Learning - Solutions

 CBSE Class 11 Psychology

NCERT Solutions

1. What is learning? What are its distinguishing features?

Ans. Learning is a key process in human behaviour. It refers to a spectrum of changes that take place as a result of one’s experience. Learning may be defined as “any relatively permanent change in behaviour or behavioural potential produced by experience”.

The process of learning has certain distinctive features:

The first feature is that learning always involves some kinds of experience.

  • We experience an event occurring in a certain sequence on a number of occasions. If an event happens then it may be followed by certain other events.
  • For example, one learns that if the bell rings in the hostel after sunset, then dinner is ready to be served.
  • Repeated experience of satisfaction after doing something in a specified manner leads to the formation of habit. Sometimes a single experience can lead to learning.
  • A child strikes a matchstick on the side of a matchbox, and gets her/his fingers burnt. Such an experience makes the child learn to be careful in handling the matchbox in future.

Behavioural changes that occur due to learning are relatively permanent.

  • They must be distinguished from the behavioural changes that are neither permanent nor learned.
  • For example, changes in behaviour often occur due to the effects of fatigue, habituation, and drugs.
  • Suppose you are reading your textbook of psychology for sometime or you are trying to learn how to drive a motor car, a time comes when you will feel tired. You stop reading or driving.
  • This is a behavioural change due to fatigue, and is temporary. It is not considered learning.

Learning must be distinguished from the behavioural changes that are neither permanent nor learnt.

  • Changes in behaviour due to fatigue, habituation and drugs.
  • Learning is a change in behaviour, for better or worse.

Learning involves a sequence of psychological events.

2. How does classical conditioning demonstrate learning by association?

Ans. Classical conditioning as a type of learning was first investigated by Ivan P. Pavlov. It is the simplest form of learning where an organism learns to associate stimulus.

The learning situation in classical conditioning is one of S–S learning in which one stimulus becomes a signal of another stimulus. Here one stimulus signifies the possible occurrence of another stimulus.

Classical conditioning was first explained in Pavlov's experiments in which a dog was kept on a harness with a tube attached to the dogs jaw on one end, a measuring jar on the other end. The dogs was kept hungry in the course of experiments, every time the dogs was given food a bell was rung before it, slowly the dog become conditioned to believe that the ringing bell meant that food was coming. So, he began salivating at the sound at the bell. The dog continued to salivate even when food was not given after the bell. Hence, salivation became a conditioned response to the conditioned stimulus.

There are various forms of classical conditioning:

  • Unconditioned stimulus (US): This stimulus consistently evoked a response or is reliably followed by one or it has potential capacity to evoke a natural response. e.g. food .
  • Conditioned stimulus (CS): It is also known as a neutral stimulus because except for an altering or intentional response, the first few times it is presented, it does not evoke a specific response. Any stimuli which lacks natural capacity to evoke natural response but develops this capacity with consistent pairing with US. For example, bell.
  • Unconditioned Response (UR): The response that reliably follows the unconditioned stimulus is known as the unconditioned response. e.g. Saliva due to food.
  • Conditioned Response (CR): When presentation of the originally neutral conditioned stimulus evokes a response.

Determinants of classical conditioning:

Some of the major factors influencing learning a CR are:

Time Relations between Stimuli: The classical conditioning procedures are basically of four types based on the time relations between the onset of conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (US). The first three are called forward conditioning procedures, and the fourth one is called backward conditioning procedure.

The basic experimental arrangements of these procedures are as follows:

a) When the CS and US are presented together, it is called simultaneous conditioning.

b) In delayed conditioning, the onset of CS precedes the onset of US. The CS ends before the end of the US.

c) In trace conditioning, the onset and end of the CS precedes the onset of US with some time gap between the two.

d) In backward conditioning, the US precedes the onset of CS.

Delayed conditioning procedure is the most effective way of acquiring a CR. Simultaneous and trace conditioning procedures do lead to acquisition of a CR, but they require greater number of acquisition trials in comparison to the delayed conditioning procedure. It may be noted that the acquisition of response under backward conditioning procedure is very rare.

Type of Unconditioned Stimuli: The unconditioned stimuli used in studies of classical conditioning are basically of two types, i.e. appetitive and aversive. Appetitive unconditioned stimuli automatically elicits approach responses, such as eating, drinking, caressing, etc. These responses give satisfaction and pleasure. On the other hand, aversive US, such as noise, bitter taste, electric shock, painful injections, etc. are painful, harmful, and elicit avoidance and escape responses. It has been found that appetitive classical conditioning is slower and requires greater number of acquisition trials, but aversive classical conditioning is established in one, two or three trials dep

(ii) Type of unconditioned stimuli: The unconditioned stimuli used in studies of classical conditioning are of two types: Appetitive e.g. eating drinking etc. according to researches it is slower and requires greater number of trials

  • Aversive e.g. Noise, bitter taste etc. classical conditioning is established in one, two or three trials so it is more effective.

(iii) 'Intensity of conditioned stimuli: This influences the course of both appetitive and aversive classical conditioning. More intense conditioned stimuli are more effective in accelerating the acquisition of conditioned responses.
e.g.: The more intense the conditioned stimulus, the fewer are the number of acquisition trials needed for conditioning. ie intense irritating noise is more effective.

3. Define operant conditioning. Discuss the factors that influence the course of operant conditioning.

Ans. Operants are those behaviours or responses, which are emitted by animals and human beings voluntarily and are under their control. The term operant is used because the organism operates on the environment. Conditioning of operant behaviour is called operant conditioning.

The following factors influence the course of operant conditioning:


A reinforcer is defined as any stimulus or event, which increases the probability of the occurrence of a (desired) response. A reinforcer has numerous features, which affect the course and strength of a response. They include its types – positive or negative, number or frequency, quality – superior or inferior, and schedule – continuous or intermittent (partial). All these features influence the course of operant conditioning. Another factor that influences this type of learning is the nature of the response or behaviour that is to be conditioned. The interval or length of time that lapses between occurrence of response and reinforcement also influences operant learning.

Types of reinforcement

Reinforcement may be positive or negative. Positive reinforcement involves stimuli that have pleasant consequences. They strengthen and maintain the responses that have caused them to occur. Positive reinforcers satisfy needs, which include food, water, medals, praise, money, status, information, etc. Negative reinforcers involve unpleasant and painful stimuli.

Responses that lead organisms to get rid of painful stimuli or avoid and escape from them provide negative reinforcement. Thus, negative reinforcement leads to learning of avoidance and escape responses. For instance, one learns to put on woollen clothes, burn firewood or use electric heaters to avoid the unpleasant cold weather. One learns to move away from dangerous stimuli because they provide negative reinforcement. It may be noted that negative reinforcement is not punishment. Use of punishment reduces or suppresses the response while a negative reinforcer increases the probability of avoidance or escape response. For instance, drivers and co-drivers wear their seat belts to avoid getting injured in case of an accident or to avoid being fined by the traffic police.

Number of Reinforcement and other Features

It refers to the number of trials on which an organism has been reinforced or rewarded. Amount of reinforcement means how much of reinforcing stimulus (food or water or intensity of pain causing agent) one receives on each trial. Quality of reinforcement refers to the kind of reinforcer. Chickpeas or pieces of bread are of inferior quality as compared with raisins or pieces of cake as reinforcer. The course of operant conditioning is usually accelerated to an extent as the number, amount, and quality of reinforcement increases.

Schedules of Reinforcement

A reinforcement schedule is the arrangement of the delivery of reinforcement during conditioning trials. Each schedule of reinforcement influences the course of conditioning in its own way; and thus conditioned responses occur with differential characteristics. The organism being subjected to operant conditioning may be given reinforcement in every acquisition trial or in

some trials it is given and in others it is omitted. Thus, the reinforcement may be continuous or intermittent. When a desired response is reinforced every time it occurs we call it continuous reinforcement. In contrast, in intermittent schedules responses are sometimes reinforced, sometimes not. It is known as partial reinforcement and has been found to produce greater resistance to extinction – than is found with continuous reinforcement.

Delayed Reinforcement

The effectiveness of reinforcement is dramatically altered by delay in the occurrence of reinforcement. It is found that delay in the delivery of reinforcement leads to poorer level of performance. It can be easily shown by asking children which reward they will prefer for doing some chore. Smaller rewards immediately after doing the chore will be preferred rather than a big one after a long gap.

4. A good role model is very important for a growing up child. Discuss the kind of learning that supports it.

Ans. The kind of learning that supports role model is learning by observation. In this kind of learning, human beings learn social behaviours, therefore, it is sometimes called social learning. In many situations individuals do not know how to behave. They observe others and emulate their behaviour. This form of learning is called modeling.

Examples of observational learning abound in our social life. Fashion designers employ tall, pretty, and gracious young girls and tall, smart, and well-built young boys for popularising clothes of different designs and fabrics. People observe them on televised fashion shows and advertisements in magazines and newspapers. They imitate these models. Observing superiors and likeable persons and then emulating their behaviour in a novel social situation is a common experience.

In order to understand the nature of observational learning we may refer to the studies conducted by Bandura. In one of his well-known experimental study, Bandura showed a film of five minutes duration to children. The film shows that in a large room there are numerous toys including a large sized ‘Bobo’ doll. Now a grown-up boy enters the room and looks around. The boy starts showing aggressive behaviour towards the toys in general and the bobo doll in particular. He hits the doll, throws it on the floor, kicking it and sitting on it. This film has three versions. In one version a group of children see the boy (model) being rewarded and praised by an adult for being aggressive to the doll. In the second version another group of children see the boy being punished for his aggressive behaviour. In the third version the third group of children are not shown the boy being either rewarded or punished.

After viewing a specific version of the film all the three groups of children were placed in an experimental room in which similar toys were placed around. The children were allowed to play with the toys. These groups were secretly observed and their behaviours noted. It was found that those children who saw aggressive behaviour being rewarded were most aggressive; children who had seen the aggressive model being punished were least aggressive. Thus, in observational learning observers acquire knowledge by observing the model’s behaviour, but perfor mance is influenced by model’s behaviour being rewarded or punished.

Children learn most of the social behaviours by observing and emulating adults. The way to put on clothes, dress one’s hair, and conduct oneself in society are learned through observing others. It has also been shown that children learn and develop various personality characteristics through observational learning. Aggressiveness, pro- social behaviour, courtesy, politeness, diligence, and indolence are acquired by this method of learning.

5. Explain the procedures for studying verbal learning.

Ans. Verbal learning is different from conditioning and is limited to human beings. Human beings, acquire knowledge about objects, events, and their features largely in terms of words. Words then come to be associated with one another. Psychologists have developed a number of methods to study this kind of learning in a laboratory setting. Each method is used to investigate specific questions about learning of some kind of verbal material. The process of learning to respond verbally to verbal stimulus, which may include symbols, nonsense syllables and lists of words.

The procedures for studying verbal learning are:

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 words is given in Table 6.3.

The first members of the pairs (stimulus term) are nonsense syllables (consonant- vowel-consonant), and the second are English nouns (response term). The learner is first shown both the stimulus-response pairs together, and is instructed to remember and recall the response after the presentation of each stimulus term. After that a learning trial

begins. One by one the stimulus words are presented and the participant tries to give the correct response term. In case of failure, s/he is shown the response word. In one trial all the stimulus terms are shown. Trials continue until the participant gives all the response words without a single error. The total number of trials taken to reach the criterion becomes the measure of paired-associates learning.

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. nonsense syllables, most familiar or least familiar words, interrelated words, etc. are prepared. The participant is presented the entire list and is 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 item. 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 word. This procedure is called serial anticipation method. Learning trials continue until the participant correctly anticipates all the items in the given order.

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 presentation order of words varies from trial to trial. This method is used to study how participants organise words for storage in memory. Studies indicate 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.

6. What is a skill? What are the stages through which skill learning develops?

Ans. A skill is defined as the ability to perform some complex task smoothly and efficiently. Car driving, airplane piloting, ship navigating, shorthand writing, and writing and reading are examples of skills. Such skills are learned by practice and exercise. A skill consists of a chain of perceptual motor responses or as a sequence of S-R associations.

One of the most influential accounts of the phases of skill acquisition is presented by Fitts. According to him, skill learning passes through three phases, viz. cognitive, associative and autonomous. Each phase or stage of skill learning involves different types of mental processes.

Cognitive phase

In the cognitive phase of skill learning, the learner has to understand and memorise the instructions, and also understand how the task has to be performed. In this phase, every outside cue, instructional demand, and one’s response outcome have to be kept alive in consciousness.

Associative phase

The second phase is associative. In this phase, different sensory inputs or stimuli are linked with appropriate responses. As the practice increases, errors decrease, performance improves and time taken is also reduced. With continued practice, errorless performance begins, though, the learner has to be attentive to all the sensory inputs and maintain concentration on the task.

Autonomus phase

In this phase, two important changes take place in performance: the attentional demands of the associative phase decrease, and interference created by external factors reduces.

Finally, skilled performance attains automaticity with minimal demands on conscious effort. Transitions from one phase to the other clearly show that practice is the only means of skill learning. One has to keep on exercising and practicing. As the practice increases, improvement rate gradually increases; and automaticity of errorless performance becomes the hallmark of skill. That is why it is said that ‘practice makes a man perfect’.

7. How can you distinguish between generalisation and discrimination?

Ans. The processes of generalisation and discrimination occur in all kinds of learning. However, they have been extensively investigated in the context of conditioning. 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 of telephone) is presented, the organism makes the conditioned response to it. This phenomenon of responding similarly to similar stimuli is known as generalisation.

Again, suppose a child has learned the location of a jar of a certain size and shape in which sweets are kept. Even when the child’s mother is not around, the child finds the jar and obtains the sweets. This is a learned operant. Now the sweets are kept in another jar of a different size and shape and at a different location in the kitchen. In the absence of the mother the child locates the jar and obtains the sweets. This is also an example of generalisation. When a learned response occurs or is elicited by a new stimulus, it is called generalisation.

Another process, which is complimentary to generalisation, is called discrimination. Generalisation is due to similarity while discrimination is a response due to difference. For example, suppose a child is conditioned to be afraid of a person with a long moustache and wearing black clothes. In subsequent situation, when s/he meets another person dressed in black clothes with a beard, the child shows signs of fear. The child’s fear is generalised. S/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.

8. How does transfer of learning takes place?

Ans. The term transfer of learning is often called 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. It is considered to be negative transfer if new learning is retarded. Absence of facilitative or retarding effect means zero transfer. Psychologists use specific experimental designs in the study of transfer effects. Absence of facilitative of retarding effect means zero transfer i.e. earlier learning has no effect on later learning.

Transfer of learning refers to the way in which we might transfer skills learned in one situation to a second, related situation. Thus, learning to play tennis may introduce a range of coordination and racket skills that would then transfer to similar games such as squash.

It must be noted that in the study of transfer effect, a distinction is made between general transfer and specific transfer. It is now a well-known fact that prior learning always leads to positive general transfer. It is only in specific transfer that transfer effects are positive or negative, and in some conditions there is zero effect, though in reality, due to general transfer, zero transfer is theoretically untenable.

9. Why is motivation a prerequisite for learning?


Motivation is a mental as well as a physiological state, which arouses an organism to act for fulfilling the current need. In other words, motivation energises an organism to act vigorously for attaining some goal. Such acts persist until the goal is attained and the need is satisfied. Motivation is thus a prerequisite for learning.

The more motivated individuals are, the more hard work they do for learning. Motivation for learning something arises from two sources. One may learn many things because they enjoy them (intrinsic motivation) or they provide the means for attaining some other goal (extrinsic motivation).

10. What does the notion of preparedness for learning mean?

Ans. The members of different species are very different from one another in their sensory capacities and response abilities. The mechanisms necessary for establishing associations, such as S-S or S-R, also vary from species to species. It can be said that species have biological constraints on their learning capacities. The kinds of S-S or S-R learning an organism can easily acquire depends on the associative mechanism it is genetically endowed with or prepared for. A particular kind of associative learning is easy for apes or human beings but may be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible for cats and rats. It implies that one can learn only those associations for which one is genetically prepared. The concept of preparedness may be best understood as a continuum or dimension, on one end of which are those learning tasks or associations which are easy for the members of some species, and on the other end are those learning tasks for which those members are not prepared at all and cannot learn them. In the middle of the continuum fall those tasks and associations for which the members are neither prepared nor unprepared. They can learn such tasks, but only with great difficulty and persistence.

11. Explain the different forms of cognitive learning.

Ans. Some psychologists view learning in terms of cognitive processes that underlie it. They have developed approaches that focus on such processes that occur during learning rather than concentrating solely on S-R and S-S connections, as we have seen in the case of classical and operant conditioning. Thus, in cognitive learning, there is a change in what the learner knows rather than what s/he does. This form of learning shows up in insight learning and latent learning.

Insight Learning
Kohler demonstrated a model of learning which could not be readily explained by conditioning. He performed a series of experiments with chimpanzees that involved solving complex problems. Kohler placed chimpanzees in an enclosed play area where food was kept out of their reach. Tools such as poles and boxes were placed in the enclosure. The chimpanzees rapidly learned how to use a box to stand on or a pole to move the food in their direction. In this experiment, learning did not occur as a result of trial and error and reinforcement, but came about in sudden flashes of insight. The chimpanzees would roam about the enclosure for some time and then suddenly would stand on a box, grab a pole and strike a banana, which was out of normal reach above the enclosure. The chimpanzee exhibited what Kohler called insight learning – the process by which the solution to a problem suddenly becomes clear.

In a normal experiment on insight learning, a problem is presented, followed by a period of time when no apparent progress is made and finally a solution suddenly emerges. In insight learning, sudden solution is the rule. Once the solution has appeared, it can be repeated immediately the next time the problem is confronted. Thus, it is clear that what is learned is not a specific set of conditioned associations between stimuli and responses but a cognitive relationship between a means and an end. As a result, insight learning can be generalised to other similar problem situations.

Latent Learning
Another type of cognitive learning is known as latent learning. In latent learning, a new behaviour is learned but not demonstrated until reinforcement is provided for displaying it. Tolman made an early contribution to the concept of latent learning. To have an idea of latent learning, we may briefly understand his experiment. Tolman put two groups of rats in a maze and gave them an opportunity to explore. In one group, rats found food at the end of the maze and soon learned to make their way rapidly through the maze. On the other hand, rats in the second group were not rewarded and showed no apparent signs of learning. But later, when these rats were reinforced, they ran through the maze as efficiently as the rewarded group.

Tolman contended that the unrewarded rats had learned the layout of the maze early in their explorations. They just never displayed their latent learning until the reinforcement was provided. Instead, the rats developed a cognitive map of the maze, i.e. a mental representation of the spatial locations and directions, which they needed to reach their goal.

12. How can we identify students with learning disabilities?

Ans. Learning disability refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested in terms of difficulty in the acquisition of learning, reading, writing, speaking, reasoning, and mathematical activities.

  • The sources of such disorders are inherent in the child.

We can identify students with learning disabilities from many symptoms. These symptoms are following:
(i) Difficulties in writing letters, words, and phrases, reading out text, and speaking, appear quite frequently, quite often they have listening problems, although they may not have auditory defects. Such children are very different from others in developing learning strategies and plans.

(ii) Learning disabled children have disorders of attention. They get easily distracted and cannot sustain attention on one point for long. Sometimes it leads to hyperactivity ie they are always moving, doing different things and trying to manipulate things without any purpose.

(iii) Poor space orientation and inadequate sense of time are common symptoms. Such children do not get easily oriented to new surroundings and get lost. They lack a sense of time and are late or sometimes too early in their routine work. They also show confusion in direction and misjudge right, left, and down.

(iv) Learning-disabled children have poor motor-coordination and poor manual dexterity. This is evident in their lack of balance. They show Inability to sharpen pencil, handle doorknobs, difficulty in learning to ride a bicycle, etc.

(v) These children fail to understand and follow oral directions for doing things.

(vi) They misjudge relationships as to which classmates are friendly and which ones are indifferent. They fail to learn and understand body language.

(vii) Learning-disabled· children usually show perceptual disorders. These include visual, auditory, tectual and kinesthetic, misperception etc. They fail to differentiate a call-bell from the ring of the telephone. It is not they do not have sensory acuity. They simply fail to use it in performance.

(viii) Fairly large number of learning-disabled children have dyslexia. They quite often fail to copy letter and words. e.g.: they fail to distinguish between band d, p and q, p and I, was and saw, unclear and nuclear etc., they fail to organize verbal material.