Dr. Donna L. Roberts

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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Learning through Reinforcement or Punishment – Positive Punishment

The consequences of an act affect the probability of its occurring again. – B. F. Skinner. Punishment refers to “a consequence that decreases the frequency or likelihood that a behavior will occur” (Santrok, 2003, p. 284). Like its counterpart, punishment can be further broken down by type. Punishment I, also referred to as Positive Punishment by some behaviorists, exists if a behavior decreases when it is followed by an aversive stimulus (Carlson, Miller, Heth, Donahoe & Martin, 2009; Santrock, 2003). Thus, with punishment, the behavior tendency is weakened, while with reinforcement it is strengthened.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Learning through either Reinforcement or Punishment – Behaviorism Basics

The consequences of an act affect the probability of its occurring again. - B. F. Skinner. The Behaviorist perspective assumes, at its core, that all human behavior is learned, and thus consequently can be unlearned as well, or more likely altered to reflect more appropriate behavior. The main purpose of implementing various strategies of reinforcement or punishment is to effect a desired change in behavior. According to the principles of operant conditioning, when appropriate strategies are applied correctly, virtually any behavior can be learned, extinguished or modified (Ormrod, 2004, Santrock, 2003). Behaviorists shunned the study of mental processes because there seemed to be no way to observe them directly or to make rigorous, testable inferences about their workings.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

The Efficacy of Enriching Preschool Environments

Perhaps one of the most contentious debates in childhood education is the efficacy and relevance of early enrichment programs for preschool children. Concerned parties on both sides of the issue have strong feelings about their positions and propose persuasive arguments quoting ardent research in support thereof. Sifting through the myriad of somewhat conflicting evidence and overzealous arguments, one finds that perhaps the truth regarding the optimum level of infant/toddler stimulation lies toward the middle of the deprivation vs. early rigorous program continuum.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Understanding the Learning Process – The Behaviorist versus Cognitive Perspectives

Although learning is a natural part of human growth and development from the moment of birth, its exact definition and component processes remain somewhat ill-defined and controversial. Psychologists argue about what specific manifestations of the human experience constitute learning and the precise nature of the transformations that result from the learning process. Psychologists adhering to different theoretical perspectives offer differing views on the concept of learning based upon the tenets of their respective orientations. From these divergent viewpoints, psychologists explain, interpret and predict the behavior changes associated with learning in ways that correspond to the basic assumptions of their perspectives.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Maslow’s Hierarchy and Learning

How individuals at each level are motivated (or not) to learn. Motivation refers to “the process of instigating and sustaining goal-directed activities,” while motivated learning refers more specifically to the motivation “to acquire new knowledge, skills and strategies rather than merely to complete activities” (Schunk, 2004, p. 484). As such, these concepts represent explanatory models which seek to understand why individuals behave in certain ways under certain conditions. While some forms of learning occur in the absence of motivation, in general, motivation plays a key role in most learning situations, providing the impetus for persisting in activities that facilitate the process.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Schemas, scripts, and personal theories – their role in learning and memory

Contemporary cognitive psychologists define schemas as “mental frameworks or bodies of knowledge that contain details about attributes and the relationship between attributes and function to organize, synthesize and interpret information” (Carlson, Martin & Buskist, 2004, p. 621). As such, they encompass a broad array of interrelated concepts in a meaningful organization whereby new information encountered is measured against this pre-existing structure of data. The original notion of a schema dates back to Immanuel Kant (1781), who argued that concepts only had meaning insofar as they could relate to knowledge the individual already possessed. In addition, the four basic principles of how schemata become involved in the encoding process are: selection, abstraction, interpretation, and integration.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Forms of memory encoding

Verbal codes, images, propositions and productions. God gave us memories that we might have roses in December. ~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922. Working memory refers to the temporary holding space for information that is being manipulated and processed in order to perform such functions as comprehension, decision-making and problem solving. In contrast, long-term memory is the relatively permanent part of memory that is capable of storing large amounts of information for a long period of time. Encoding, which can occur either automatically or as the result of concerted effort, refers to the way in which the information is processed for storage as it moves from working to long-term memory (Ormrod, 2004; Santrock, 2003). The encoding process basically consists of the acquisition of information and the subsequent initial formation of a memory trace. It is essentially the preparation of information for storage in long term memory and is accomplished by making new information meaningful and/or integrating it with known information.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Perspectives on reinforcement in the learning process

Behaviorist and Social Learning Theory perspectives. Reinforcement refers to “the process by which a stimulus or event strengthens or increases the probability of a behavior or an event that follows” (Santrok, 2003, p. 280). As such, it clearly holds a pivotal role in learning and the acquisition of new knowledge, skills and behaviors. However, behaviorists and social cognitive theorists interpret the influence of reinforcement (and punishment) quite differently.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Views on problem solving - Thorndike versus Gestalt

Behaviorist versus Cognitive aproaches to learning. Edward Thorndike, in his famous experiments with cats in puzzle boxes, advanced the behaviorist approach to conceptualizing the processes involved in problem solving. In this series of studies, he investigated learning in terms of the sensory associations that occurred and how they related to action. Specifically, he observed the implementation of repeated trial-and-error strategies for escape in response to being placed in a confining space and the subsequent repetition of effective (i.e., rewarding) strategies. From these observations he posited his Law of Effect, which stated that, “Responses to a situation that are followed by satisfaction are strengthened; responses that are followed by discomfort are weakened” (Ormrod, 2004, p. 50).
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

How learners’ epistemological beliefs influence learning

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge and thus attempts to answer the fundamental beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning - what it is and how we acquire it. As such, it addresses such questions as “What constitutes knowledge?” “What serves as justification of knowledge?” and “What is the source of knowledge?” (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Specifically, epistemological beliefs encompass a range of different aspects related to the concept of knowledge and the process of its acquisition, including:
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Hull’s concept of habit-family hierarchy

The neurobehaviorist Clark Hull, in an effort to gain more respect and prestige for his field, aspired to make behaviorism a quantitatively exact science modeled after the physical sciences and specifically, Newtonian physics. Originally an engineer, he theorized that, “all the complex behavior of single individuals will ultimately be derivable as secondary law from (1) primary laws expressible quantitatively by means of a moderate number of ordinary equations, together with (2) the conditions under which behavior occurs; and that all behavior of groups as a whole may similarly be derived as quantitative laws from the same primary equations” (Hull, 1943, p. 43). In keeping with the tenets of behaviorism, he reiterated Thorndike’s (1932) Law of Effect, arguing that behavior consists of sets or chains of linked habits, each of which represents a Stimulus-Response connection that developed as a result of reinforcement. He extrapolated on this foundation, postulating that a number of factors work to enhance, limit or inhibit the formation of such habits, and deriving equations to calculate the exact effect of each of these factors (Hunt, 1993).
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

How culture, race, and ethnicity influence the diagnosis, clinical presentation, and treatment of depression

Assessing the filters through which we experience the world. There are aspects of our humanness that are so integral in defining who we are to ourselves and in relation to others, that they serve as permanent, albeit unconscious, filters through which we experience the world and judge others. Culture, race and ethnicity are filters of this nature, and their influence is pervasive. In the context of psychopathology, these aspects mold our conception of normal and abnormal. Thus, they figure into our definitions of diagnostic criteria and syndrome etiology. Based on this, they also represent factors in the prescription of treatment strategies and interventions.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Professional Ethical Dilemma – Terminating Therapy

Therapy begins with an express or implied contract between clients and therapists, in which therapists agree to provide competent treatment to their clients; and clients, advised of the various ramifications of therapy, give inform consent to the treatment offered. Final or temporary termination of treatment can occur for a variety of reasons. Treatment can end when the client simply stops keeping appointments despite the therapist’s best efforts to continue contact. It can also end by mutual agreement or because the third-party payer declines further payment, and the client is unable to afford additional sessions without such reimbursement. Therapy may also be terminated when clients are transferred or when the therapist retires, becomes ill, moves, or terminates with the current association or agency and another therapist is assigned to the file. Often therapy terminates when the client and therapist mutually agree that the treatment goals have been realized and further treatment is no longer necessary. Finally, therapy can (and ethically must) end when it clearly is no longer benefiting the client, or when the client or therapist, for whatever reason, is no longer comfortable with the treatment plan. Professional ethical guidelines require therapists to terminate their work with clients whenever measurable improvement is not made for a significant period of time and/or when the determination is made that further therapy will not bring significant gains (Bernstein & Hartsell, 2003. Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2003).
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Dual Relationship and Boundary Challenges in Counseling Settings

Guidelines for interactions outside the therapeutic relationship. Dual relationships in the counseling setting refer to those situations where the therapist and the client are engaged in interactions of a personal or professional nature in addition to the therapeutic relationship. Areas of concern regarding boundary issues include, but are not limited to, social interactions, business interactions, romantic interactions, mentoring interactions, and collegial interactions (Bowman et al., 1995; Glosoff et al., 1996). These dual relationships present significant challenges for the therapist and the client. Because of the sensitivity and uniqueness of the therapeutic relationship, and in light of the many moral, legal and ethical issues that stem from this collaboration, the additional roles and interactions can sometimes conflict with the boundaries and the delicate balance of dynamics in the counseling relationship.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Rights and Responsibilities of Psychologists and Clients – Duty to Warn and Protect

A legal limitation imposed upon the right of confidentiality. A fundamental aspect of the ethical practice of psychology involves clearly defining the rights and responsibilities of both the client and the psychologist as they engage in the collaborative task of therapy. These guidelines permeate all phases of the treatment relationship and represent issues paramount for protecting all parties and serving the best interest of the client. The topic encompasses both moral and legal issues, including informed consent, record keeping, involuntary hospitalization, malpractice, confidentiality, and the duty to warn and protect.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Rights and Responsibilities of Psychologists and Clients – Confidentiality

A fundamental aspect of the ethical practice of psychology involves clearly defining the rights and responsibilities of both the client and the psychologist as they engage in the collaborative task of therapy. These guidelines permeate all phases of the treatment relationship and represent issues paramount for protecting all parties and serving the best interest of the client. The topic encompasses both moral and legal issues, including informed consent, record keeping, involuntary hospitalization, malpractice, confidentiality, and the duty to warn and protect.
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Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Rights and Responsibilities of Psychologists and Clients – Malpractice

When negligence results in injury or loss to the client. A fundamental aspect of the ethical practice of psychology involves clearly defining the rights and responsibilities of both the client and the psychologist as they engage in the collaborative task of therapy. These guidelines permeate all phases of the treatment relationship and represent issues paramount for protecting all parties and serving the best interest of the client. The topic encompasses both moral and legal issues, including informed consent, record keeping, involuntary hospitalization, malpractice, confidentiality, and the duty to warn and protect.