Psychology of Learning



              Try to define "learning".  At first pass, you may think you will be learning-how-to-learn or learning about techniques that can be used to increase your GPA.  This is not at all the case.  The study of learning is an excellent example of "pure" science; that is, the goal is to determine general principles that underlie learning and memory formation.  In contrast, the goal of "applied" science is to apply those general principles to everyday life.  Although we talk about some applications, they will not be the overriding theme of this course.  Rather, we talk at length about the systematic study of how animals (including us!) modify their behavior as a result of experience.  There are many forms of learning and we start our class by taking a look at some historical antecedents then dive into studies on fundamental processes including habituation, sensitization, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning.  We end by discussing more complex forms of learning and animal cognition.

          There are 2 main goals for this class. The first goal is to provide a basic understanding of 1) how animals come to learn about their environment and then modify their behavior in response; 2) how we as scientists manipulate the environment in order to determine basic laws of learning; and 3) how we as humans can manipulate our environment and modify our own behavior. In order to prepare for academic as well as non-academic challenges you will face in the future, the second goal of this course is to provide an opportunity to 1) broaden critical thinking and assessment skills; and 2) sharpen writing skills.