Multidisciplinary Approaches to Learning

Multidisciplinary approaches to learning: The capacity for an organism to benefit from experience is critical for survival, but varies both in degree and in type across animals, across development, across individuals, and so forth. Contingency learning of various types is essentially universal, with demonstrations of Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning evidenced by a wide range of organisms. However, rule-like relational learning is less common—and even organisms capable of relational learning (e.g., humans) sometimes get stuck in stimulus-stimulus or stimulus-response associative learning patterns, failing to show emergent learning of rule-like patterns that allow animals behavioral flexibility and intelligent responding under novel circumstances. In this project, Dr. David Washburn (Psychology), Dr. Becky Williamson (Psychology), Dr. Marise Parent (Neuroscience), and Dr. Yanqing Zhang (Computer Science) examine associative and relational learning from the perspectives of comparative cognition, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and computational science. Originally supported by a Georgia State University Research Program Enhancement grant, this project provides support for doctoral students who serve as the connections between the complementary research programs of the lead scientists. Both collaboratively and independently, these research teams seek to understand how organisms learn, under what circumstances relational forms of learning are most likely to occur, and why animals sometimes fail to learn other than through low-level conditioning.
Supported by RPE U25 from Georgia State University