Learning Approaches Model Answers

Briefly outline how Pavlov investigated classical conditioning.( 3 marks) 

Model Answer

Pavlov investigated classical conditioning by conducting experiments with dogs to understand the salivation reflex.

He initially observed that dogs naturally salivated in response to the presentation of food (unconditioned stimulus).

Pavlov then paired a neutral stimulus, such as a bell, with the presentation of food, eventually leading the dogs to salivate in response to the bell alone, demonstrating the formation of a conditioned response.


Grace’s room is always messy. Her older sister, Lily, keeps her room very tidy. The next time Lily tidies her room, the girls’ mother gives Lily five pounds.

Using your knowledge of social learning theory, explain why Grace might be more likely to tidy her room in the future.( 5 marks) 

Model Answer

Grace is likely to be more inclined to tidy her room in the future due to observational learning within the framework of social learning theory. Observing her sister Lily's tidy room and the subsequent reward from their mother (vicarious reinforcement) creates a model for behaviour. Grace, having witnessed the positive outcome of Lily's tidy habits, may internalise this behaviour as effective and, therefore, be motivated to emulate it in the hope of receiving similar rewards. The observed relationship between Lily's tidiness, the reward, and the subsequent potential for Grace to adopt similar habits highlights the social learning mechanisms at play.



At a local school, teachers took part in Active Lifestyle Week to encourage students to become more active. The week involved daily staff netball matches during breaktimes and a step count challenge.

Two of the teachers were talking at the end of the week. Miss Honey said, “That was such a great week! I felt proud to win the staff step count challenge and receive the medal in assembly and demonstrate the joy of sport. My students loved watching us compete, I really think it will inspire them to be more active themselves!”

Mrs Wilson replied, “It’s alright for you, you’re young and the students like you. My students were so embarrassed to see me tripping over in netball. I think I may have put them off sport forever!”

Apart from mediational processes, use your knowledge of social learning theory to explain Miss Honey’s and Mrs Wilson’s comments.( 6 marks) 

Model Answer 

Miss Honey and Mrs. Wilson's comments reflect the principles of social learning theory. Both teachers acknowledge the role of observational learning, with Miss Honey expressing confidence that her active participation in the step count challenge and winning the medal will inspire students to be more active, highlighting the potential positive influence of modelling behaviour. In contrast, Mrs. Wilson, through her comment about tripping over in netball and potentially putting students off sports forever, suggests a concern about negative imitation. This discrepancy in perception indicates the differential impact teachers believe their behaviors will have on students' willingness to imitate.

Furthermore, both teachers recognise their roles as models or role models in the school setting, emphasising the importance of modelling behaviour for observational learning. Miss Honey, with her positive experience, anticipates being a positive role model, while Mrs. Wilson, with her concerns about embarrassment, fears becoming a negative role model. These perspectives align with social learning theory's emphasis on the influential role of models in shaping behaviour, with higher-status individuals like teachers serving as particularly impactful models for students.


At a local school, teachers took part in Active Lifestyle Week to encourage students to become more active.

Whether or not students learn to be more active could depend on mediational processes.

Explain how mediational processes might be involved in the students becoming more active.( 4 marks)

Model Answer 

Mediational processes play a crucial role in students becoming more active during Active Lifestyle Week. First, attention is drawn as students observe their teachers engaging in active behaviours, such as participating in daily netball matches or receiving a medal for a step count challenge in assembly. The repetition of these activities strengthens retention, and emotional or funny events, like Mrs. Wilson tripping over in netball, may enhance memory. Students can then reproduce the modelled active behaviours, with the step count challenge offering a simple and accessible activity. Finally, motivation comes into play as students are likely to adopt an active lifestyle if the perceived rewards, such as winning a medal or experiencing the joy of sport, outweigh any potential costs, such as the embarrassment of mishaps in physical activities.


Outline the way in which Pavlov studied classical conditioning.( 4 marks) 

 Model Answer

 Pavlov studied classical conditioning through experiments with dogs. Initially, he observed that dogs naturally salivated in response to the presentation of food (unconditioned stimulus). Pavlov then introduced a neutral stimulus, such as a bell, paired with the food. Over time, the dogs began to associate the bell with food and eventually salivated in response to the bell alone, demonstrating the formation of a conditioned response. This process of pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus to evoke a conditioned response became a foundational concept in classical conditioning.



Lily and Jemima have a pet rat, which usually hides in a corner when they try to take it out of its cage. They have tried different ways to stop the rat hiding, but so far without success.

Use your knowledge of two types of reinforcement to suggest how Lily and Jemima could train their rat to come to the cage door when they open it. ( 6 marks) 

Model Answer 

Lily and Jemima can use positive reinforcement to train their rat to come to the cage door by associating the action with a reward. Each time they open the cage door, they can offer the rat treats, such as chocolate drops. This positive reinforcement creates an association between approaching the door and receiving a reward, making the rat more likely to repeat the behaviour in anticipation of the treat.

Alternatively, negative reinforcement can be employed by introducing something unpleasant when the rat hides, such as spraying it with water or playing loud music. They can then stop the unpleasant stimulus as soon as the rat comes to the cage door. Over time, the rat may learn that coming to the door prevents the unpleasant experience, increasing the likelihood of it approaching the door when opened. Both positive and negative reinforcement strategies aim to shape the rat's behaviour through associations with either rewards or the avoidance of unpleasant stimuli.



Carissa has just started learning to knit and she watches carefully when her aunt is knitting. She thinks about how her aunt holds the needles and how she pulls the wool through her fingers. Carissa wonders if she can do the same with her needles and wool. She tries to copy her aunt’s actions as she wants her knitting to be neat and accurate.

Referring to Carissa’s experiences, explain the role of mediational processes in learning.( 4 marks) 

Model Answer 

Carissa's learning experience involves key mediational processes. Initially, she pays close attention to her aunt's knitting, engaging in the process of attention. Following this, Carissa assesses her own ability by contemplating whether she can replicate her aunt's actions, demonstrating the mediational process of self-assessment. Memory comes into play as Carissa remembers how her aunt holds the needles and pulls the wool, allowing her to recall and attempt to reproduce these actions. Finally, motivation serves as a driving force, as Carissa's desire for neat and accurate knitting motivates her to pay attention and replicate her aunt's techniques. These mediational processes contribute to the learning and imitation of knitting skills.


Jamil watches his older brother, Sahib, washing the family car. He sees his brother use a bucket of water and a sponge to clean the car and a hose to rinse it. Their father praises Sahib. Later, the family see Jamil with a bowl of water washing his toy cars.

Use your knowledge of three features of the social learning explanation of behaviour to explain Jamil’s behaviour.( 6 marks) 

Model Answer 

Jamil's behavior is a manifestation of several key features of social learning theory. Firstly, his act of washing his toy cars with a bowl of water reflects the concept of imitation, as he directly copies the observed car-washing behaviour of his older brother Sahib. Secondly, Jamil engages in modelling by replicating the behaviour of a specific person or role model—Sahib in this instance—by washing the cars within his immediate reach. Additionally, the social learning theory introduces the concept of vicarious reinforcement, which is evident when Jamil witnesses his father praising Sahib for car-washing. Subsequently, Jamil emulates a similar action in the hope of receiving a comparable reward, exemplifying how indirect rewards experienced by an observer can influence their behaviour. Together, these features underscore the role of observation, modelling, and vicarious reinforcement in shaping Jamil's behaviour.


According to operant conditioning, which of the following statements is TRUE? ( 1 mark) 

Shade one circle only.

Model Answer

B Negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement increase the likelihood that a behaviour will be repeated.


A television advert for a new cleaning spray, called ‘Tiger’, shows an England rugby player vigorously scrubbing a stain on the carpet.

The rugby player gets exhausted and gives up. A small boy says, ‘Only Tiger power will get that out’ and hands the rugby player a bottle of Tiger. The rugby player draws tiger stripes on his own face, roars and the little boy laughs. The rugby player easily wipes the stain from the carpet using Tiger.

The boy claps and the advert ends with the text, ‘Anyone can battle stains with a Tiger on their side.’

(a)  Explain how the Tiger advert might influence viewers’ mediational processes. ( 6 marks) 

Model Answer 

The Tiger advert strategically influences viewers' mediational processes in several ways. First, the recognition of a celebrity, the 'England rugby player,' captures attention, leveraging the player's status to engage viewers. The advert's humour and unusual elements, such as the rugby player drawing tiger stripes on his face and roaring, enhance memory retention, making it more likely to be stored in long-term memory. The simplicity of squirting the Tiger spray on a stain and effortlessly wiping it clean is easily replicable, encouraging viewers to perceive the behaviour as straightforward and achievable. The portrayal of the rugby player's success in effortlessly removing a difficult stain with Tiger creates a desire in the viewer to replicate the behaviour, as it suggests a quick and effective solution with minimal effort. Overall, these mediational processes work in concert to make the advertised product more memorable and increase the likelihood of viewers wanting to perform the depicted stain-removing behaviour themselves.


(b)  The company paid the rugby player a lot of money to be in the advert.

Use your knowledge of social learning theory to explain why the company wanted to use a famous rugby player in the advert.( 2 marks) 

Model Answer 

The company chose to feature a famous rugby player in the advert to leverage the principles of social learning theory. By using a high-status and recognisable celebrity, the company aimed to increase viewer identification and imitation, expecting that people are more likely to identify with and emulate a prominent figure. This strategy is intended to enhance the persuasive impact of the advertisement, ultimately boosting sales.


(d)  Using your knowledge of social learning theory, suggest how the advert could be modified to increase the sales of Tiger to female customers. ( 1 mark) 

Model Answer 

 To increase the sales of Tiger to female customers, the advert could be modified by featuring a female actor or role model as the central figure, aligning with the principles of social learning theory where viewers are more likely to identify and imitate individuals of the same gender.


Discuss the contribution of Pavlov’s research to our understanding of human behaviour. (Total 8 marks)

Model Answer 

Pavlov's research significantly contributed to our understanding of human behaviour, particularly in the realms of methodology and theory. In terms of methodology, Pavlov's classical conditioning experiments with dogs demonstrated the crucial role of learning by association. His work showcased that learning processes could be rigorously investigated experimentally, even employing non-human participants. This experimental approach marked a significant shift in psychology, emphasising the importance of scientific methods in the study of behaviour.

On the theoretical front, Pavlov's work laid the foundation for theories of learning and established laws of conditioning, particularly classical conditioning. These theories provided a framework for understanding how associations between stimuli and responses shape behaviour. The systematic and empirical nature of Pavlov's approach elevated the status of psychology as a scientific discipline.

However, it also posed limitations such as having limited explanatory power. 

This means that these laws that were created could only explain behaviour up to a point.

For example,  the focus on observable behaviour meant that non-observable processes, such as thoughts and emotions, could not be studied using Pavlovian methods.

Overall, Pavlov's contributions paved the way for a scientific understanding of learning and behaviour while highlighting the constraints of studying certain aspects of human experience within the confines of observable responses.

Outline Skinner’s research into reinforcement.(3 marks) 

Model Answer 

Skinner conducted research into reinforcement using the Skinner box, a controlled environment where animals could be studied in relation to their behaviours. In one set of experiments, he conditioned rats to press a lever for rewards by placing them in the Skinner box and reinforcing lever presses with food pellets. This research demonstrated the principles of operant conditioning, emphasising the role of reinforcement in shaping and maintaining specific behaviours. Additionally, Skinner extended his research to other animals, showcasing alternative experiments such as conditioning pigeons to engage in complex behaviours like playing ping pong.


Explain how reinforcement might be used to encourage primary school children to pick up litter in the playground. ( 3 marks) 

Model Answer

To encourage primary school children to pick up litter in the playground, a token economy system could be implemented. Under this system, each child would receive tokens as positive reinforcement for picking up a specified amount of litter (x). These tokens could then be exchanged for a reward (y), such as extra playtime, a small treat, or a special privilege, providing a tangible and desirable incentive for the children to engage in the desired behaviour of keeping the playground clean.

Samira and John are talking.

Samira says, ‘Look at your little sister. She’s pretending she’s got a mobile phone like yours and is making a call.’

John replies, ‘Yes. But when she saw me get told off for using my Dad’s favourite pen, she never copied me doing that!’

Describe and evaluate social learning theory. Refer to the conversation above as part of your answer. (Total 12 marks)

Model Answer

Social Learning Theory (SLT), proposed by Albert Bandura, posits that learning takes place in a social context through the observation of others and the consequences (rewards or punishments) associated with their behaviour. In the conversation between Samira and John, Samira points out how John's little sister is imitating his behaviour with a mobile phone, exemplifying observational learning and imitation – key aspects of SLT.

The theory emphasizes the role of models, with other people serving as examples for behaviour, and the likelihood of imitation influenced by the characteristics of those models. In this scenario, John's sister is modelling her play behaviour after observing John with a mobile phone, highlighting the concept of models influencing behaviour. However, John notes an exception when his sister refrained from copying his use of their dad's favourite pen after witnessing him get told off. This illustrates the concept of vicarious reinforcement, where the consequences experienced by the model affect the observer's likelihood of imitation.

However, SLT has been criticised for not giving sufficient weight to the impact of biological and hereditary factors on behaviour. Evidence from research in these areas indicates that these factors do contribute to behavioural outcomes. Despite these criticisms, SLT provides valuable insights into how individuals learn from their social environment, imitate models, and adapt behaviours based on observed consequences.


Read the following descriptions of behaviour:

A      Sarah is terrified of lifts because she was trapped in one for 5 hours. She cannot go
in a lift now.

B      Jerry watches as his brother James is given sweets for cleaning their pet hamster’s cage. The next day, Jerry’s mum finds Jerry cleaning out the hamster cage.

How can the behaviours described in A and B above be explained by learning theories? ( 6 marks) 

Model Answer


In the case of Sarah (A), her fear of lifts can be explained through classical conditioning. The traumatic experience of being trapped in a lift for 5 hours has become associated with lifts themselves. Now, the lift alone triggers the conditioned response (CR) of fear. Alternatively, her avoidance of lifts could be seen as a form of negative reinforcement, where the removal of the aversive experience (not being trapped) reinforces the avoidance behaviour. 


In the case of Jerry (B), his behaviour can be explained by social learning theory. Jerry observes his brother James being rewarded with sweets for cleaning the hamster cage, which serves as vicarious reinforcement. The reward acts as an indirect reinforcement for Jerry, motivating him to imitate James's behaviour and engage in the same activity of cleaning the hamster cage. This example aligns with Bandura's social learning theory, highlighting the importance of observational learning, vicarious reinforcement, and identification with a role model in shaping behaviour.


Read the item and then answer the questions that follow.

 A behaviourist researcher studying reinforcement carried out a laboratory experiment. He put a cat in a puzzle box. The cat was able to escape from the puzzle box by pulling on a string which opened the door. Each time the cat escaped it was given a food treat. At first, the cat escaped quite slowly, but with each attempt the escape time decreased.

(a)     Explain which type of conditioning is being investigated in this experiment? ( 2 marks) 

Model Answer

The type of conditioning being investigated in this experiment is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning involves learning associations between behaviours and their consequences. In this case, the cat's performance of the desired response (pulling on the string) results in a positive consequence (escape from the puzzle box) and a food treat, exemplifying the principles of operant conditioning.


Read the item and then answer the question that follows.

A psychologist carried out a study of social learning. As part of the procedure, he showed children aged 4-5 years a film of a 4 year-old boy stroking a puppy. Whilst the children watched the film, the psychologist commented on how kind the boy was. After the children had watched the film, the psychologist brought a puppy into the room and watched to see how the children behaved with the puppy.

Outline what is meant by social learning theory and explain how social learning might have occurred in the procedure described above. ( 6 marks) 

Model Answer 

Social learning theory posits that learning involves observation, imitation, modelling, identification, and vicarious reinforcement.

It recognises the role of cognition in learning, including factors such as attention and motivation. In the described procedure, social learning occurred as children aged 4-5 years observed a film of a 4-year-old boy stroking a puppy.

The psychologist exposed the children to a role model (the boy in the film), encouraging identification, as the boy was of the same age.

After exposure to the film, the children were likely to model or imitate the observed behaviour, such as stroking the puppy.

The psychologist's comments during the film, emphasising the kindness of the boy, acted as vicarious reinforcement, making it more likely for the children to learn and replicate the observed behaviour with the actual puppy in the room.






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