Learning   (PS3210)                                                                        Plymouth State University
Professor: Fedorchak                                                                                                 Spring 2007

The BookLearning and Behavior  by James E. Mazur (6th Edition).  You may find some 5th edition used copies, but all of the page numbers in this syllabus will refer to the 6th edition.  Any handouts I distribute are also required reading.

Grading:   For the lecture class, there will be three exams, consisting of a combination of multiple-choice and essay questions.  Each exam will be worth 25% of your grade.  Makeup exams will be given only when an exam is missed for a legitimate reason, such as a death in the family, serious illness or a college-sponsored activity absence, and they may be given on the college's official exam makeup day.   If you miss an exam for a legitimate reason, I will need some type of documentation before giving the makeup (e.g., note from college infirmary, letter from office of undergraduate studies), and please contact me as soon as reasonably possible to brief me on the circumstances (ideally, before the exam is given).   

I will also have occasional mini-projects (e.g., write a paragraph on some topic) or mini- quizzes (short-answer questions) that will serve both as early-bird questions whose points will be added on to each upcoming exam, and informal rewards for attendance.  In the latter case, I will often ask for an answer or comment that will tell me how well you understood my lecture.
The lab experience will be discussed in lab, but you can look forward to at least one 2-3 week period during the first half of the semester when you and/or your lab partner(s) will carry out an experimental activity with your rat every single day (excluding weekends) for about 10 minutes.   Then near the end of the semester, you will get to experience the highlight of the class: training your rat to press a lever to obtain a food reward.  The lab portion of the class will be worth 25% of your grade (the 1 credit), and will include some form of experimental write-up.

Research Participation:   You may also be given an opportunity to earn bonus points by participating in an occasional student or faculty-initiated research project.   If these opportunities arise, your participation will probably occur outside the classroom, and anyone not able to participate at the scheduled times will be allowed to earn the points at an alternate time or through an alternate route.  Also, the number of points you will be allowed to earn by participating as a subject will be limited to 2 per exam.  Note:  These research subject opportunities usually arise near the second half of the semester, but I'll allow you to spread your points across the previous exams.

Attendance:  Other than the fact that you might miss a chance to earn mini-quiz or mini-project points (no make-ups here either), or miss critical information not found in the book, there is no formal penalty for missing class.  But as you will soon learn, most of the questions I ask on the exams will be based on material covered in class.  Thus, missing just one critical class per exam period could significantly alter your score on that exam.

Office Hours:  Office hours will be Monday and Wednesday: 11 AM to 12 PM,  Thursday:  12:15 PM to 1:15 PM, and other times by appointment.   My office is Hyde 429, my phone number is 535-2580, and my e-mail is pfedorch@plymouth.edu.  You can also leave a message with Mary Washburn, our department administrative assistant (or any of the student workers) in the Psychology main office (Hyde 401, 535-2203).  Note: if you plan to come by during my scheduled office hours, please call and let me know you are coming.  If I am not here, leave a message on my voice mail.  Thanks.


Outline of Topics and Reading
(all page numbers are for Mazur’s  6th Edition of Learning and Behavior)

Week 1:  Course Overview, Grading, Q & A; Animal Stories; Innate Behaviors.

Week 2:   Behavioral Genetics: "Flies on a Ramp;" Frozen Rodents.  Habituation and Sensitization; Opponent-Process theory.

Week 3:    Pavlovian Conditioning and the Truly Random Control procedure (e.g., Coffee and Brain Stimulation).  Conditioned  Opponent Processes (drug tolerance, physiological counter-reactions)

Week 4:  Basic Pavlovian Phenomenon:   Extinction; Spontaneous Recovery; Excitatory and Inhibitory Conditioning.  The two "tests" for inhibition.

EXAM #1      Reading:  Chapter's 1 through 4, except for the following: In Chapter 4, stop reading when you get to The Importance of Timing in Classical Conditioning  (pg 75; we will not get to these topics until the 2nd exam period).   Instead, read in Chapter 5:  The Form of the Conditioned Response  on pgs 108 –> 111 [stop at Conditioned Opponent Theories].  These pages include the subsection Drug Tolerance and Drug Cravings as Conditioned Responses, which we talked about in class.  

[Note:  As you read the above section,  be aware that the form of the conditioned response is a controversial subject.  I follow the logic that the CR is always the same as the UR, and that cases where the unconditioned "response" seems to oppose  the conditioned response are really just cases of response mislabeling.  In many of these cases, the so-called unconditioned response one observes isn't really a response  at all, it's an externally-induced change in a bodily system that the brain then senses and responds to (such as the drop in temperature of the rats in the coffee cans placed in the refrigerator [noted in class]).  The initial change one sees in these cases is often mislabeled as the unconditioned response, when it is really the event that triggers the UR.   For example, the initial decrease in pain sensitivity following a morphine injection is often viewed as a response, when it is primarily a passive event from the body’s perspective.  The “drop” one sees is the net result of two opposing forces: the morphine-induced decrease in pain sensitivity (which dominates at first) plus the bodies initially-weaker counter-response to that decrease - the internally-generated increase in pain sensitivity.  Thus the increase in pain sensitivity is the body’s first actual response, and it is both the UR and the CR.]


Week 5 and 6:  Associative "Laws"  - Blocking and Super-conditioning; Sensory Preconditioning and Second-Order Conditioning.

Week 7 and 8:  Biologically Specialized Learning:   John Garcia and Conditioned Taste Aversions; Biological Preparedness; Taste Preference  Learning (not in the book), and Human Phobias.

EXAM #2    Reading: the rest of Chapter 4,  starting with Higher Order Conditioning on pg 78.   These pages will cover second-order conditioning, plus a variety of real-life examples or applications of Pavlovian conditioning.

Chapter 5:   Read all of this chapter, but stop reading when you reach the Rescorla-Wagner Model (pg 91) and start again at Biological Constraints on Classical Conditioning.     One of the phenomena described in the biological constraints section,Taste Aversion Learning , altered long-cherished beliefs about learning so dramatically that its discovery has been referred to as a scientific revolution.


Week 9-10:   Instrumental Learning: Shaping; Primary and Secondary reinforcement; Backward Chaining.  B.F. Skinner; Schedules of reinforcement; Behavior Modification and the Contingency Matrix.

Week 11:   Learning without reward? Tolman's Performance vs. Learning and Place vs. Response experiments. 

Weeks 12 and 13:    Aversive Behavior: Escape/Avoidance;  The One-Way vs. Two-Way avoidance puzzle; Bolles SSDR theory.   Learned Helplessness (and Yoked Controls):  Behavioral and Biological effects;  Seligman's "Learned" Optimism

Week 14:  Pavlovian/Instrumental Interactions.

EXAM # 3    Reading (Note: While doing the reading listed below, pay particular attention to any bold-faced terms and concepts in the book, unless specifically instructed to ignore them):

Chapter 6 (but ignore Guthrie and Horton: Evidence for a Mechanical Strengthening Process, on pgs 120-122].   In this chapter, you will find information on the lecture toptics of shaping, backward chaining  and instinctive drift.   This last concept was the problem encountered by the people training chickens to play baseball at Reptile Gardens. 

Chapter 7  (but ignore Factors Affecting Performance on Reinforcement Schedules, onpgs 153 - 157], and pick up the reading again at The Experimental Analysis of Reinforcement Schedules.   This Chapter ends with some good real-life applications of instrumental (or operant) conditioning. 
Chapter 8   But ignore Other Techniques for Behavior Deceleration  (pgs 194 – 197) and pick up the reading again at The Aversives Controversy.   Also note that in the matrix on page 172, Negative Reinforcement is the term used for Escape/Avoidance and Negative Punishment is the term used for the Omission contingency that we discussed in class. 

Chapter 9:  read through page 204 (stop at Is Reinforcement at Work in Classical Conditioning?).  Yes, this makes it a very short chapter.

Exam # 3 will take place during the scheduled final exam period.   It will not be cumulative.