Abnormal Psychology Essay

Jacquelyn Sniff 28 April 2010 Exam 3 essay I. Stimulus control is the process where a stimulus increases the probability of a behavior by reinforcing the desired behavior in the presence of the stimulus. Throughout chapters eight and nine in “Learning and Behavior”, examples of Stimulus Control, and how one learns to Generalize and Discriminate in the real world are provided. Topics such as verbal behavior, self, animal training, and TV and violence are discussed. “The traditional view of language is that words are vehicles for moving ideas from one head to another”.

However, the alternate view given is expressed in a book written by Skinner called “Verbal Behavior”. Skinner states that in order to understand the nature of the spoken and written word, one must first recognize that they are forms of behavior. He goes on to say if one wants to understand verbal behavior, one must understand the effects of verbal behavior on the social environment. Examples are given regarding infants and the process of their development of language.

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Statements are made describing how parents often naturally reinforce infants for making sounds, and continue to do so until an infant is grown and speaks full sentences. Also, Herbert Quay, experimented to find that the tendency of psychotherapy patients to talk of family relationships, most likely has more to do with the reinforcing reactions they receive from their therapist, than the unique importance of their experiences (265-268). Other real world Stimulus Control examples such as self-injurious behavior and self-control are discussed in chapter eight.

In self-injurious behavior, Ivar Lovass, finds that providing harmless (yet not painless), shocks to a child who hits himself 300 times over the course of ten minutes, ends his long-standing self-injurious behavior. Other therapists, who do not like the idea of using physical punishment to change a child’s behavior, develop alternative treatments, such as reinforcement, to stop the child’s behavior. In one case, food is periodically provided to an 8-year-old boy if he plays steadily with a ball, rather than hit himself. Since playing with a ball nd hitting oneself is difficult, if not impossible to do, the child continues to play with the ball and his self-injurious behavior falls over 90% (239-240). The use of self-control is also discussed. Self-control techniques are learned behaviors that are established and maintained by their consequences. Self-control refers to the tendency to do things now that effect our later behavior. One may try to quit smoking to help improve their health, and may give their pack of cigarettes to their roommate and tell him or her to only give them three cigarettes a day.

Or, they may distance themselves from their friends who smoke, in hopes of reducing the temptation to smoke. Techniques such as physical restraint, distancing, monitoring behavior, and informing others, are some of the learned methods that teach people to exert self-control (242-244). Observational learning has occurred in many animals. An experiment demonstrates that animals, in this case monkey’s, benefit from the consequences of a model’s behavior. Carl Warden runs the experiment, and sets up two different cages.

One holds a trained, model monkey, the other, an observer monkey. The results of the experiment show that the observer monkey learns to open a door and eat a raisin, simply by observing the model monkey (277). Although Observational learning brings forth many positive results, research shows over the course of history that observed aggression & violence can often lead to counterproductive behavior. One of the most famous studies done by Albert Bandura tells of how nursery school children watch a five-minute videotape of two men, Rocky and Johnny interacting in a playroom.

In the video, Johnny plays with many of the toys, and Rocky asks Johnny to share the toys, but he refuses. Rocky then decides to get physical. He begins to hit Johnny with a rubber ball, and then moves on to more severe actions, such as hitting him with a baton. At the end of the video, Rocky’s behavior is reinforced, as he is announced as the “winner”. After the nursery school children have watched the video, they are put into a similar situation, but with a blow up doll in the room, rather than an actual person. The kids react in the same way as Rocky did in the video.

The results of this experiment show the children are far more likely to commit aggressive acts if they have seen a model reinforced. Also, there is good reason to believe that criminal activity is also strongly affected by observational learning, through watching violent television programs, which reinforce aggressive behavior. II. Similarities between the horse training model, the police dog, and Riley: • All three use a discrimination learning method, which teaches them to make different responses to certain stimulus. • Each animal is presented food as a stimulus. Each succeeds with their training. Differences between the horse training model, the police dog, and Riley: • Although each receives food as a stimulus, other stimulus is presented, such as the smell of drugs, for the drug dog. • The police dog is continuously successful every time he is supposed to find drugs, whereas the horses and bird are not as successful. • In the horse training model paper, the horse has a discrimination task in which the color (blue or yellow) of a center panel signals the correct (left or right) response. The police dog can be trained by playing “tug-of-war” with an unscented towel, and then the handler adds different scents of drugs to the towel, causing the dog to desire to search for the “towel” (drugs), when they smell them. • Riley was trained to know he would receive a treat after hearing bird noises by playing bird noises, and then providing him with a treat. He sort of began to learn he was receiving treats when the music, his stimulus, played, but not entirely. III. Stimulus Control, Operant learning, and Observational learning help psychologists and non-psychologists understand our world in numerous ways.

By looking at stimulus control, one can see how both stimulus generalization, and stimulus discrimination can affect one’s behavior. If one is afraid of spiders, and one’s little brother throws one of his fake toy spiders at the person, their reaction will most likely be fear because of stimulus generalization, where stimulus similar to the primary stimulus is presented, causing the trained reaction to occur toward different stimulus. Operant learning plays a large role in how people function. Operant learning is where the likelihood of a behavior occurring again is affected by its consequences.

If a child learns they will receive allowance at the end of every week if they complete a list of weekly chores, the child is most likely to complete the list if the allowance is continually given to him or her following their completion. Observational learning is also very important in understanding why a person may act in a certain manner. If parents are shy and do not want to make the effort to explain the details of what could possibly come along with having sex, the child will not know much about the effects sex possibly could have, but will be intrigued to “do it” after observing many sex scenes on TV and in countless movies.


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