Volume 16: pp. 1-11

Learning Theory for Comparative Psychologists

Geoffrey Hall

University of York

University of New South Wales

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This article offers a brief and simplified guide to the basics of learning theory. Certain central topics are described: classical conditioning, instrumental (operant) conditioning, extinction and inhibition, discrimination, and biological constraints on learning. A proper how-to guide would spell out how the findings and theories described under these headings can be applied to the explanation of phenomena in animal cognition, but that is an ambition rather than an achievement to be described (and the work is perhaps best left to others engaged directly in the study of animal cognition). Nonetheless, this article expresses the hope that learning theory will not be seen as an alternative to cognitive processing but rather will form part of a full account of the mechanisms invol ved in such processing.

Keywords: learning theory, conditioning, extinction, discrimination, biological constraints

Author Note: Geoffrey Hall, Department of Psychology, University of York, UK, YO10 5DD

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Geoffrey Hall at geoffrey.hall@york.ac.uk.