Brain Development and Learning

  • M. E. Bitterman


Learning is generally conceived to be an associative process, as is evident from the structure of learning experiments (2). In classical conditioning, two stimuli are paired in anticipation that the first will acquire certain properties of the second, as when a tone that is followed repeatedly by the presentation of food to a dog comes to elicit salivation. Instrumental conditioning differs from classical in that the pairing of stimuli is contingent upon the behavior of the animal. For example, a tone is followed by food only if the animal presses a lever in response to the tone, and the contingency serves also, of course, to pair the response with the food. As to the nature of the associations formed in such experiments and the conditions necessary for their formation, there has been considerably less agreement (5, 16). Are sensory events associated, or are there associations between sensory and motor events, or both? Is temporal contiguity the only condition for the formation of associations, or do motivational processes play a critical role? A related question of considerable importance is whether learning has undergone any fundamental change in the course of evolution. If it has, then no general answers to questions about associative mechanisms are to be expected; work with different animals may provide quite different answers.


Conditioned Stimulus Classical Conditioning Large Reward Small Reward Instrumental Conditioning 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. E. Bitterman
    • 1
  1. 1.Békésy Laboratory of NeurobiologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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