Lesson Five: The Psychology of Learning

Understanding How We Learn

Welcome to lesson five of the free Introduction to Psychology online course! In the first four lessons, we covered the basics of psychology, research methods, biopsychology and states of consciousness. In today's lesson, we will focus on the psychology of learning.

From the day we our born, we begin a process of learning that lasts throughout life. While there are many ways to define and describe learning, it is typically defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior as a result of experience.

In this week's lesson, we'll explore several different theories of learning.

Syllabus for this week:

  • Classical conditioning
  • Operant conditioning
  • Schedules of reinforcement
  • Observational learning

Click the links below to read the articles and resources related to each topic in this lesson. There's no homework for this lesson, but there is one short quiz. Remember, this course in 100 percent self-directed. There are no grades! You are entirely responsible for reading and learning the material. Good luck with this lesson!

The Power of Associations

You've probably heard of Pavlov's dogs at some point, but many people don't fully understand exactly what this famous research illustrates. Classical conditioning is one of the best-known concepts of behavioral learning theory. Learn more about this process in this introduction to classical conditioning .

Classical Conditioning Basics

Now that you understand how classical conditioning works, it is also important to understand some of the basic phenomena that also occur during this process.

Learn more about such things include acquisition, extinction and discrimination in this overview of principles of classical conditioning.

The Consequences of Behavior

Operant conditioning is one of the fundamental concepts in behavioral psychology. This type of learning involves using reinforcement and punishment to either increase or decrease behaviors.

Learn more about the effects of rewards and punishments on behavior in this overview of operant conditioning.

How Timing Impacts Learning

The types of reinforcement use are important, but timing also plays a critical role in how quickly new behaviors are acquired and how strong these new responses are. Learn more about how the timing of reinforcement impacts speed and strength of responses in this article on schedules of reinforcement.

Classical Versus Operant Conditioning

Now that we've explored classical conditioning and operant conditioning, do you think you could immediately identify which is which. In a classroom setting, chances are good that you're instructor will provide some examples of learning and expect you to identify which type of conditioning is used. Read the following article to learn more about the major differences between the classical and operant conditioning.

Learning Through Observation

Psychologist Albert Bandura proposed social learning theory, which emphasizes the importance of observational learning.

As you can imagine, a great deal of learning takes place simply through watching the people around us. Learn more about this theory including basic concepts and how the process works in this overview of social learning theory.

Quiz Time!

Now that you have a basic understanding of some of the major types of learning, it is type to put your knowledge to the test. Take this 15-question quiz to assess what you've learned so far. If you are still struggling, be sure to go back and review the materials before taking the quiz again. Take the Quiz.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you have reached the end of lesson five! This lesson offers just an overview of the basics of learning. Now that you have a strong understanding of the basics, you will be better prepared for further study on this subject.

Feel free to move on to lesson six once you feel comfortable with the material included in this lesson. If you feel like you still need extra time to study, consider spending a few days reviewing the information before you continue on to the next lesson in the series.

In addition to exploring the articles in this lesson, you might want to spend some time going over our suggestions on how to take psychology notes, reviewing our collection of psychology study tips and reading our advice on how to study for a psychology exam.

Sign-Up for the Psychology 101 E-Course

Do you want to also receive these lessons in your email inbox? Consider subscribing to the Psychology 101 E-course. Each lesson in this free e-course will arrive via email each week. Be sure to check out the Psychology 101 e-course FAQ page to learn answers to some of the most common questions about the class.

For even more psychology articles and resources, don't forget to subscribe to the weekly About.com Psychology Newsletter!

Next: Lesson 6

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