Learning & Behavior: Eighth Edition

Learning & Behavior: Eighth Edition

Author: James E. Mazur

Publisher: Routledge


Publish Date: December 1, 2016

ISBN-10: 1138689947

Pages: 412

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

The purpose of this book is to introduce the reader to the branch of psychology that deals with how people and animals learn and how their behaviors are later changed as a result of this learning. This is a broad topic, for nearly all of our behaviors are influenced by prior learning experiences in some way. Because examples of learning and learned behaviors are so numerous, the goal of most psychologists in this field has been to discover general principles that are applicable to many different species and many different learning situations. What continues to impress and inspire me after many years in this field is that it is indeed possible to make such general statements about learning and behavior. This book describes some of the most important principles, theories, controversies, and experiments that have been produced by this branch of psychology in its first century.

This text is designed to be suitable for introductory or intermediate-level courses in learning, conditioning, or the experimental analysis of behavior. No prior knowledge of psychology is assumed, but the reading may be a bit easier for those who have had a course in introductory psychology. Many of the concepts and theories in this field are fairly abstract, and to make them more concrete and more relevant, I have included many real-world examples and analogies.

Roughly speaking, the book proceeds from the simple to the complex, with respect to both the difficulty of the material and the types of learning that are discussed. Chapter 1 discusses the behavioral approach to learning and contrasts it with the cognitive approach. It also describes some of the earliest theories about the learning process; then it presents some basic findings about the neural mechanisms of learning. Chapter 2 discusses innate behaviors and the simplest type of learning, habituation. Many of the terms and ideas introduced here reappear in later chapters on classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and motor-skills learning. The next two chapters deal with classical conditioning. Chapter 3 begins with basic principles and ends with some therapeutic applications. Chapter 4 describes more recent theoretical developments and experimental findings in this area. The next three chapters discuss the various facets of operant conditioning: Chapter 5 covers the basic principles and terminology of positive reinforcement, Chapter 6 covers schedules of reinforcement and applications, and Chapter 7 covers negative reinforcement and punishment. Chapters 8 and 9 have a more theoretical orientation. Chapter 8 presents differing views on such fundamental questions as what constitutes a reinforcer and what conditions are necessary for learning to occur. Chapter 9 takes a more thorough look at generalization and discrimination, and it also examines research on concept learning. Chapter 10 surveys a wide range of findings in the rapidly growing area of comparative cognition. Chapter 11 discusses two types of learning that are given little or no emphasis in many texts on learning—observational learning and motor-skills learning. A substantial portion of human learning involves either observation or the development of new motor skills. Readers might well be puzzled or disappointed (with some justification) with a text on learning that includes no mention of these topics. Finally, Chapter 12 presents an overview of behavioral research on choice.

This book includes a number of learning aids for students. Each chapter begins with a list of learning objectives and ends with a summary of the main points covered. Each chapter also includes practice quizzes and review questions to help students determine if they are learning and understanding the key points. The book also includes a glossary of all important terms. The website for this text has a number of additional resources. For instructors, there is a test bank of multiple-choice and short-essay questions, PowerPoint slides for use in class, and Internet resources. For students, there are online quizzes for each chapter, definitions of key terms, chapter outlines, and Internet links related to many of the topics covered in the text.

New to this eighth edition are boxes in each chapter that highlight topics that should be of special interest to students. The boxes are focused on three themes: In the Media, covering topics related to learning and behavior that have been covered by various media sources, Spotlight on Research, taking a closer look at current research on specific topics, and Applying the Research, presenting real-world applications of the principles described in the text. This  edition also includes many new figures and illustrations to help students understand and
remember important concepts, principles, experimental procedures, and applications. To enhance the relevance of this material for today’s students, a number of older and somewhat technical topics from previous editions have been removed, and there are more examples of how behavioral and cognitive principles of learning can be observed in people’s everyday behaviors. Most of the chapters include sections that describe how the theories and principles of learning have been used in the applied field of behavior modification.

I owe thanks to many people for the help they have given me as I wrote this book. Many of my thoughts about learning and about psychology in general were shaped by my discussions with the late Richard Herrnstein—my teacher, advisor, and friend. I am most grateful to Debra Riegert and Rachel Severinovsky of Taylor and Francis for all the advice and assistance they provided me throughout the work on this edition. Thanks go to the reviewers of various editions of this book:

Matthew C. Bell, Mark Branch, Thomas Brown, Maureen Bullock, Gary Brosvic, Valerie Farmer-Dougan, April Fugett, Adam Goodie, Kenneth P. Hillner, Peter Holland, Ann Kelley, Melinda Leonard, Kathleen McCartney, Harold L. Miller, Jr., David Mostofsky, Thomas Moye, Jack Nation, Erin Rasmussen, David Schaal, James R. Sutterer, Edward Wasserman, Steve Weinert, and Joseph Wister. In addition, I thank Marge Averill, Stan Averill, John Bailey, Chris Berry, Paul Carroll, David Coe, David Cook, Susan Herrnstein, Margaret Makepeace, Margaret Nygren, Steven Pratt, and James Roach for their competent and cheerful help on different editions of this book. Finally, I thank my wife, Laurie Averill, who drew many of the illustrations and gave me plenty of valuable help on this and previous editions.

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