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Learning is a lifetime process that takes place throughout the lifetime of a person. It happens from birth and a person begins to learn different things that constitute his/her environment (Terry, 2009). Stimulus learning can therefore be defined as the permanent change in a behavior of an individual after undergoing certain experiences (Terry, 2009).
The learner in this case implements what he/she has learned through a change in behavior. Generally, learning is a permanent change in behavior as a result of exposure to a stimulus. The experience that results to a certain behavior in an individual is referred to as a stimulus.
There are different types of stimuli that result to a change of behavior. Some are simple such as conditioning and habituation while others are quite complex. Simple stimulus learning can therefore be defined as a change in behavior as a result of the presence of a mild stimulus (Terry, 2009).
The concept of habituation
The learning process takes place from birth to the time when a person dies. Most of the learning happens through the process of habituation. As a person grows up, he/she is continually introduced to changes in the environment and consequently new stimuli are introduced too (Poggi & Fahle, 2002). A person gets used to the previous stimuli after it occurs repeatedly and it no longer causes any change in behavior or learning.
Habituation is defined as the reduction in response to a stimulus after it has been presented for some time. This means that when an individual becomes used to a certain stimulus, it triggers no change in behavior and there is no more learning.
Although people prefer to learn from familiar stimulus, when its presence is repeated for a long time there is no more learning (Poggi & Fahle, 2002). It is therefore important to keep changing the stimulus during the process of learning to facilitate effective learning.
The process of habituation enables an individual to accustom to a new stimulus and as time passes there is no response to it (Terry, 2009). For instance, if a person gets a job in an airport where airplanes make a lot of noise when landing or taking off, he /she will be disturbed during the first days but after some time he/she will get used to the noise and will no longer be bothered by the noise o.
This fading of the stimulus (noise in this case) is called habituation. In other words the person learns to get used to the loud noise at the airport as it is reflected in the change of behavior. Research conducted on the learning processes show that habituation is the simplest form of knowledge that is achieved after repeated exposure to a stimulus (Mishra, 2008).
Factors that affect Perceptual Learning
Perceptual learning refers to the form learning or change in behavior that arise as a result of experiencing or doing something for several times.
Unlike stimulus learning whereby learning or change in behavior is as a result of the presence of a stimulus, perceptual learning involves the recognition of a stimulus that you have seen before (Poggi & Fahle, 2002). In this form of learning the learner has to recognize situations and objects and make changes in the sensory system of the brain.
The following are the factors that affect perceptual learning:
- Presenting a contrasting stimulus- during perceptual learning, there is need to have both positive and negative stimuli. When only one dimension of a stimulus is present, the learning process is delayed. However, when both positive and negative dimensions are present, a learner is able to detect the difference between one stimulus and another, and respond to the most positive one. This result to a better learning or change in the behavior of the learner (Terry, 2009).
- Replacing an easy stimulus with a more difficult one- in perceptual learning, an experience of an easy situation enables an individual to learn more difficult situations. Therefore exposing a subject to an easy stimulus then to a difficult one facilitates learning while starting with a difficult one then a simpler one hinders learning (Columbus, 2003).
- Attention and feedback- perceptual learning normally occurs without the need for feedback about the learning process and performance. If a learner is required to give feedback after the learning, then perceptual learning is affected negatively.
Effects of Stimulus Exposure
During the learning process persons develop preference to a certain stimulus. However, too much exposure to the stimuli sometimes makes preference to the stimuli to fade (Columbus, 2003). Consequently, the learner does not respond to the stimulus anymore and the learning process stops. Generally, stimulus exposure inhibits learning if there is no stimulus replacement.
When a series of stimuli are presented to a learner repeatedly, he/she is able to recognize the stimuli that have been there before of that he/she is familiar with (Columbus, 2003). In the real life situation, a good example of simple stimulus learning is the dressing process.
Once the stimulus is sent to the brain that a person is naked, the person responds by wearing clothes. After staying with clothes for some time, there is no more response to their presence.
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Columbus, F.H., (2003). Advances in Psychology Research, Volume 21. Carbondale, IL: Nova Publishers
Mishra, T., (2008). Psychology: A Study of Human Behavior. New Delhi, India PHI: Learning Pvt. Ltd
Poggi, T.,& Fahle, M., (2002). Perceptual Learning. Massachusetts, MA: MIT Press
Terry, W.S., (2009). Learning and memory: Basic principles, processes, and procedures edition 4. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.