Showing posts with label Educational Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Educational Psychology. Show all posts

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Key Terms: Personality, Psycho-social, Psycho-sexual, Identity

Key Terms used by Erik Erikson:


It is the set of characteristics that we typically manifest in our interactions with others. It includes all the abilities, predispositions, habits, and other qualities that make each of us different.
It pertains to events or behaviors that relate to the social aspects of development. Erikson’s theory is psycho-social; it deals with the resolution of social crises and the development of social competencies.
A term used to describe psychological phenomena based on sexuality. Freud’s theories are psycho-sexual because they attribute development to sexually based forces and motives.


In Erikson’s theory, “identity” is a term closely related to self. Identity refers to the individual’s self-definition, a sort of personal sense of who and what one is. To achieve identity is to arrive at a clear notion of who one is. One of the important tasks of adolescence is to select and develop a strong sense of identity.


The concept that an individual has of himself or herself. Notions of the self are often closely allied with individual’s beliefs about how others perceive them.

Identity diffusion: 

An expression for a stage in early adolescence. During this stage, the adolescent has a vague and changing sense of identity with no firm vocational commitment and an ambiguous belief system.


Marcia’s term for the adoption of a ready-made identity.


Erikson’s term for the social functioning of the hiatus between childhood and adulthood. In Marcia’s description, moratorium individuals are those who have not yet made a commitment and who are in a state of crisis (conflict) as they examine and experiment with various identities.

Identity achieved: 

Marcia’s term for individuals who have experienced a crisis and made a commitment, thus achieving a sense of identity.

Friday, 3 March 2017


The moment we listen the word “learning”, many of us start thinking of studying and school. But the reality is that learning is not limited to school. We learn everyday of our lives. Babies learn to kick their legs, teenagers learn cycling or lyrics of their favorite song, middle-aged people learn to change their diet patters.

In the light of all these examples, it can be inferred that learning occurs when experience causes a relatively permanent change in an individual’s knowledge and behavior. Learning is a change that takes place through practice or experience, changes due to growth or maturation.

It is worth mentioning here that the change might be deliberate or unintentional; but the change must be relatively permanent; it must be for a long time.

In other words, learning is the acquisition of habits, knowledge and attitudes. It involves new ways of doing things. When learning occurs, a more or less permanent change is experienced in the learner’s behavior.

Learning is an active process that needs to be stimulated and guided towards desirable outcomes. External stimuli that induce learning include, particularly the influence of the teacher through the assignments he/she makes, the questions he/she asks, the visual aids and other procedures that he/she utilizes to arouse learning interest and activity.

Definitions of Learning:

The following definitions have been given from different perspectives. These are:

1. Learning is a Change in Behavior:
According to J.P. Guilford, “Learning is any change in behavior, resulting from behavior”. In this definition, a distinction between change in behavior due to maturity and change in behavior due to learning is not clear; though both these activities take place simultaneously.

2. Learning is an Organization of Behavior:
According to Garrett, “Learning is that activity by virtue of which we organize our response with new habits.” In the light of this definition, it is evident that the element of organization in learning is very much important. For example, in learning to ride a cycle, we have to organize the activities of turning the pedal, balancing the handle, etc. in order to be reasonably safe with the vehicle. Learning of the activity of cycling will be complete, only when he/she accomplishes this organization.

3. Learning is the Reinforcement of the New Activity:
Learning of a new activity is an addition to the person’s store of experience. Reinforcement too is an vital element in the act of learning; it helps in forming only successful responses and weeding out the unsuccessful one. According to R. S. Woodworth, “An activity may be called learning in so far as it develops the individual in any way, good or bad and makes his environment and experiences different from what it would otherwise have been.”

Characteristics of Learning:
  • Learning is growth
  • Learning is purposeful
  • Learning is intelligent
  • Learning is both individual and social
  • Learning affects the conduct of the learner
  • Learning is adjustment
  • Learning is experience
  • Learning is active
Methods of Learning:
The principal forms or methods of learning are learning through imitation, learning through conditioned response, learning through trial and error, and learning through insight.

Learning through Imitation:

Learning through imitation is one of the most important forms of learning. It is generally observed that children imitate the behavior, habits, manners and ways of adults. In imitation, the learning exactly copies the behavior of anther person without understanding or thinking.

The main characteristics of learning through imitation are the following:
·         The imitator never does it before imitation, but performs the activity only after seeing it
·         In imitation, learner exactly copies the activity performed before him/her (learner)

Learning through Conditioned Response:

It is one of the most important methods of learning, especially for children. In childhood, many of the responses of the child are conditioned to particular objects and even when the individual becomes an adult, his conditioned response continues.

Learning through Trial and Error:

The method of trial and error is used in the following circumstances:
  • This method is used when the learner is completely motivated and can see the goal clearly. Motivation as well as the presence of the goal is necessary for awakening the response in learning through trial and error.
  • The method of trial and error is used when the learner fails to find the solution of the problem. It is only when he/she fails to find out the solution of the problem that he/she proceeds blindly, tries in various directions, commits errors, eliminates them, and finally arrives at a successful response
  • The method of trial and error is used when perception alone or learned activities are not sufficient.
Learning through Insight:

The insight method of learning is superior to the methods of imitation and conditioned response, because both the latter methods (imitation and conditioned response) take more time.

Students will be permanently helped by the use of insight method of learning in place of trial and error methods in their studies and other activities.

There are many characteristics of learning through insight. These are as follows:
Insight is sudden
  • Insight alters perception
  • Old objects appear in new patterns and organization by virtue of insight
  • Insight is relative to the intellectual level
  • Previous experiences and maturity also effects insight
Maturation and Learning:

The learner’s stage of maturity is important in the learning process. Until and unless, there is sufficient physiological maturity, there will be little learning.

For example, the child learns to walk only after he has reached a particular stage. He learns to read more easily only after he has reached his individual state of readiness for reading.

Rate of maturation varies from individual to individual. Automatic activity, random acts, reflexes and instincts and sudden expressions of emotions can be accepted as unlearned actions and the result of maturation.

Factors of Learning:
There are various factors that assist the process of learning among human beings. These factors can be divided into the following categories:

Psychological Factors:

These are the most important factors in the process of learning. It includes the following factors:
  • Generalization: When an individual goes through many similar and comparable experiences, he/she discerns the common element among them. On this basis, he/she formulates a general rule that has considerable influence on his/her future conduct.
  • Facilitation: It is an important factor in learning because it is human tendency to learn activities that are simple and interesting.
  • Differentiation: An individual distinguishes between dissimilar objects or compares them in such a manner to bring dissimilarity.
  • Inhibition: It is an obstructive psychological element or factor in learning. In this, some psychological elements provide obstruction in the learning process.
  • Integration: It helps to improve one’s insight into the subjects already learnt.
Physiological Factors:

Learning is more a psycho-physiological process than a purely psychological one. Following are the important physiological factors in learning:

·     Fatigue: In a state of fatigue, the individual’s capacity to learn is considerably reduced and all that is learnt is also easily forgotten.
·      Drugs and intoxicants: These are the obstacles in the process of learning.
·     Diseases: Disease, whether it is physical or mental, obstructs learning as it reduces the capacity to grasp and learn.
·   Excited Physical Condition: An excited bodily state, arising out of emotion cause difficulty in learning.
·   Difference in Age and Maturity: Before any particular activity can be acquired, it is necessary to attain a particular level of maturity that can only come at a particular age level.

Physical Factors:

The physical factors have also some importance in the learning process. For example, high and low temperature, noise, and amount of humidity, all these conditions influence the process of learning.

Social Factors:

Man is a social animal and all his activities are influenced by the social conditions, for example, imitation, suggestion, sympathy, praise, competition, and cooperation. All these factors influence the learning process.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Gestalt Psychology

Gestalt Psychology
Gestalt Psychology
The word “Gestalt” is a Gernman word which means form or configuration. Sometimes, the Gestalt psychology is called configuration psychology. The Gestalt School developed in Germany around the year 1912 under the guidance of Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler.

This school (Gestalt school) had its inception as a result of Wertheimer’s interest in the phi-phenomenon, an illusion of movement. Wertheimer was interested in the perception of movement and he conducted a large number of experiments on “phi-phenomenon”.

In one such experiment, Wertheimer exposed a vertical line followed by a horizontal line with a very short interval of time (say, fraction of a second). The subjects should have perceived them as two different lines exposed one after the other. But they perceived only one line.

The Gestalt School of psychology developed as a revolt against the structuralism and associationism. But when it gained momentum, it also protested against Watson’s Behaviorism. It must be noted here that both behaviorism and Gestalt psychology developed about the same time in two different countries, but neither party had any knowledge of the other’s development.

Silent features:

Behaviorism abandoned the study of conscious experiences. It confined itself to the study of overt behavior only. But Gestalt psychology proposed to continue the study of experiences. According to its founders, excellent psychological data can be obtained from direct experiences. Experience is an important object of study in psychology. Thus, Gestalt psychology aimed at studying both overt behavior and experiences.

Behaviorism opposed the analysis of the structure of conscious into its component elements. It emphasized the association of stimulus and response in behavior. It reduced behavior to S-R (Stimulus-Response) units. Gestalt psychology was opposed to analysis altogether. It was opposed to reductionism. According to Gestalt school of psychology, every experience carries with it a quality of wholeness. The whole dominates over its parts.

Behaviorism rejected introspection as a method of investigation. But Gestalt psychologists did not reject introspection altogether. They favored phenomenological introspection.

Behaviorism rejects sensation because of methodological difficulties in studying sensory process. Gestalt psychology rejected sensation because sensations are atoms or elements of experiences.

Behaviorists ignored the study of perception. But the study of perception was the very heart of Gestalt psychology. Perhaps, no other school of psychology contributed so much to the study of perception as the Gestalt school.

The analysis of behavior by behaviorists is a molecular one. But the explanation of behavior by Gestalt psychology is a molar one. It must be mentioned here that molecular behavior occurs in the organism in a given geographical environment. But according to Gestalt psychologists, behavior occurs in a given geographical environment which is regulated by behavioral environment. They, therefore, differentiated between geographical environment and the behavioral environment. The environment as it exists in reality is the geographical environment. But the environment as perceived by the individual is the behavior environment.

Watson’s behaviorism reduced thinking to laryngeal habits. Watson identified thought with implicit speech movements. He interpreted thinking in the light of peripheral theory and psychological orientation. But Gestalt psychology discarded Watson’s explanation of the thought process. Gestalt psychologists presented a psychological approach to the study of the thought process. Gestalt psychologists were opposed to the association theory of thinking or piecemeal thinking. They insisted on the fact that when confronted with a problem, the individual must understand the essential structure of the whole situation and make an appropriate response. The individual must be able to organize or reorganize the materials so as to produce some results. These psychologists favor productive thinking.


For structuralists and functionalists like Wundt and Titchner, perception was a crucial problem. Watson ignored perception. But the Gestalt psychologists want to make the study of the perceptual process the very heart of their system.

There is a general agreement among contemporary psychologists that the Gestalt school exerted a greater influence of the evolution of modern perceptual psychology that any other group. 

Gestalt psychology is “form” psychology. According to its proponents, our perceptual experiences arise as Gestalten or molar configurations which are not mere aggregations of sensations but organized and meaningful whole. 

Gestalt psychologists apply the total approach as opposed to the part approach and say that individual perceives objects as “whole” and not part by part. The whole approach provides meaningful perception because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, when we perceive a table, we perceive it as a molar object, not a collection of color patches, four legs, nuts, bolts and the like. 

After innumerable experiments on perception, these psychologists were able to formulate certain laws which govern the organization of perception. These laws are the following:

·         The law of proximity
·         The law of similarity
·         The law of closure
·         The law of good figure
·         The law of continuation
·         The principle of figure and ground

However, the Gestalt school’s challenge in the area of perception was so successful that the Gestalt principles are now widely recognized as fundamental.

School of Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

What is psychoanalysis?

The development of psychoanalysis has its origin in the medical practice of Sigmund Freud in Vienna around 1900.

Freud, who is considered as the founder of psychoanalysis, was an Austrian neurologist. He was born to Galician Jewish parents on 6th May 1856. In the year 1938, Freud left his native country (Austria) in order to escape his life from the Nazis. The very next year (that is 1939), he died in exile in the United Kingdom on 23rd September 1939.

Freud was a practicing physician who specialized in diseases of the nervous system. He found that many of his patients with nervous disease were indeed suffering from mental conflicts and neurotic states. These mental conflicts and neurotic states manifested themselves as physical disorders such as extreme fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, and so on.
In such a situation, treating the patients’ physical symptoms failed to get at the root of the problem. Clearly, what the patients needed was psycho-therapy rather than physical therapy.

While Freud was puzzling over these difficulties, Jean-Martin Charcot, a French practitioner, and Joseph Bewer, a German practitioner had been experiencing considerable success with the “hypnotic treatment” of hysteria. Freud was in touch with these results.

Sigmund Freud tried out hypnotic treatment on his patients. Soon, he noticed that all patients could not be hypnotized. Moreover, hypnosis resulted only in a temporary alleviation of symptoms, not in permanent cure.  

Freud observed that the real value of this treatment lay in a deeper and more complicated analysis of the patients. Thus, he changed over to a new technique called the “free association technique”.


Free Association Technique:

In “free association technique”, the patient relaxes on a couch and freely tells whatever comes into his mind. The psychoanalyst listens to the patient and observes his emotional reaction, signs of distress, resistance to the treatment and so on.

Following this session, the therapist discusses with the patient interpretation of the facts which had been brought to light during the analytical period.

Dream Analysis:

During the course of his practice, Freud became convinced that dreams were of special significance for the new therapy. The analysis of the dream revealed to him the hidden wishes, lost memories, and emotional attitude of the patient.

Dream analysis, or the analysis of a patient’s dream, also revealed repressed unconscious desires which were very important for the treatment of neurotic disorders. Freud considered dream interpretation as an important part of the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. He considered dream as a royal road to the interpretation of unconscious.

After the analysis, dreams reveal two distinct types of contents—the manifest content and the latent content.

The dream as remembered by the dreamer upon awakening is the manifest content. But the real or the hidden facts in the dream are the latent contents of the dream.

The latent content may be quite different from the manifest content, because the former gets distorted and undergoes considerable modification by a certain process known as “dream work”.

Dream work operates through three ways: condensation, displacement, and secondary elaboration.

Condensation: In condensation, some elements of the dream are omitted altogether and others appear only in a fragmentary form. Sometimes, several elements may be blended into one. Generally unpleasant, unacceptable and harmful events in the dream are condensed.

Displacement: Most often, some elements of the dream may be replaced or displaced by other elements which are acceptable to the dreamer. Sometimes, the latent content of the dream takes an opposite direction. For example, clothing often represents nakedness; love may be a disguise for hate. This process is known as displacement.

Secondary elaboration: It is a process of hiding the real significance of the dream. Through this process, the dreamer, upon awakening, makes a good story out of the dream. He, therefore, adds new elements that were not in the original dream.

Dream analysis is designed to reverse these various processes and to reveal precisely what is repressed or hidden. This is done in two ways: First, the dreamer is required to associate around the various elements of the dream. Second, the dreams generally appear symbolically. Thus, an analysis of the various symbols in the dream reveals the real object of the dream.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

“Primary Reinforcer” and “Generalized Reinforcer”

Primary Reinforcer and Generalized Reinforce

Difference between “Primary Reinforcer” and “Generalized Reinforcer”:

According to B.F. Skinner, reinforcer can be primary reinforcer or generalized reinforcer.
A primary reinforcer is a stimulus that is naturally reinforcing, such as food, drink, or sex. These stimuli (food, drink, or sex) are related to an unlearned need or drive. Stimuli that satisfy these drives tend to be highly reinforcing for most of the organisms. They are referred to as positive stimuli.

A generalized reinforcer is a stimulus which has acquired reinforcing properties through repeated pairings with other reinforcers under various situations; the stimulus (which was previously neutral) now becomes reinforcing for many behaviors. 

For example, if an animal is always fed from a stainless steel plate, the plate itself comes to acquired reinforcing properties because it is regularly associated with the food. 

Another example is money which has no intrinsic value; but it acquires its value through repeated association with the necessities of life.

Generally, a primary reinforcer is one which is related to the organism’s basic physiological system, for example, hunger or thirst.  On the other hand, a generalized reinforcer does not have intrinsic reinforcing properties for the organism; rather their reinforcing values are learned because they are associated with some primary reinforcer.

Thus, the generalized reinforcer tends to supplement or substitute the primary reinforcer.

Difference between “Reinforcer” and “Reinforcement”

B.F. Skinner

B.F. Skinner insisted that the causes of behavior are outside the organism; they have to do with the consequences of actions. Thus, Skinner seeks to discover and describe the laws that govern interactions between the organism and the environment. To do this, Skinner relies on what he describes as the experimental analysis of behavior.
B.F. Skinner had done an extensive research on reinforcement. The concept of reinforcement is among the major contributions by Skinner, an American psychologist, to the behaviorism.

Skinner's experiment involves two kinds of variables--independent variables, and dependent variables. The independent variables are the factors that can be directly manipulated experimentally like reinforcement, whereas depended variables are those that are affected by manipulations of the independent variables like the rate of response.

The main independent variables in Skinner's system are the type of reinforcement and the reinforcement schedule (how reinforcement is presented).

Skinner made an important distinction between two related terms—reinforcer and reinforcement. In Skinnerian terms, a reinforcer is a stimulus, whereas reinforcement is the effect of this stimulus.
For example, candy can be reinforcer because it is a stimulus. Now, just think the other dimension, that is, a piece of candy is not reinforcement; its effect on a person can be an example of reinforcement.
Reinforcer is widely defined as: “It (reinforcer) is any stimulus that increases the probability that a response will occur. Now, it is evident from the definition that the effect of a stimulus determines whether it will be reinforcing. In other words, reinforcement (effect) requires the use of some reinforcer (stimulus) in the learning situation.

Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.

A positive reinforcer is a stimulus that strengthens the desired behavior and increases the probability of the occurrence of that behavior.  Positive reinforcers tend to be pleasant stimuli. For example, in the Skinner’s box, food pellets are pleasant stimuli that serve as positive reinforcer.

A negative reinforcer also strengthens a behavior, but it does so by eliminating something that is unwanted. For example, in the Skinner’s box, if a mild current were turned on in the electric grid that runs through the floor of the box, and if this current were turned off only when the rat depressed the lever, turning off the current would be an example of an aversive stimulus serving as a negative reinforcer.

Monday, 27 February 2017

What is “Operant Conditioning”?

Operant Conditioning

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (commonly known as B. F. Skinner) had coined the term of “operant conditioning”. Skinner, who was the behaviorist in his approach, was born in the United States of America on 20th March 1904 and died on 18th August 1990. He had worked at Harvard University as the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology.

The term “operant conditioning” (also called instrumental conditioning) refers to the learning in which voluntary behavior is strengthened or weakened by consequences or antecedents.

Here, it is worth mentioning that “antecedents” are the events that precede a behavior or action, whereas “consequences” are the events that follow an action or behavior.

Skinner believed that the principles of classical conditioning account for only a small proportion of learned behaviors. According to him, many human behaviors are operants, and not respondents. Respondents are elicited by particular stimuli such as Pavlov bell.

In a respondent situation, an individual learns merely by being in the situation and responding to it. Skinner argued that not all behavior is of this type. Most of human behavior is operant behavior, which is emitted, not elicited.

Before moving ahead with operant conditioning, let us discuss in brief about classical conditioning in order to have concept clarity.

Classical conditioning describes only how existing behaviors might be paired with new stimuli; however, it does not explain how new operant behaviors are acquired.

In classical conditioning, behavior (such as response or action) is simply a word for what a person does in a particular situation. It lies between the antecedents and consequences.

There is a relationship in antecedents, behavior, and consequence.

Here, “A” stands for antecedents; “B” stands for behaviors; and “C” stands for consequences.

Now, let’s talk about the “operant conditioning”.

During the period of 1930s, B. F. Skinner had started his experiments on “operant conditioning” (also called instrumental conditioning).

The operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the strength of a behavior is modified by the behavior’s consequences (such as reward or punishment); in which the behavior is controlled by antecedents.

Skinner wanted to study reinforced responding without breaking the experiments in discrete trials. In order to study operant conditioning, Skinner had invented the operant conditioning chamber, popularly known as the Skinner box or Operant Chamber.

An operant chamber is a simple box with device at one end that can be worked by the animal in the box. For rats, cats, and monkeys, the device is a lever, and for pigeon the device is a small panel (called a key) which can be pecked.

The lever and the key are switches that activate when positive reinforcement is being used. Thus, positive reinforcement is contingent upon pressing a lever or pecking a key.

The first step in the operant conditioning of a hungry rat is to get food pellets when they are delivered by the experimenter who operates the pellet.

The pellets are delivered one by one; after some that the rate eats each pellet as soon as it drops. Then, the experimenter stops releasing the pellets and the rat is left alone in the Skinner box with the lever which will release the pellets.

After an initial period of inactivity, the hungry rat begins to explore the box. Finally, the rat presses the level accidentally. A pellet of food is released, i.e. the reinforcement is contingent upon pressing the lever.

After eating the food pellet, the rat continues exploring and after a while, it presses the lever again, and again the pellet is released, then after it presses the lever the third time.

Usually, after the fourth and fifth press, the rat begins to press the lever more rapidly and operant behavior is developed.  B.F. Skinner, who had founded a school of experimental research psychology (called the “experimental analysis of behavior”), had preferred the term reinforcement to reward.

According to Skinner, reward is a subjective interpretation of behavior which is associated with pleasurable event, whereas reinforcement is simply defined as an effect that increases the probability of a response.

Thus, the experiment on operant conditioning shows that operant behavior can be altered by changes in the antecedents, the consequences, or both.