Brilliant Minds - The Six Pack of Psychological Ingenuity
Created on October 10, 2023
The contributions of six different people to the field of psychology, and how they changed the world.
The Six Pack of Psychological Ingenuity
5- John Watson
1- Albert Bandura
2- Robert Rescorla
6- Edward Tolman
3- Edward Thorndike
4- John Garcia
Social Learning Theory
Albert Bandura was a social cognitive psychologist who contributed greatly to the studies of behavior and learning in psychology. He is often known as one of the most influential psychologists of all time. His contributions include his Social Learning Theory, the concept of self-efficacy, and his famous Bobo Doll Experiment.
Bandura's most famous experiment is the Bobo Doll Experiment, in which he used four groups of children, two adults, and an experimenter to illustrate the concept of observational learning, which would later become a crucial part of his social learning theory. In this experiment, the child was brought into a playroom and told to play with the toys at one side of the room, while one of the adults played with the toys at the other end, which included the Bobo Doll (an inflatable plastic clown that was weighted at the bottom). In one of the runs, the adult played with the Bobo Doll agressively, kicking, punching, and verbally assulting the doll. In another run, the adult played with other toys in their side of the room and didn't play with the Bobo doll at all. After ten minutes, the experimenter came back, taking the child to another playroom, where they were told they could play with the toys. However, the children were told to stop playing with the toys in the second playroom in two minutes, in order to increase the frustration levels of the child. Then, the child was taken back to the original playroom and told they could play with any of the toys there. The behavior of the child in all runs was then observed; children from both the agressive and nonagressive runs committed acts of physical aggression, as well as verbal aggression. However, children in the run with the agressive adult were found to be more likely to act in a physically agressive way towards the Bobo Doll than those in the run with the nonagressive adult. There were also differences noted in gender (that of both the children and the models). Overall, this experiment proved that observation did play a large role in the way children learned.
Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment
Show me an example of Contingency Theory!
Robert Rescorla's work was incredibly vital to the field of psychology. It proved that there was indeed a cognitive element in classical conditioning, something known as Contingency Theory. Essentially, Contingency Theory states that for learning to take place, the stimulus must be a reliable predictor of a certain stimulus to follow. An effective association between a stimulus and response will only be established if the neutral stimulus can reliably predict the unconditioned stimulus.
Rescorla's rat shocks experiment was the experiment that provided the basis for his contingency theory. In this experiment, he experimented with two groups of rats, both of which would hear a tone at various intervals of time, and also be shocked at various intervals. However, in one group of rats, the tone was a reliable predictor of a shock; a shock occured during each tone. In the other group, the tone was not a reliable predictor of a shock, meaning that shocks occured even without the forewarning of a tone. As a result, the first group of rats were conditioned to feel fear upon hearing the tone, while the second group of rats were not, because the tone didn't always mean a shock was coming.
Rat Shocks Experiment
Show me an example of the Law of Effect!
Edward Thorndike ensured himself a place in all psychological textbooks with one of his major contributions to the field, the Law of Effect. This Law stipulates that any behavior followed by pleasant or desirable consequences is likely to be repeated, while any behavior followed by unpleasant or undesirable consequences is likely to be reduced or stopped. His work was the basis for the work of many psychologists to come, most notably the work of behaviorists John Watson and B.F. Skinner, and eventually become a fundamental principle of the behaviorist approach to psychology.
Thorndike tested and proved the Law of Effect with his Puzzle Box experiment, in which he put a cat in a specially designed "puzzle box" - a cage with a lever inside that would open a door that would allow the cat to get out - and a fish right outside the box. The cat would then try to escape to box to get to the fish. To do this, the cats used trial and error, digging at the bars, pushing the ceiling, and scratching the door in search of a way to get out. all of which Thorndike measured. However, the lever to open the door was the only way to get out. Thorndike timed how long it took the cat to figure this out and escape the box. After escaping, the cat was rewarded with the fish and put back into the box to repeat the process. With each trial, the cat learnt that pressing the lever had more positive consequences than their other behaviors, and went for the lever more quickly (repeated behavior) instead of trying other ways to get out of the box (reduced behavior).
Puzzle Box Experiment
Show me an example of taste aversion!
What exactly is so special about the Garcia Effect?
John Garcia is reowned for expanding on the knowledge of classical conditioning by finding and demonstrating the concept of taste aversion (also known as the Garcia Effect), a unique form of classical conditioning that creates a dislike for specific foods. This type of conditioning is particularly special - it only applies to taste (not sights, sounds, etc.), because the process of conditioning doesn't follow the usual classical conditioning process.
Garcia was studying the effects of radiation in rats when he discovered taste aversion. The experiment went like this:First the rats were given flavored water to drink (the neutral stimulus). Then, after a few hours, they were injected with a drug (unconditioned stimulus) that gave them radiation sickness (unconditioned response). The next time the rats were exposed to the flavored water, they refused to drink it. The rats were then conditioned to avoid water flavored that way.Interestingly enough, in a follow-up experiment, Garcia made a light start flashing and a clicker go off every time the rats would drink water, which was also flavored. Then, the rats were irradiated, and got radiation sickness. When the rats were exposed to the flavored water again, without the flashing lights and clicker, they refused to drink it. However, when the unflavored water was presented, with the presence of a flashing light and clicker, the rats had no problem drinking the water. This follow-up experiment proved that the flavored water was far more strongly associated with radiation sickness than the flashing light and clicker were, even though all three had been paired with the illness equally.
Flavored Water Experiment
What exactly is behaviorism?
John Watson, often known as the "father of behaviorism", was, as implied, the founder of the psychological field of behaviorism. His work changed psychology forever; behaviorism rose to become the dominant field in psychology for a while, before losing its hold in 1950. However, many of the concepts and principles of behaviorism are still widely used and vital to psychology today.
Little Albert & Experimental Ethics
Perhaps one of the most famous experiments associated with behaviorism in all of psychology, the Little Albert experiment was done by none other than John Watson and his assistant, Rosalie Rayner. In this experiment, they first exposed the little infant, dubbed "Albert", that was their subject, to various stimuli, and recorded his baseline reactions. Albert showed no fear of any of the tested stimuli, and even expressed a particular interest in the white rat. Then, Albert was repeatedly exposed to the white rat, and the sound of a hammer hitting a steel bar would ring out every time he began playing with the rat, scaring Albert greatly. Soon, Albert responded to the rat with fear, crying out and pulling away from it. Albert had begun to associate the rat with the loud noise that brought him so much fear - he had been classically conditioned to fear the rat. After this conditioning, all the initial stimuli Watson and Rayner had exposed him to were exposed to him again. This time, he responded to all furry objects (a rabbit, a mask with a cotton-ball beard, a dog, & a monkey) with fear - this was stimulus generalization. Overall, this experiment proved that people could be classically conditioned, just like animals could. People could learn to fear something, quite easily, in fact.
Little Albert Experiment
Show me an example of a cognitive map!
Show me an example of latent learning!
Edward Tolman is most well-known for his work on cognitive behaviorism, a blended field of psychology that bridges the gap between behaviorism and mental processes, his discovery of cognitive maps, a mental representation that lets an organism acquire, store, and recall information in both the real world and in a metaphorical environment, and his theory of latent learning, which basically says that learning can take place in an organism without a reinforcer, and that this learning may not be apparent when it happens, but can appear later when the knowledge is needed.
Edward Tolman discovered his concept of latent learning thanks to an experiment that involved sending rats through a maze. In this experiment, he split his rats into several groups, each one with a different reinforcement schedule, and tried to teach them how to run through a maze in a series of one-day trials. During these trials, he noticed that one group didn't show the learned behavior until it was reinforced with food at the end of the maze. The rats weren't compelled to run it correctly until the behavior was reinforced, even though they had learned the maze. After that, he blocked the familiar pathway they normally took, placed food at the end, and sent the rats through again. The rats defied the behaviorist expectation, instead finding a new path to get to the end and to their reward, demonstrating the cognitive map of the maze they had formed in their heads. His discoveries in this experiment ultimately challenged the behaviorist idea that all learning and behavior is a result of the basic stimulus-response pattern. The concepts he developed were novel breakthroughs, helping lead to the rise of cognitive psychology.
Rat Maze Experiment
Thank You For Reading!
Albert Bandura came up with the concept of self-efficacy, which is essentially the degree to which a person believes in their own ability to complete tasks or reach goals and influence decisions. It impacts how an individual responds to challenges, and, according to Bandura, is the key to the successfully completing goals and tasks.
Latent learning is another concept that can be seen everywhere around us, in all the people we meet. We can even see it in ourselves, particularly in the case of driving. When you're first learning to drive, you may not know your town all that well, and use a GPS to find the most efficient routes to use to get somewhere. And then, one day, you forget the address to the place you're trying to go, and you can't use your GPS. You try going anyway, and you find that you actually do know the way, without the help of the GPS! This is latent learning; while using the GPS, you managed to memorize the way to several places without being encouraged to, withut even realizing it. But the knowledge was there when you needed it, and you got to where you had to go!
Latent Learning & Driving
Behaviorism is one approach to psychology, in which the focus is on observable behavior, and not the mental process. In fact, many early behaviorists, including John Watson, believed that thoughts played no role in behavior. Instead, behavior was shaped by conditioning, by past experiences, and by our environment - free will played no part. This way of thinking was strongly influenced by the beliefs of philosopher John Locke, who said humans are born with a "tabula rasa" (Latin for "blank state"), and an individual becomes who they are purely as a result of experience.
Cognitive maps are a special kind of latent learning. So, just like latent learning, they're widely present in our everyday lives. Take your school, for example; for the first few days, or even weeks, you likely got lost constantly, and had to reference a map often. However, as you learned the layout of the school, especially where your specific classes were, you unconsciously began to form a cognitive map of the school. The more you learned about the layout of your school, the more information was added to it. After a few years, you could likely find your way around with no problem, and even describe the directions to a particular class for a new student, without having to walk the path yourself, because you could navigate it in your brain, thanks to the cognitive map you built in your brain.
Cognitive Maps & School
The Garcia Effect, although a form of classical conditioning, is notable in multiple ways. Firstly, unlike other forms of classical conditioning, it doesn't require repeated pairings of the neutral stimulus and unconditioned stimulus - just one bad experience is enough to create an aversion to a particular taste. Secondly, the time span between the administration of the neutral stimulus and the administration of the unconditioned stimulus (leading to the unconditioned response) can be a couple of hours, and the conditioning would still occur. And finally, the conditioning is specific to taste - any other stimuli occuring at the same time as the neutral stimulus or between the administration of the neutral stimulus and onset of the unconditioned response will not associated with the unconditioned response.
The Unique Properties of the Garcia Effect
The Law of Effect is in play all around us, every moment of every day. Take students, for example; we students learn early on that if we study for tests (the behavior), we are more likely to get a good grade on a test (a desired consequence). So, students begin studying for all their tests as they get into middle and high school (repeated behavior), so they can keep getting good grades on their tests. Conversely, students who stay up all night watching YouTube instead of studying (the behavior) are more likely to get a bad grade on their tests (an unpleasant consequence). So, students avoid doing that in the future (reduced behavior), so they don't get a bad grade on their test again.
The Law of Effect & Testing
The principle of taste aversion was utilized to protect sheep from coyotes. How? Well, the carcasses of sheep were infused with a poison which would make the coyotes who ate them sick, but not kill them. So, when the coyotes ate the poisoned sheep carcass, they become sick, and avoided sheep from then on, because they had been classically conditioned to associate the sheep with the sickness, even though the sheep hadn't directly caused the sickness. This effect was so strong that not only did the coyotes stop going after sheep, but they actually ran away from the sheep in fear.
Taste Aversion & Coyotes
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John Watson, unknowingly, also contributed one more crucial thing to psychology; experimental ethics. His Little Albert experiment has recieved much criticism for the psychological harm it caused the young infant, in the form of stress and fear. Additionally, Little Albert was never desensitized from his fear of rats and other furry things, and this experiment was likely conducted without the knowledge or consent of his parents. This started up the controversy around experimental ethics; yes, this experiment uncovered groundbreaking new information about behavior and learning, but was it worth a young child's mental wellbeing?These days, most psychologists say no. Now, researchers must follow set procedures that ensure the protection of subjects of psychological research, so nobody ever ends up like Little Albert.
Experimental Ethics; Was This Right?
Rescorla's Contingency Theory can be illustrated using the example of Pavlov's Dogs, the most well-known classical conditioning experiment in the field of psychology. If the bell in Pavlov's experiment wasn't a reliable predictor of food, the dogs likely wouldn't have learned to salivate in response to the bell so quickly or strongly.
Contingency Theory & Pavlov's Dogs
Bandura's Social Learning Theory stipulates that people learn certain behaviors through observational learning, imitation, and modeling. Additionally, it says that this learning can be influenced by factors like attention, motivation, attitudes, and emotions, among other things. His later research added even more to this theory, integrating it into a Social Cognitive Theory. However, the basis of his theory - that part of people's knowledge comes from observation - remained the same.