Unit VI Short Answer Questions & Answers

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1. How would you classically condition a preschool child who is afraid of dogs to enjoy
playing with a neighbor's friendly dog? Be sure to identify the US, CS, UR, and CR in
your answer.
Students should describe a plausible classical conditioning scenario that results in the CR
of the child enjoying playing with the dog. Several unconditioned stimuli are possible.
The conditioned stimulus will be the dog. For example, the child could be given a new
toy (US) that would cause him to enjoy playing (UR). The dog could be introduced (CS)
each time the child gets a new toy (US). After repeated pairings, the dog (CS) should
elicit the CR (enjoying playing).
2. Several days after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, Kendra becomes nauseated
simply by the smell of liquor. The sight of the half-empty liquor bottle from which she
drank does not, however, upset her. What does Kendra's pattern of response indicate
about the limits of associative learning?
Students should demonstrate an understanding that this finding (like Garcia and
Koelling's findings in their irradiated water tests with rats) contradicted behaviorists'
previous belief that any stimuli could serve as a conditioned stimulus in classical
conditioning. Organisms are biologically predisposed to associate some unconditioned
stimuli (e.g., nausea) with certain conditioned stimuli (e.g., the smell of liquor) rather
than other possible conditioned stimuli (e.g., the sight of the bottle).
3. If George is spanked immediately after his baby sister cries, he is likely to become fearful
every time she cries. If Ken is spanked immediately before his baby sister cries, he is not
likely to become fearful when she cries. What do the different reactions of George and
Ken suggest about the role of cognitive processes in associative learning?
Students should demonstrate an understanding that this finding demonstrates the
importance of cognition in conditioning. Specifically, classical conditioning is most
effective when a conditioned stimulus (e.g., baby sister's cry) accurately predicts an
unconditioned stimulus (e.g., spanking); the conditioned stimulus will elicit the
conditioned response (e.g., fear). If the conditioned stimulus occurs after the
unconditioned stimulus, there is no predictive relationship, so the conditioning is not
likely to occur.
4. Mr. Byrne can't understand why scolding his seventh-grade students for disruptive
classroom behaviors makes them more unruly. Explain Mr. Byrne's predicament in terms
of operant conditioning principles. Show how he could use operant conditioning
techniques to (a) reduce disruptive behaviors and (b) increase cooperative behaviors.
Students should explain that, although Mr. Byrne intended the scolding to be a
punishment (defined as any stimulus that decreases the likelihood of the preceding
behavior), it must be acting as a positive reinforcer (defined as any stimulus that
increases the likelihood of the preceding behavior). Mr. Byrne needs to try different
stimuli until he finds one that decreases the disruptive behaviors (a punishment), and a
stimulus that increases the cooperative behaviors (positive reinforcement).
5. For Vina, cigarettes reduce feelings of tension and anxiety. Because of her heavy
smoking, however, she has a bad morning cough and breathing difficulties. How can the
principles of operant conditioning help to explain the development and continuation of
Vina's self-defeating smoking habit? Explain the extent to which the reinforcement for
Vina's habit is positive or negative, primary or conditioned, immediate or delayed, partial
or continuous.
Students should explain Vina's smoking behavior as continuing because the side effects
of smoking (e.g., the stimulant effects of nicotine, such as stress relief, a sense of wellbeing, alertness, and decreased appetite) outweigh her health impairments (a bad morning
cough and breathing difficulties). In the discussion, students should correctly identify a
positive reinforcement (such as a feeling of alertness) or a negative reinforcement
(reduction of stress) that occurs after the smoking behavior. These reinforcements are
most likely to be primary reinforcers (because they are likely to be physiological), but
students could describe some secondary (learned) reinforcers (such as “looking cool”).
The reinforcers described are likely to be immediate (occurring directly after the
behavior) rather than delayed and continuous (one reinforcer delivered per behavior)
rather than partial.
6. Although Mr. Wright often tells his children about the importance of donating time and
money to charitable causes, he rarely does so himself. He believes that this hypocrisy will
not rub off on his children, however, as long as he has plausible excuses for his lack of
charity. Use your understanding of learning processes to explain how Mr. Wright's
children are likely to be affected by their father's behavior. What advice would you give
to Mr. Wright?
Students should explain that observational learning theory predicts that Mr. Wright's
children will imitate both his actions and his excuses. Observational learning studies
indicate that observational learning will occur most powerfully when the actions and
words of models are consistent; when models do one thing and say another, children will
do what they see adults do and say what they hear adults say. Students should advise Mr.
Wright to provide an effective model to his children by actually donating time and money
to charity and continuing by talk about why this is important. This model is more likely
to increase the chances of his children learning this behavior through observational
learning.
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