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Highlight the main processes involved in learning by association and learning by trial and error. Briefly discuss the implications on such learning processes of (a) research showing infants’ preference for specific stimuli, (b) research on cognitive map, and (c) Erikson’s view of personality development in the first two stages. Learning is recognized as the higher-order cognitive processes of apprehending and acquiring knowledge about the world (Kvan E, 2001:29-30).

Brain is the main organ to be used in processing the input-and-output data from which perception and memory are the important factors in the learning process (Kvan E, 2001:29-30). In the following context the main processes involved in learning by association and learning by trial and error will be highlighted. In the second part of the question, we will briefly discuss the implications on such learning processes of research showing infants’ preference for specific stimuli, research on cognitive map, and Erikson’s view of personality development in the first two stages.

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Ivan Pavlov who developed classical conditioning, an influential work of learning, by adopting Aristotle’s basis idea of ‘association’, which refers to put the relative things together in people’s minds in order to make them in connection with each other. Furthermore, the application of the general scientific approach to conduct the experiments and studies by following the principle of the complex processes that are the combination of their constituent parts. Pavlov’s work can be divided into four parts (= four simple units of learning) that are ‘conditioning’, ‘higher order conditioning’, ‘extinction’ and ‘generalization and discrimination’ (Kvan E, 2001:41) and will be explored as follows:

Apparently ‘conditioning’ was built as the fundamental part to dictate the reflex to the other parts in Pavlov’s work, which regulated the procedure from Stage 1 to Stage 4 (Kvan E, 2001:41). Pavlov confined the environment as a control in the laboratory to run his study by using a dog to support and substantiate this part of his work (conditioning). Undoubtedly, the rules regulated in the laboratory were essential to comply with.

The relationship between stimulus and response was recognized as the cause-and-effect in conditioning. The nervous system, which is divided by the central nervous system (= high nervous system) that commands the functions of the brain and spinal cord and by the peripheral nervous system (= low nervous system) that influences the activities of the sense organs, glands and muscle, is the important system to dictate the relationship of the stimulus and response. In Pavlov’s theory, stimulus refers to the external stimulation or irritation to the creatures and is divided by the UnConditional Stimulus (= UCS) and Conditional Stimulus (= CS) respectively.

Moreover, response refers to the reflex stimulated or irritated by the external stimulus and is divided by the UnConditional Response (= UCR) and Conditional Response (= CR). Unconditional is described as the natural one which was found in the Stage 1 of Pavlov’s work to show that the dog salivated spontaneously to the food (Kvan E, 2001:32). Food such as meat acted as an UCS and the secretion of saliva acted as an UCR in response to the meat, which were said to be UCS produces UCR (Kvan E, 2001:32). Conditional is deemed as the artificial (= man-made or unnatural) one with intention included. In the subsequent presentation of the Stage 2 showed that there was no salivation response of the dog by using CS such as ringing the bell or flashing a light, which were said to be CS producing no salivation (Kvan E, 2001:32).

Generally speaking, the outcome was found independently and differently in the respective Stage 1 and 2 by adopting various kinds of stimulus (UCS or CS). Afterwards, in Stage 3, CS (e.g. ringing the bell) was paired with UCS (e.g. giving the food) and presented several times in sequence, say ten trials, and UCR (e.g. salivation) was arisen as a result. Subsequently, the eleventh trial was added after the Stage 3 and regarded as Pavlov’s Stage 4. The ringing bell provided alone without the provision of food in the eleventh trial. The phenomenon appeared that salivation generated after CS. Therefore, the bell was described as stimulus to the response of salivation.

CS produced CR in Stage 4 with the precondition of running Stage 3. Pavlov concluded that if Stage 3 repeated few more times, the response in Stage 4 would be stronger (the amount of saliva drops). The number of paired presentations of CS and UCS could always be interpreted as the independent variable and CR was described as the dependent variable which relied on the number of paired presentations played (Kvan E, 2001:33). The outcome of a number of drops of saliva (CR) was generated in association with the CS and UCS (Kvan E, 2001:33). Obviously, dog learned to associate with CS and UCS as it assumed and expected the food (UCS) would always come after the sound (CS) as in Stage 3 and Stage 4. Consequently, UCS acted as the reinforcer of the new association.

Higher order conditioning in Pavlov’s work demonstrated the usage of simple conditioning could lead to more complex behaviour (= behaviour of a higher order) (Kvan E, 2001:35). The subsequent steps of Stage 5 and 6 in Pavlov’s theory were effective to show the higher order conditioning. CS acted as the major element in the higher order conditioning instead of UCS. CS was divided into CS(1) and CS(2) respectively shown in the Stage 5. CS(1) referred to ring the bell which was the familiar element and had been appeared in Stage 2, 3 and 4 respectively. CS(2) referred to the flash of light which was the new injected element.

In Stage 5, CS(2) was paired with CS(1) and repeated several times then CR (e.g. salivation) occurred as a result. Subsequently, Stage 6 was conducted by using CS(2) (e.g. light) alone without the support of CS(1) (e.g. bell) but CR was also found at the end. It reflected the dog learned to respond to the light alone. Apparently, CS(1) in Stage 5 and 6 served as the reinforcer instead of UCS but its function could not be lasted too long when reaching to certain high level (the peak). Afterwards, the extinction will be coming up as predicted.

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