MCAT Content / Associative Learning / The Role Of Cognitive Processes In Associative Learning

The Role of Cognitive Processes in Associative Learning

Topic: Associative Learning

Appropriate cognitive processes are necessary for the associate learning of non-instinctual behaviors.

Clinical and operant conditioning fall under the behaviorist tradition of psychology, which is most strongly associated with B.F.Skinner. Behaviorism is not concerned with the unobservable events occurring within the mind, it focuses on the observable traits and actions of organisms. This perspective views the brain as a “black box” which does not need to be incorporated into the discussion.

While Skinner and other behaviorists contributed a great deal to science, this extreme form of behaviorism has lost favor. As a reaction to behaviorism, cognitive psychology emerged. In cognitive psychology, researchers began to focus on the brain, cognitions (thoughts), and their effects on how people navigate the world. Cognitive psychologists do not see learning as simply due to a stimulus pairing and reinforcement. Although its importance is acknowledged, cognitive psychologists do not believe that all learning can be explained in this way.

Cognitive scientists have proposed different theories of learning. Insight learning is the term used to describe when previously learned behaviors are suddenly combined in unique ways. This also works the other way: previously unseen behavior can manifest quickly when required. Latent learning is when something is learned by not expressed an observable behavior until it is required.

 

Practice Questions

 

Khan Academy

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Practice Exam 1 P/S Section Passage 6 Question 32


Key Points

• Appropriate cognitive processes are necessary for the associate learning of non-instinctual behaviors.

• In behaviorism, all psychological phenomena are explained by describing the observable antecedents of behaviors and its consequences.

• As a reaction to behaviorism, cognitive psychology emerged. In cognitive psychology, researchers began to focus on the brain, cognitions (thoughts), and their effects on how people navigate the world.

• Learning new behaviors is possible up to a point through both classical conditioning and operant conditioning, but the activities are always prone to biological constraints.


Key Terms

Behaviorism: all psychological phenomena are explained by describing the observable antecedents of behaviors and its consequences

Insight learning: when previously learned behaviors are suddenly combined into unique ways

Latent learning: is when something is learned by not expressed an observable behavior until it is required

B.F. Skinner: developed the theory of operant conditioning

Antecedent: an expression that gives meaning to something



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