Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives

By Thomas R. Zentall; Bennett G. Galef Jr. | Go to book overview

10
Learning in the Rat of a Choice Response by Observation of S-S Contingencies

M. Ray Denny Carla F. Clos R. Charles Bell Michigan State University


INTRODUCTION

This chapter describes a program of research that contributes to the analysis of the mechanisms mediating observational learning.1 The basic design is one in which a hungry rat observes two distinctive environmental events, one having a positive consequence (food pellet) and the other a negative consequence (no pellet). These events, downward movement of two radically different levers (bars), are ones that the rat, if so permitted, could bring about by itself. Initially, though, the bars are inaccessible and operated solely by a hidden experimenter. When the rat clearly indicates it has learned the unique correlation between the movement of the positive, or S+, bar and the availability of food, both bars are made accessible to the rat to determine whether it will make the S+ event happen. Unlike many other observational learning experiments this procedure ensures that the mi has observed the relevant environmental events because it must use these events to

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1
For us, observational learning refers to a mode of response acquisition via stimulus-stimulus contingencies that is purposeful and directive in nature. It may involve multiple observational trials but occurs without overt responding (like Bandura, 1965, no-trial learning). Imitation, commonly used interchangeably with observational learning, is distinguished here by the addition of a model. Information can clearly be gained with or without a model, although certain responses (conditioned taste aversion) require a model.

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