By Stephen Walker
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Extra resources for Animal Learning: An Introduction
However many species show some kind of fear reaction to a stimulus that is intense and vivid and very novel —investigative reactions may follow when it becomes slightly less of a novelty. Very many other species also show some degree of social curiosity, whose expression depends of course on the instinctive social pattern of each. Search for additional physical or social stimulation as an apparent end in itself merges with the specialized subject of play (Smith, 1986) which is most common in the young of co- operative mammalian species including carnivores and primates.
The crucial element is the facilitator neuron (F) which has the built-in capacity to greatly amplify the effect of any sensory neuron at the synapse with the motor neuron. There are cells in Aplysia denoted ‘L29 cells’ which are possible candidates, since they project very diffusely and are them-selves excited by motivationally significant stimuli. In vertebrates there are diffusely projecting systems of neurons which might do a similar job, but this is purely speculative at present. Eventually, the detailed theories of how Pavlovian conditioning is physiologically accomplished will presumably become much less speculative, but the work on Aplysia now stands as a reductio ad absurdum for the basic processes of association in classical conditioning of the same kind as the simplified electrical circuits discussed by Hull.
In mammals there is ample evidence that the anatomical basis of attention includes the reticular activating system of the brain (Sokolov, 1963). (vii) Increased capacities for discrimination and classification Especially in the short term, increased familiarity with stimuli means that they are ignored. However, exposure to the stimulus in the first instance will have elicited increased attention to it, and according to (v) above, familiarity with a stimulus implies that the perceiver possesses a neuronal model, or memory of it, that ‘registers not only the elementary, but also the complex properties of the signal’ which include temporal relationships (Sokolov, 1975, p.
Animal Learning: An Introduction by Stephen Walker