We have been, so far, associating stimuli with the potential responses. A dog learns to associate with a tone with food, a child gets afraid associating fear with a loud noise, and a pigeon learns that if he pecks, he will get food. Whether ills person or a pigeon, behaviorists feel that by knowing the reinforcement contingencies, a hen learn to associate with a special tone for food, we can explain and predict the behaviour.
Cognitive psychologists believe that there is more a story to tell. White they agree that classical and operant conditionings are important ways of learning, they maintain that they are not the only ways. They further hold that even in associative learning, more than a single mechanistic explanation is called for to account for the important thought processes intervening between the stimulus and the response. Cognitive learning entails active thinking and reasoning.
Although the environment certainly affects behaviour, the person or animal also has an important impact on his own learning. Learning is not simply the result of external forces like conditioning. It is also our internal process. As we know a very famous quote that a man is recognized by the company he keeps. Therefore it can be concluded that the environment has a great effect on human thinking. A process that we cannot see is taking place.
Thorndike was busy conditioning nearly efforts for classical the cats’ learning by similarity and difference, large and small, up and down and the alternation of left and right. They also learn by imitating other animals both of those like themselves and those that are different. They learn even how to use tools; and put their learning to work in totally new ways to solve new problems. We cannot explain much of the elaborate learning manifested by primates and human beings simply by referring to conditioning principles. How, then, do the cognitive psychologists explain it?
One way in which they have explained the cognitive aspect is through the importance of the animals’ ability to pay attention before conditioning can take place. To show how blocking works, we would first, establish standard Pavlov Ian conditioning. We could pair a- bell (the CS) with meat (the UCS) until we got a dog to salivate to the bell alone. At this point, we might add a second neutral stimulus; say the sound of chimes, to the bell to form a compound CS. Here we would pair the compound-bell plus chimes, to see whether dog would salivate to this sound in all probability, and he would not.
Why? Because previous conditioning to the first, the bell, blocked any conditioning from occurring to the chimes. Why does blocking occur? There are two theoretical explanations. According to Mackintosh (1975) adding the second stimulus (the chimes) to the bell after conditioning has taken place gives the organism no new information.
Wagner and Rescale 1972 offer another explanation. To them there is a limit to the amount of conditioning the UCS (meat) can support. If an organism is conditioned to one stimulus (bell) there is not enough conditioning ‘strength’ left to permit another stimulus to take effect as a CS.