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Associative Reinforcement Learning – Conditioning

  • Pairing of two events will lead to associative learning when a reinforcement signal is presented.
  • Positive reinforcement is a reward signal.
  • Negative reinforcement is a punishment signal.
  • When a sensory stimulus is paired with a reinforcement signal, the neural circuitry will establish an association between the sensory signal and the reinforcement signal, thus learned to make the connection between the stimulus and the reward/punishment.
  • As a result, this leads to either seeking-behavior (for reward) or avoidance-behavior (for punishment).
  • Two events have to occur in proximity in time for this conditioning to occur.
  • Essentially, a correlation is made between the sensory signal and the reinforcer by linking them together in learning.

Supervised Learning – Learning with a "teacher" – Classical/Pavlovian Conditioning

  • Associative learning with the reinforcer presented by an external source ("teacher").
  • Learning is more directed since the pairing between the stimulus and reinforcer are introduced specifically by the "teacher".

Unsupervised Learning – Learning without a "teacher" – Operant Conditioning

  • Associative learning with the reinforcer introduced accidentally by the animal itself (without a teacher).
  • Learning often takes more time due to the accidental coincidental encounters between the stimulus and reinforcer.

Behavioral Science 101

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