Stages and Types of Learning

Edited by Shelleymarie, Jen Moreau


Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge, or to learn something from anyone or anything. Learning is a lifelong process that develops and progresses over time, combining thoughts, feelings, experiences, behaviors, skills and values.There are several ways that people learn.

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  • Motor learning is muscular, for example, walking, running or climbing.
  • Verbal learning is the learning of language.
  • Concept learning is a higher mental process that involves reasoning and intelligence.
  • Discrimination learning is finding a difference between something, for example, color difference.
  • Problem solving is thinking or reasoning.
  • Attitude is another way of learning, for example, happiness, a sad mood, how we develop our attitude, etc.

Types of Learning

Learning By Observation

This is also known as social learning theory. This is how we learn when observing something. There are two main key factors.

  1. 1
    Mediating process occurs between stimulus and responses
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  2. 2
    Behavior is learning from the environment through observation
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There are four requirements in observational learning.

  1. 1
    Attentional process is being attentive while observing something
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  2. 2
    Retentional process is linked to our mind, for example, when we make cognitive maps
    This is a higher mental process.
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  3. 3
    Motor reproduction process is muscle action
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  4. 4
    Motivation is learning from the environment or consequences
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Learning By Cognition

Learning by cognition is also known as insight. It is the process of acquiring and understanding knowledge throughout experiences and senses. The cognitive learning theory expresses the importance of understanding that effective mental processes make learning and retaining new things much easier. Poor cognitive processes can result in learning difficulties throughout a person's lifetime.

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Learning By Trial and Error

Learning by trial and error has two laws: The law of effect (the theory that positive effects are likely to occur again with repeated exposure and that negative effects are less likely to occur again in repeated situations) and The law of exercise (the theory that it's easiest to remember things that are repeated, for example, practice makes perfect or try, try again.)

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Learning By Conditioning

Learning by conditioning is also known as learning by association or classical conditioning, as shown in Pavlov's experiment. This type of learning shows that people learn by association or exposure to stimuli or other environmental factors (rewards or punishments), and adjust their thoughts or behavior accordingly. This association has a strong effect on a person's behavior.

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Memory is the mental capacity to store, recall or recognize the events that were previously experienced. The term memory also refers to what is retained. The memory process has three basic steps: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

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Encoding is the process of information into the memory system. When an event occurs, certain biological stimuli, perceptions and emotions cause neurons to fire and result in a type of memory. Depending on the importance and levels of association with an experience, the memory will be encoded as a sensory, short term or long term memory.

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Storage is the retention of encoded material over time. Memory storage works as a filter to prevent information overload. By classifying and consolidating information as different types of memories, the human brain can store infinite amounts of knowledge.

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Retrieval is the process of getting information out of memory storage. Accessing stored information in the brain is done partially by recalling the neural activity that took place during the event. There are two types of memory retrieval. Recalling is remembering a fact or event completely from memory without an external reminder or stimuli, for example, taking a fill-in-the-blank test. Recognition is when you associate an event or object with something you've previously experienced, for example, a true-or-false test.

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Stages of Memory

Sensory memory is the ability to look at an item and remember what it looked like with just a second of observation. Sensory memory is extremely short-term, and it can decay within 200-500 milliseconds. If the information is interpreted by the brain as important, it will be stored in the sensory memory. This quick impression doesn't usually require any conscious control, for example, one of the five senses, taste, touch, sight, sound or smell. One example of sensory memory is looking at something with just a quick glance, and being able to recall it accurately later.

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Short Term Memory

Short term memory is also known as working memory. The concept of chunks is introduced in this memory. It means to divide any unique thing into segments. For example, 483792516 separated into 483 792 516. Short term memory can be stored in the brain as a long term memory through rehearsal and meaningful association.

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Long Term Memory

If short term memory accepts the information at a conscious level, then it becomes a long term memory. Long term memory can remain in storage almost indefinitely. Rather than forgetting completely, most long term memories might just be difficult to access because of interference by new memories.

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Learning, Memory, and Forgetting


There are two reasons for forgetting something from our memories. The first is that the information is not available. Some psychologists believe that learning sets up physiology traces in the brain. Forgetting is seen when the traces are not active at the time of recall. The second is when the information is not accessible. It is due to retrieval failure. The cues at the time of learning are not present at the time of recall. (short term memory)

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Theories of Forgetting

Decay Theory. This theory is that things are blurred out of memory with the passage of time, or it's something that the person wants to forget, such as a sudden death, which can be a major cause of forgetting.

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Theory of Motivated Forgetting. This theory is forcefully forgetting some memory. It could be repression of some sort of guilt, a bad memory or feelings. This a popular and important theory of forgetting. New information comes in, acting as interference, and the last memory is forgotten. Interference might occur either because one piece of information is linked with the other information/actually displays the second information, pushing it out of memory because one piece of information makes storing or recalling the information more difficult. This theory also has two further types, retroactive and proactive. Retroactive is when new learning interferes with the retrieval of old information. For example, learning a new phone number and forgetting the first number. Proactive is when older learning interferes with the retrieval of recently learned information. For example, learning a new name but only remembering the last one.

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This article is part of a series on 'Introduction to Psychology'. Read the other articles here:

1) Introduction to Psychology

2) Nervous System

3) Learning

4) The Psycological Theory of Emotions

5) Nature and Psychology of Intelligence

6) Motivation

7) Personality

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Categories : Cognition

Recent edits by: Shelleymarie

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