Elementary learning processes. Topics include how organisms learn about events per se (e.g. habituation), how they learn relations among events (e.g. Pavlovian Conditioning), and how they learn relations between their own behavior and events (e.g. instrumental learning)
University of Pennsylvania
Psychology 121: Learning
This course is intended to do two things: (a) acquaint students with our current knowledge about elementary learning processes and (b) expose students to the logic of carrying out empirical investigation of an important psychological phenomenon. It emphasizes current theoretical and experimental investigations of simple learning processes. The major topics covered include habituation, sensitization, Pavlovian conditioning, and instrumental learning. Most of the research covered focuses on learning and acquired motivational processes as exemplified primarily in nonhuman organisms, although some applications to human behavior are made.
The textbook for the course is David A. Lieberman Learning: Behavior and Cognition, 2000, Wadsworth (3rd edition). There is also bulk pack with additional required readings, available from Campus Copy. The articles in the bulk pack are examples of the professional literature in this area, but they are accessible to students gaining their first acquaintance with the material.
The course requirements consist of two hour examinations and a final examination. These examinations emphasize the ability to think creatively and analytically with the course material. Simple memorization of the content covered in the text or lectures will not yield a satisfactory examination performance. Rather it is necessary to develop skill in the analysis and design of experiments.
Instructor: Robert Rescorla
Office: D-9 Solomon Psychology Lab
I will not hold regularly scheduled office hours, but I am happy to schedule a meeting with you either after class or by email. I plan to eat lunch in an accessible place once a week. I will announce where and when later. I welcome your joining me to discuss the course material or other topics of interest to you.
Teaching Assistant: Hilary Dingfelder
Office: C-14 Solomon Psychology Lab
Office Hours: Monday 11:00 – 12:30; Thursday 1:30 – 3:00
Below is an outline of the major topics covered in the course. The attached sheet lists the readings by week.
I. Introduction: Basic Learning Situations (Sept 5 - 19)
A. Individual Stimulus Learning
B. Pavlovian Conditioning
C. Instrumental Learning
II. Learning about individual events (Sept 21 - Oct 3)
A. Selected Examples
1. Empirical Relations
C. Some applications
III. Learning about relations among events: Pavlovian Conditioning
A. Conditions for the formation of associations
1. Contiguity (Oct 5 - 8)
2. Challenges to contiguity (Oct 10 - 17)
3. Selectivity of associations (Oct 19)
4. Constraints on learning (Oct 24 - Oct 29)
B. Content of learning (Oct 31 – Nov 9)
C. Mapping of learning into performance (Nov 12)
D. Some particular cases (Nov 14)
1. within-compound learning
2. hierarchical organization
IV. Learning about relations between behavior and events: Instrumental behavior
A. Positive Reinforcers
1. Stimulus-response approach (Nov 14 - Nov 21)
a. theories of reinforcement
2. Response-outcome approach (Nov 26 - Nov 28)
B. Avoidance Learning (Nov 30 – Dec 3)
C. Extinction (Dec 5 - 7)
Examinations (Tentative dates)
Hour Exam: Oct 12
Hour Exam: Nov 9
Final Examination: Dec 17, 9:00 am.