Question 5

Explain the procedures for studying verbal learning.


In the study of verbal learning, psychologists use a variety of materials including non-sense syllables, familiar words, unfamiliar words, sentence, and paragraphs.

Procedures for studying verbal learning

1. Paired Associates Learning: This method is similar to S-S conditioning and S-R learning. It is used in learning some foreign language equivalents of mother tongue words. First a list of paired associates is prepared. The first word of the pair is used as the stimulus, and the second word as the response. Members of each pair may be from the same language or two different languages. A list of such word is given in Table given below:

Table: Examples of Stimulus - Response

Pairs used in Paired - Associates



- Response




















2. Serial Learning: This method of verbal learning is used to find out how participants learn the lists of verbal items, and what processes are involved in it. First, lists of verbal items, i.e., non-sense syllables, most familiar or least familiar words, interrelated words, etc. are prepared. The participant is presented the entire list and it required to produce the items in the same serial order as in the list. In the first trial, the first item of the list is shown and the participant has to produce the second item. If s/he fails to do so within the prescribed time, the experimenter presents the second items. Now this item becomes the stimulus and the participant has to produce the third item that is the response word. If s/he fails, the experimenter gives the correct item, which becomes the stimulus item for the fourth words. This procedure is called serial anticipation method. Learning trials continue until the participant correctly anticipates all the items in the given order.

3. Free Recall: In this method, participants are presented a list of words, which they read and speak out. Each word is shown at a fixed rate of exposure duration. Immediately after the presentation of the list, the participants are required to recall the words in any order they can. Words in the list may be interrelated or unrelated. More than ten words are included in the list. The present order or words varies from trial to trial. This method is used to study how participants organise words for storage in memory. It has been observed that the items placed in the beginning or end of the lists are easier to recall than those placed in the middle, which are more difficult to recall.

Question 6

How can you distinguish between generalisation and discrimination?


Generalisation: When a learned response occurs or is elicited by a new stimulus it is called generalisation.

Example: Suppose an organism is conditioned to elicit a CR (Saliva secretion or any other reflexive response) on presentation of a CS (light or sound of bell). After conditioning is established, and another stimulus similar to the CS (e.g., ringing to telephone) is presented, the organisms make the conditioned response to it. This pehenomenon of responding similarly to similar stimuli is known as generalisation.

Discrimination: Discrimination is a response due to difference.

Example: Suppose a child is conditioned to be afraid of a person with a long moustache and wearing black clothes, in subsequent situation, when she/he meets another person dressed in black clothes with a beard, the child shows signs of fear. The child’s fear is generalised. She/he meets another stranger who is wearing grey clothes and is clean-shaven. The child shows no fear. This is an example of discrimination. Occurrence of generalisation means failure of discrimination. Discriminative response depends on the discrimination capacity or discrimination learning of the organism.

Question 7

How does transfer of learning takes place?


The terms transfer of learning is also termed as transfer of training or transfer effect. It refers to the effects of prior learning on new learning. Transfer is considered to be positive if the earlier learning facilitates current learning. If new learning is related then it is considered to be negative transfer. Absence of facilitative of retarding effect means zero transfer. Specific experimental designs are used by psychologists to study the transfer effects. For example, a person wants to know whether learning of English language affects learning of French. To study this he selects a large sample of participants. He randomly divide the sample into two groups, one to be used in the experimental condition and the other as control group.

The experimental group of participants learns English language for a year and is tested to find out their achievements in English. In the second year, they study French. In the end this group is tested to find out its achievement scores in French. The control groups in the first phase does not learn English language and just does it routine work for one year. In the second year, these participants learn French for a year and their achievement scores are obtained. The achievement scores in French of the two groups are then compared. If the achievement score of the experimental group is higher than that of the control group, it implies that positive transfer has taken place, if the score is lower than the control group, it means negative transfer has taken place, if the two groups perform equally well then it shows that transfer effect is zero.

Question 8

Why is motivation a prerequisite for learning?


All living organisms have survival needs. Human beings, besides the survival needs, have growth needs. Motivation is a mental as well as physiological state, which arouses an organisms to act for fulfilling the current need. It energises an organism to act vigorously for attaining some goal. Such acts persist until the goal is attained and the need is satisfied. Thus motivation is a prerequisite for learning. For examples a child forage in the kitchen when the mother is not in the house. S/he,does so because s/he needs sweets to eat for which s/he is trying to locate the jar in which sweets are kept. During the course of foraging the child learns the location of the jar. A hungry rat is placed in a box.

The animal forages in the box for food. Incidentally it presses a lever and food drops in the box. With repeated experience of such activity, the animal learns to press the lever immediately after the animal is placed there.

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