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1
Classical Conditioning
Background: Learning vs. Memory
First of all, you may find it interesting that learning and memory makeup two different chapters in the text, though the two terms seem very much related. In fact, learning and
“memory/cognition” are also usually taught as two separate classes and represent two fairly distinct disciplines within psychology. One way to understand the distinction between the two is to consider BF. Skinner’s often quoted definition of learning, a relatively permanent change in behavior as the result of experience One basic difference between memory and learning is that memory is not necessarily relatively permanent. In fact, sensory memory, by definition, lasts fora few seconds at most. Second, note that the term behavior is an important part of Skinner’s definition, with the clear implication that learning is something that is empirical, which can be observed. On the other hand, most cognitive psychologists consider memory to bean abstract construct, which can only be studied indirectly through empirical measures. It is also helpful to consider the historical roots of these two sub-disciplines. Learning grew from the behaviorist school, while the area of memory/cognition was the direct result of the cognitive school of thought. As a result, these two areas share many of the characteristics of the historical behaviorist and cognitive movements. As mentioned, those who study learning are more concerned with observable measures, as opposed to unobservable constructs. Further, research in learning often involves nonhuman animals as subjects, while cognitive/memory research usually involves humans, or computer simulation. With these distinctions in mind, we now turn our attention to the study of learning.



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