learning which are then modified in different species/circumstances; sometimes being specialised as an adaptation or coming from an evolved predisposition


What are the 3 dimensions of learning?

1) Conditions for learning
2) Contents of learning
3) Effects of learning on behaviour


What is meant by 'conditions for learning'?

Sex, age, past experience but most of all type of experience

Type of experiences may come from a reliable pattern of events (e.g blackburns eat worms when it rains) or from important events like being attacked by a predator


What is meant by 'contents of learning'?

This is based on internal cognitive structure. This may be from associations such as when encountering one stimulus, remembering an event with another stimulus. This may also be from forming more complex representations/maps or forming templates (e.g canaries may form a template of a song so they can compare theirs)


What is meant by 'effects of learning on behaviour'?

Two views: Radical behaviourists which believe that learning is only from experience or those who believe that learning and performance are two separate things e.g proven by white-crowned sparrows which learn songs from their parents but don't sing until a later time

In addition, the state in which the animal is in further proves that learning and performance are separate. Marsh tits store food, when deprived they go back to their location. If they have an abundance of food then they go store in a different location


Pavlov's experiment was about ringing a bell, presenting dogs with food in which the dog starts salivating. Eventually, ringing the bell without any food would make the dogs salivate anyway. What sort of response is it for a dog to salivate when it has food?

An innate reflex (it is automatic, not learnt). Both the presence of food and the presence of the saliva are unconditioned stimuli (US) and responses (UR)


What is the conditioned response referring to in Pavlov's dogs?

Conditioned stimulus=bell
Conditioned response=salivating

This is because the dog predicts it is getting food and so is proof that it has learnt something


Pavlov's conditioning is a type of associative learning. Describe the two classes of associations in this.

Statistical association between the bell and the food
Mental association


What is a statistical association? What must there be for one to be formed?

When there is a physical association between two things and there must be contingency for this to happen e.g when light is on, food is released/not released as oppose to the light having no relationship with the food and being random. The CS must predict the US


When food is released when the light is on and therefore has a statistical association, what is the relationship called? What about when no food is released when light is on but is when it is off?

Excitatory relationship
Inhibitory relationship


What are the requirements for pavlovian/classical conditioning?

Contingency (statistical associations)
Suprise- if they are to learn anymore about an event
Timing- there must be a delay between the stimulus and the effect (could be mililseconds, seconds or hours)


When something is learnt in Pavlovian conditioning, an association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus or between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response. What are they both called in short?



How was it discovered that S-S associations were forming/being learnt as oppose to S-R associations?

Stimulus devaluation procedure-

Stage 1- Rats given food when hearing tone
Stage 2- Rats given mild toxin when hearing tone
Test- Rats given food--->aversion

This proves S-S association; this is because the food is the stimulus and anticipatory behaviour or illness is the response. If it were S-R then it would not avoid the food as it would be put off by the tone


Is it always S-S association or are there times when it is R-R associations?

Yes there are times when it is a learnt reflex and is an S-R association


As mentioned before, contingency, surprise and timing are learning rules. There are also performance rules, what is stimulus substitution?

This happens in pigeons
A test in which one light key was associated with food and the other war associated with water, it was shown that when deprived of both, and only the food key was available, the pigeons tried to 'drink' it and they also tried to peck at the water key when only that was available. This does not always happen e.g rats that associate other rats with food do not try to eat them when deprived of food!


Another type of conditioning is called instrumental or operant conditioning. What is this?

A learning process in which behaviour is modified by the reinforcing or inhibiting effect of its consequence. An action leads to an outcome


What are the four types of causal relationships in instrumental/operant conditioning?

R makes S more likely, it is excitatory and the stimulus value is positive so the animal increases R
This can be the same except the stimulus value is negative and so R is decreased
Another relationship is that R makes S less like, this is inhibitory and the stimulus is positive so R is decreased
(e.g dog stops chewing on sofa to get treat)
Lastly, the same but stimulus value is negative so R is increased


Reinforcement is when R is increased, explain the difference between positive and negative reinforcement

Punishment is when R is decreased, explain the different between positive and negative punishment

Positive reinforcement is when you do something and get a good reward
Negative reinforcement is when you do something bad and don't get a good reward
It is called positive punishment if you do something bad and get a bad reward
Negative punishment is when you stop doing something bad and get a good reward


Another way of learning is Recognition learning. What is this?

Learning about objects, other animals and events in the absence of obvious relationship with other events


What types of recognition learning are there?

Sensitisation, habituation, perceptual learning, imprinting


What is habituation?

When you have repeated exposure to a stimulus, your reaction to them get slower/ stop responding. This ensures animals adapt to their environment and don't always react to stimuli that keep happening

There is short term and long term


What is sensitisation?

When repeated exposure makes animals react more and more. One stimulus can make them more aware of other stimuli too. This is basically the opposite of habituation but habituation is much more specific to certain stimuli


What can natural selection act upon to affect learning in animals?

Parameters of learning, predisposition of animal, value of reward, attention and sensitive periods