Learning theories

Please do ONE of the following two options:
Option 1: Close Encounters and Superstitions
Analyze the following two phenomena through the concepts of learning theory:
(a) A human being and a dog meet each other in a park (for the first time in their lives).
Each approaches the other, the dog is petted, and both the human being and the dog find
the interaction rewarding. Explain how this scenario is possible, since neither has seen the
other before.
(b) Baseball players are known to be very superstitious. The majority of them engage in
superstitious behaviors. They do things like never stepping on the foul line, wearing the
same “lucky socks” every game, going through elaborate rituals before batting, etc. How
do you think they learned to be so superstitious?
Option 2:
Analyze the following two phenomena through the concepts of learning theory:
Louise missed dinner, and decided to eat a large bag of corn chips late in the evening. That
night, she came down with the flu and vomited corn chips repeatedly. Since that time, she
has had no interest in eating corn chips again, even though she is well aware that it was the
flu that made her vomit and not the corn chips.
When Roger went away to college in the late 1960’s, he noticed that all the guys who had
long hair (even the ones who were not especially good-looking) also had good looking
girlfriends. Roger let his hair grow, and soon found he had an attractive girlfriend too.

Learning theories

Option 2
Learning theory seek to explain how people behave and respond to various situations in
the environment (Wells, 2007). This discussion provides response to the situations provided in
the case.
In the case, where Louise missed diner and ate large portion of corn chips in the evening
which resulted to his vomiting because of flu leading him to vow not to eat corn chips even
after realizing that it was caused by flu can be explained by classical conditioning. From the

LEARNING THEORIES 2
experience, he developed a negative attitude towards corn chips as whenever the foods are
mentioned it makes him remember about the vomiting. Therefore, this explains why he is not
again willing to eat corn chips even after they were not the cause for his vomiting.
In the second case, Rogers’s behavior of learning is well explained by the cognitive
theory of learning. He was able to connect the long hair and the beautiful girl friends that his
friend had. Even the ugly boys with long hair had beautiful girlfriends. Therefore, through this,
he analyses the situation, reflects about it and also applies what he has seen by also rearing long
hair and this makes him to also get beautiful girl friends. Roger was able to think about the
aspect of long hair through his mental processes and this allowed him to connect and to
understand the theory behind long hair. He also wants to get a beautiful lady and the thing for her
is also to emulate the colleague. He therefore ends up learning the essence of long hair and it
comes to work for him.
From these two incidents, it is apparent that human beings learn from various things that
do happen in their lives. The experiences they go through helps to shape their behavior and
personalities.

LEARNING THEORIES 3

Reference

Wells, G. (2007). Semiotic Mediation, Dialogue and the Construction of Knowledge, Human
Development, 50 (5): 244–74.

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