International Journal of Comparative Psychology
A Neural-Functionalist Approach to Learning
- Author(s): Grau, James W.
- Joynes, Robin L.
- et al.
Researchers within the field of learning have traditionally divided their empirical world according to methodology, with phenomena classified as single stimulus learning, Pavlovian conditioning, or instrumental learning. This trichotomy, a vestige of our behaviorist past, continues to influence the field, both in the classroom and in the laboratory. Relying on data collected using a simple model system (learning within the mammalian spinal cord), evidence is presented that organisms can learn about an environmental relationship in multiple ways, an observation that argues against a simple isomorphism between methodology and mechanism. It is suggested that a new classification system is needed that focuses on mechanism rather than methodology, subdividing our empirical world along lines that make sense given commonalties in the neural-functional mechanisms involved.