Info

Response reinforcer independence-reinforcer uncontrollable

Differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO)

.1 .2 .3 .4 .5 .6 .7 .8 .9 1.0 /(reinforcer/no response)

Response reinforcer independence-reinforcer uncontrollable

Differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO)

.1 .2 .3 .4 .5 .6 .7 .8 .9 1.0 /(reinforcer/no response)

may break down or become dysfunctional. External influences that strain attention (sometimes to the breaking point) are difficult discrimination tasks, monotonous and repetitive stimuli, and all variety of stressful unpredictable and uncontrollable events.

Attention is here tentatively proposed as the local site of disturbance in neurotic breakdown. Unfortunately, experimental re search in this area is seriously lacking, but many findings—for example, the experiments of Broadbent (1958)—support the view that attentional activities are susceptible to adverse influences. An attentional locus of neurotoge-nesis is implicated by many of the characteristics of experimental neurosis, particularly the failure of an animal to perform previously learned discriminations. Clearly, without the ability to focus attention, select relevant information, and filter out irrelevant stimulation, an animal is rendered a helpless victim to the flux of chaotic events surrounding him.

Many psychiatric conditions appear to reflect an underlying defective attentional mechanism. In the case of schizophrenia, for example, patients appear unable to select and filter out relevant from irrelevant stimuli or to focus attention normally. The result is gross disorganization of behavior and cognition. Many theorists have viewed attentional disturbances as the core deficit in schizophrenia (Cohen and O'Donnell, 1993). Evidence of attentional deficits is frequently reported in the case of affective disorders like major depression and mania—symptoms that parallel in many ways the inhibitory and excitatory excesses exhibited by animals with behavioral disturbances induced experimentally. interesting in this regard is the finding that patients suffering major depression do not find situations and stimuli associated with past reinforcement rewarding as they may have in the past. This is also a common feature of experimental neurosis in which hungry dogs or cats will refuse food, display generalized "negativism," and fall into unproductive cataleptic states.

in the case of experimental neurosis, the normally adaptive attentional and response-organizing mechanisms (impulse control) appear to be taxed beyond functional limits by overstrain or disorganized stimulation. According to this theory, the disruption of at-tentional mechanisms interrupts the normal chain of events that move from sensory stimulation to choice/response-organizing functions serving purposive behavior (i.e., the inventory of classical and instrumental behavioral possibilities). The emotional and behavioral result of neurotic breakdown (i.e., the failure to predict and control significant events) is a variety of affective disorders (especially those involving anxiety and depression), cognitive dysfunctions, and the appearance of disorganized and maladaptive behavior. These debilitating symptoms in turn further impact and adversely influence attentional functions.

Understanding how the absence of pre dictability and control impacts on behavior requires some consideration of the choice-making or impulse-control process. All learning involves making choices and inhibiting others, whether in the case of complex decisions or primitive attentional preferences— choices are made. At the most primitive level, this ability to choose takes the form of choices between responding and not responding (i.e., between inhibition and excitation). The way choices are made differs significantly between classical and instrumental learning paradigms. in the case of classical conditioning, choices are made with regard to attending to specific stimuli and contextual cues rather than others. This selective attention is determined by the comparative significance of the available stimuli and the animal's current motivational state or disposition to learn (Broadbent, 1958). Such attentional choices require the participation of various relevant cognitive functions, including various expectancies and interests (motivational factors), vigilance, and sustained searching activities operating on the external and internal environment.

instrumental choices, on the other hand, take place according to general volitional rules and hedonic preferences for available outcomes. Obviously, classical and instrumental learning work together; in fact, as just noted, it is hard (or perhaps not possible at all) to differentiate the two learning orientations on the level of attention and choice. instrumental choices are motivated by a drive to secure and control preferred outcomes, that is, the approach-acquisition of positive events (e.g., affection, food, and play) or the escape-avoidance of aversive ones (e.g., rejection, withdrawal of food, and isolation).

Under optimal conditions, classical and instrumental adjustments supply a progressive sense of security and regularity between an animal's needs of survival and the environment's ability to provide for them. This is accomplished (in part) by an animal's ability to predict and control the occurrence of significant events. Under stressful and neurotoge-netic circumstances, such control is rendered independent of an animal's volition and ability. As a result, dogs might choose to escape from the uncontrollable situation and search for one more conducive to their needs. If all of their efforts to escape are blocked, or if their efforts only result in equally uncontrollable alternatives, then the situation becomes both uncontrollable and inescapable. This outcome may ensue even in situations where productive (i.e., controllable) alternatives exist, but an animal is unable to perceive them as such. Such loss of instrumental control is initially associated with increased levels of frustration and even more determined efforts to gain control over the difficult situation. If the occurrence of significant events still remains independent of the dog's intensified efforts, then various degrees of perseveration, regression, or frustration-motivated aggression may be exhibited. Under extreme circumstances involving aversive stimulation occurring in uncontrollable/inescapable situations, the result may include regressive fixations (Maier) or helplessness (Seligman).

Locus of Control and Self-Efficacy

Two areas of behavioral cognitive research that have some potential bearing on this aspect of neurotogenesis are locus of control (internal versus external control) expectancies proposed by Rotter (1966, 1975) and the self-efficacy expectancies postulated by Ban-dura (1977). Although both theories were originally articulated in terms of human learning and reinforcement theory, the researchers' findings are relevant to animal learners as well. According to Rotter's theory, the effectiveness of reinforcement depends to some extent on the organism's perception of a causal connection or contingency between its behavior and the occurrence of the reinforcing event—that is, animals must perceive that they somehow control the reinforcing event in order for it to be fully effective as a reinforcer.

But it is possible that an animal might receive regular reinforcement as the result of the emission of some behavior but not recognize a causal contingency between the two events—is such recognition of control over reinforcement necessary for instrumental learning to take place? That is, does the pigeon need to know that its key pecking con trols the delivery of grain. Also, consider the situation where the contingency of reinforcement is confused or mistaken. In this case, the animal correctly believes that some behavior or other that it emits is controlling the delivery of reinforcement, but, in fact, has wrongly identified which one. Can one legitimately say that the organism controls the occurrence of reinforcement in such cases or is this a case of "deluded" behavior? According to Rotter's theory, it is not enough for the behavior to be followed by reinforcement in the traditional sense of a simple stamping-in process; in addition, the animal must perceive the existence of a causal relationship between its behavior and the occurrence of reinforcement. Under natural conditions, these sorts of dilemma are largely mitigated by the centrally motivated and intentional character of learning in which the animal strives to control vital events like the acquisition of food and the escape-avoidance of danger.

Rotter argues that learners (externals) who perceive the presentation of reinforcement as resulting from forces outside of their control may not perceive their efforts (even when successful) as actually controlling reinforcement but rather attribute their success to external factors (e.g., the trainer's fancy). In contrast, learners who perceive that their efforts are instrumental in the obtainment of reinforcement will be more likely to feel in control of the occurrence of reinforcement and be less likely, therefore, to conclude prematurely that some difficult but, nonetheless, controllable situation is uncontrollable. Such individuals may be less prone to develop a variety of maladaptive disturbances. In addition, it is reasonable to assume that internals would be more resistant to the aversive effects of unpredictable and uncontrollable stimulation than externals. Further, animals guided by expectancies derived from internal control—that is, perceiving the occurrence of reinforcement as depending on their own efforts—will likely possess a stronger general belief or expectancy that their efforts will eventually be successful in controlling a difficult situation, while an externally driven counterpart may just give up.

Bandura's concept of self-efficacy is of some value in terms of this general problem.

Bandura defines self-efficacy as an expectation or "conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required" (1977:193) to obtain a desired outcome regardless of whether or not the person is actually able to perform the necessary activity. The self-efficacy theory assumes that environmental events affect behavior indirectly via the mediating agency of efficacy expectations (Fig. 9.4). These efficacy expectations are influenced by a wide range of factors, including the success or failure of past learning experiences (i.e., outcome expectancies) and physiological states. if Bandura's self-efficacy theory is correct, then some procedure or other may be devised to immunize the organism against the debilitating effects of uncontrollable events by training it to believe that its efforts will eventually succeed in spite of the most adverse circumstances.

A dog's expectations regarding its abilities to control significant events are affected by a variety of factors, including its past training history. Dogs that have been relatively successful as learners will be more likely to interpret training situations as being predictable and controllable. This disposition to see things as predictable and controllable (or vice versa in the negative case) is an outcome of what Harlow (1949) has termed a learning set or, more specifically, a higher-order expectancy about future learning events. Such positive generalized expectancies are most likely to develop under the influence of highly controlled and formal training situations such as obedience training where the

Outcome

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Dog Owners Delight

Dog Owners Delight

Bringing a cute puppy into your home is a great joy which only a person who does that can experience. These dogs provide you with a very sincere relationship which you cannot get anywhere else in the world.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment