This class was extremely interesting. The book, Introduction to Learning and Behavior was fantastic. Since it was an introduction book the definitions were detailed and I was never left confused. From research methods to types of conditioning to the behavior systems theory, the book always gave clear, concise examples that allowed me to relate what I was learning to my life.
One particular morning I burned my hand while cooking an omelet and then read chapter three. In the chapter I learned that it is the bodies flexion response that caused my hand to move away from the flame, not my brain feeling pain.
Another thing that I loved about the book is that it purposely gives different views on the same subject, which I thought was helpful since it allowed me to form my own opinions. In chapter 10, willpower is suggested to only mean that a person has resisted a temptation, while chapter 12 suggests that willpower shows commitment.
I was particularly impressed with this book when learning about the four types of contingencies. Seven pages were devoted solely to understanding the difference between positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. I can confidently say I understand the difference after reading about it.
I believe my favorite part was reading about phobias. When I was in my early teens I developed a strong fear of dark water. I do not swim in lakes, oceans, or even pools if it’s dark out. On the rare occasion I find myself in dark water (when I fell off the boat on vacation) I hyperventilate and have a small panic attack. When I cant see myself in the water I get the feeling that there is something just below the water that’s going to pull me under. I grew up at the beach and I never had a bad experience in water so I have always been unsure of why I have such a fear.
When reading about phobias I learned that there is more than just being exposed to an aversive stimulus and then over generalizing the cause that explains a person’s phobia. Observational learning happens when a person acquires a phobia by “observing the fearful reactions of others” towards a particular stimulus. After reading this, I decided that two events of observational learning could have contributed to my fear of water. Firstly, Jaws was the scariest movie I have seen to date (I don’t watch scary movies). That shark frightens me just thinking about it. Secondly, I’m sure a lot of us remember a show called Are You Afraid of the Dark? Well, there is one episode called The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float, which petrified me. I think that one can single handedly explain why, even pools, make me hesitant to get in.
After I wrote this essay I actually found the episode on YouTube. I laughed when the boy explained to the girl his fear of water since that is basically what I had just said my fear was. To hear his explanation, go to 1:15. To see the monster that keeps me from water, go to 8:15 (ha!)