4 Most Important Forms of Cognitive Learning–Notes
Cognitive learning can he defined as a change in the way the information is processed as a result of experience a person or animal has had. Much of our learning is cognitive in nature. Cognitive learning may take various forms. Some of which include:
(a) Cognitive maps;
(b) Latent learning;
(c) Insight learning; and
We would discuss each of these in brief.
(a) Cognitive Maps:
It was E. C. Tolman who pioneered in the study of cognitive learning besides the Gestalt Psychologists. Cognitive map is the learned mental representation of the environment. These maps help in the process of learning.
Cognitive maps help us to draw up a geographical location of an event to he learned and then approach the problem solving situation accordingly. Cognitive maps help in problem solving behaviour, in learning new associations and in perceiving new situations.
(b) Latent Learning:
The world latent means “hidden”, and thus, latent learning is learning that occurs but is not evident in behaviour until later, when conditions for its appearance are favourable. Latent learning is said to occur without reinforcement of particular responses and seems to involve changes in the ways information is processed. Thus, latent learning is an example of cognitive learning.
In the earlier study of latent learning, now regarded as a classic, three groups of hungry rats ran a multiple T-maze for food. The first group was rewarded on each trial, the second from the third trial onwards and the third, from the seventh trial onwards. Both the second and the third group showed a marked decrease inerrors immediately after the introduction of the rewards.
A subsequent experiment was similar in all respects except that it varied the reward pattern somewhat. One group continued to receive food on every run, while a second group received none at all, and the third received food beginning with the 11th trial.
Here, too, an abrupt movement in performance occurred in the third group once it had been rewarded. In both of these experiments the groups who were not rewarded until later caught up with the continuously rewarded group. To have done so means that even-when not rewarded, must have been learning. These two experiments clearly demonstrate the phenomenon of latent learning.
(c) Insight Learning:
It is another method of learning in which the learner suddenly finds a solution to the problem. Insight occurs when the learner suddenly ‘sees’ the solution involved in a task and is immediately able to solve the problem.
It was Kohler who first suggested that learning takes place by insight. Kohler did a lot of experimental work with insight learning. In one of his famous experiments, a chimpanzee was kept in a cage in which bananas were hung.
These bananas were hung from the roof of the cage and were beyond the reach of the chimpanzee. There were two hollow sticks, one of which could fit into the open end of the other, lying around in the cage.
The chimpanzee tried to reach the bananas but could not. So, he took a stick and tried to reach the fruits. But was again disappointed. After some time, while handling the sticks, by chance, he put the end of one stick into the other stick.
Suddenly, he got an insight into the problem. After joining the two sticks he had one longer stick. With this stick he was able to reach the bananas.
When human beings solve the problem through insight they experience a good feeling called as ‘aha’ experience. Thus, insight occurs when the learner suddenly ‘sees’ the solution involved in a task and is immediately able to solve the problem. When he suddenly gets the solution, he is said to have got insight.
Insight learning is very common in humans. We solve many problems everyday with this method of learning. This type of learning easily generalises to other similar situations. Rules learned through insight are applied to solve other similar problems.
Social learning theorists like Albert Bandura and Walter Mischell have done considerable work on imitation. It is also called modelling. Imitation is a form of learning in which we copy the behaviour and actions of others. It consists in doing or saying what someone else is doing or saying. It is defined as “a response that is similar to the stimulus that triggered it”.
We do not imitate anyone or everyone. We imitate only those individuals who have some significance in our life. The person whom we imitate is known as a model. Hence, imitation is also called modelling. We generally imitate our parents, siblings, peers and teachers.
Imitation is an important method of learning among children. Language, habits, values, etc. are largely learned through imitation. Almost every aspect of human behaviour can be learned through imitation. Many forms of abnormal behaviour can also be learned through imitation.
According to Bandura, there are four basic processes involved in learning through imitation or modeling:
(1) Firstly, the observer must attend to the model. If you do not watch the person, you will not learn anything.
(2) Secondly, the observer must remember what the model does.
(3) Thirdly, the observer must be physically able to imitate the other person’s behaviour.
(4) Fourthly, the observer must be motivated to engage himself in that behaviour.
Imitation, as a method of learning, has a number of advantages over other methods of learning
Reinforcement is not necessary for imitation to take place. Imitation can occur even in the absence of reinforcement.
Imitation permits us to learn without going through the costly process of trial and error.