Psychological Self-Help

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There are other important factors that were grossly neglected by
the early investigators of learning: cognitive processes (the mind), the
genes and biological influences, and, in humans, such things as values,
purposes, and intrinsic satisfactions. A brief summary of these
neglected factors will be given here. 
From 1900 to 1975 the most serious omission from learning was
probably thinking or the mind. Before that time, the mind was thought
to control behavior. During this time, learning was seen as simple S-R
connections, i.e. the environment controlled behavior. Now, since 1980
or so, the mind is back in control of behavior. Psychologists tried to
make things simple but it didn't work. Granted, the human mind is
complex and behavior would be easier to understand if we could
disregard the mind, but that isn't reality. It is just common-sense to
include the mind in psychology. In our daily lives it certainly seems to
us as though we mentally control our actions. We plan to call a friend
or go to the store...and we do. We decide to watch our diet...and we
eat less. Fishbein (1980) contends that we act according to our
intentions, if we rationally decide to do so and if significant others
approve (or won't find out). If plans, self-instructions, and other
thoughts do affect our actions, then we need to know how to control
our thoughts too (see chapters 13 and 14). 
Contrary to the 1900-1975 theorists who thought conditioning was
a mechanical, blind, automatic, unthinking process, there is growing
evidence that thinking is very much involved in conditioning. In fact,
the connection between the conditioned stimulus or CS (tone or rat)
and the unconditioned stimulus or UCS (food or loud noise) must make
sense and be useful, otherwise an animal or human won't learn that
connection. Example: An adult would certainly start to salivate to a
bell (or smell of a bakery) signaling food is near by. But an adult (or a
4-year-old) probably wouldn't develop a fear of a little kitten under the
same conditions as Little Albert with the rat. Adults know kittens don't
make banging noises. Even "lower organisms" have an idea about
what is most likely to make them sick, so rats, for instance, associate
eating or drinking something with nausea much faster than a tone with
nausea. Thus, a mass of research demonstrates that animals (and
humans) aren't stupid; they are thinking and adapting; they don't
learn just any useless pairing of two stimuli together, but where it is
very useful, one-trial learning can occur. The classically conditioned
stimuli (tone) must truly predict the unconditioned stimuli (food), thus
helping the animal be forewarned and to adapt, before the animal will
learn the connection. Similarly, the reinforcement must truly be
contingent on the behavior before operant learning occurs. The
learner--animal or human--is involved in a complex cognitive process
of calculating the relationships between stimuli in the environment and
behavioral reactions. The organism is figuring out what is going on--
what causes what or what leads to what (called cognitive maps)--and
then acts to get the reinforcer (reward). 
Note: do not assume that our thoughts affecting what we learn are
always correct and just. There is impressive evidence (see The Class
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