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Learning Theories

Extinction and Generalisation

  • About this Lecture
  • About this Course
  • About this Lecturer
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About this Lecture

In this module, we think about different factors affecting classical conditioning, focussing in particular on the processes of extinction and generalisation. We begin by discussing how a learned behaviour can be extinguished over time by repeatedly presenting a conditioned stimulus without an unconditioned stimulus (e.g. repeatedly presenting the bell without the food). Next, we consider how an extinguished behaviour can be spontaneously recovered, focussing on a recent experiment which showed this effect in rats. Finally, we look at the concept of generalisation in classical conditioning. This concept describes how a learned response may be elicited not only by the conditioned stimulus itself but also by other stimuli that are similar to it. We return to the ‘Little Albert Study’ as an illustration of this effect.

About this Course

In this course, Mr Martyn Quigley (University of Nottingham) discusses some classic psychological theories of learning. We begin, in module one, by thinking about the research of Ivan Pavlov and his theory of classical conditioning as a form of associative learning. The second module takes a closer look at factors affecting classical conditioning, focussing in particular on the processes of extinction and generalisation. In module three, we move on to discuss operant or instrumental conditioning and the research of Edward Thorndike. In module four, we think about the mechanisms of reinforcement and punishment in operant conditioning, while module five takes a closer look at how the rate at which reinforcement occurs can influence learning. Module six concludes the course with a discussion of Social Learning Theory as an alternative to the behaviourist approach to learning.

About the Lecturer

Martyn Quigley is a Teaching Associate in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. His research interests include the mechanisms which underpin learning in a whole manner of circumstances, and how these can be linked to applied settings (e.g. educational and medical settings). He is also interested in the philosophy of science and how this relates to psychology and the replication crisis.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Quigley, M. (2019, September 27). Learning Theories - Extinction and Generalisation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Quigley, Martyn. "Learning Theories – Extinction and Generalisation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

Image Credits

• "Dog" by macrovector -
• "Bell" by macrovector -