Learned Behavior: Imprinting, Habituation and Conditioning

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  • 0:05 Learned Behavior
  • 0:40 Classical & Operant…
  • 2:41 Habituation, Insight &…
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Weber

Danielle teaches high school science and has an master's degree in science education.

Ever wonder why it is easier to train your dog when you give him a treat every time he does something correct? In this lesson we will take a look at conditioning as well as several other forms of learned behavior.

Learned Behavior

Remember that behavior is a response to a stimulus. In the previous lesson we looked at innate behaviors, which are inherited and performed correctly the first time an organism is exposed to a stimulus. In this lesson we will focus on learned behaviors, which are acquired changes in behavior during one's lifetime. If you have taken a psychology course before, some of these learned behaviors, such as classical and operant conditioning, may sound familiar. Let's again take a look at Craig's day.

Classical & Operant Conditioning

A dog salivates at the sound of a bell as the result of classical conditioning
Classical Conditioning Dog
classical conditioning

Because of the phone call, Craig is now running late to work. He knows that if he drives very quickly he will make it to work on time. However, last time Craig did this, he got a speeding ticket. He does not want to get another ticket, so he decides to drive the speed limit and be a little late to work. He does this to avoid the punishment of a speeding ticket. This behavior is known as operant conditioning, which is a behavior learned through repeated practice to receive a reward or to avoid a punishment. In Craig's case, he is trying to avoid a punishment.

Again, if you've taken a psychology course, you may have heard of B.F. Skinner and his work with operant conditioning. Skinner would place animals such as pigeons or rats in a chamber that is known as a Skinner Box. Once the animal performed a specific task, such as pushing a lever, the animal would immediately receive a reward - generally food or water - or a punishment - generally a loud sound or small electric shock. Craig's desire to avoid getting a speeding ticket is operant conditioning, as he has learned to not repeat this behavior in order to avoid a punishment.

Habituation, Insight & Imprinting

Animals eventually stop running from cars as the result of habituation
Habituation
habituation

Craig makes it to his meeting just in time. During the meeting, his boss assigns him a new project. It is similar to work that he has done before but not exactly the same. Craig uses his previous knowledge and applies it to a new situation in order to solve the problem. This is insight learning, which is the most complicated form of learned behavior. Insight learning is applying something already learned to a new situation without a period of trial and error. When Craig is given his new assignment, rather than having to try several things to solve the problem, he is able to complete his work successfully based on previous, similar knowledge. A prime example of insight learning is often seen in math problems. When you learn how to solve a math problem, you can then apply those concepts to a new, although slightly similar, problem successfully.

Ducklings following a hand puppet is an example of imprinting
Imprinting
Imprinting

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