State of being able to explain new events with existing schemes.


Changing the format of information being stored in memory in order to remember it more easily.


Inability to explain new events with existing schemes; tends to be accompanied by a sense of discomfort.


In Piaget’s theory, organized group of similar actions or thoughts that are used repeatedly in response to the environment.

operant conditioning

a response increases in frequency as a result of being followed by reinforcement.


Responding to and possibly interpreting a new event in a way that is consistent with an existing scheme.

fixed ratio (FR) schedule

rienforcement schedule in which desired behavior is rewarded following a fixed number of behaviors

Concrete operations stage

Piaget’s third stage of cognitive development, in which adult-like logic appears but is limited to concrete reality.

self-regulated learning

rewarding or punishing one’s own behavior


Process of “finding” information previously stored in memory.

unconditioned stimulus

a stimulus that naturally evokes a paricular response


unpleasent consequences used to weaken behavior

Individual constructivism

people, as individuals, construct meaning from the events around them.

Cognitive modeling

Demonstrating how to think about as well as how to do a task.


the teaching of a new skill or behavior by means of reinforcement for small steps toward the desired goal

Unconditioned response (UCR)

Response that is elicited by a particular (unconditioned) stimulus without prior learning.

Conditioned stimuli

Stimulus that begins to elicit a particular response through classical conditioning. e.g., a buzzer regularly paired with the puff of air

Long-term memory

Component of memory that holds knowledge and skills for a relatively long time.

removal punishment

withdrawl of a pleasant consequence that is reinforcing a behavior, designed to decrease the chance that the behavior will recur

unconditioned response

a behavior that is prompted automatically by a stimulus


Focusing of mental processes on particular stimuli.


continuation (of behavior)

Semantic knowledge

Knowledge of the meanings of words and word combinations.


perception of and response to differenced in stimuli


Overly narrow view of the objects or events that a concept includes.

negative reinforcer

release from an unpleasant situation, given to stregthen behavior


Realization that if nothing is added or taken away, amount stays the same regardless of alterations in shape or arrangement.

antecedent stimuli

events that precede behaviors

Zone of proximal development

Range of tasks that a child can perform with the help and guidance of others but cannot yet perform independently.

Community of learners

Class in which teacher and students actively and collaboratively work to create a body of knowledge and help one another learn.

Vicarious reinforcement

Phenomenon in which a response increases in frequency when another person is observed being reinforced for that response.


Act of following a response with a reinforcer.

Guided participation

A child’s performance, with guidance and support, of an activity in the adult world.


Support mechanism that helps a learner successfully perform a task within his or her zone of proximal development.


the weakening and eventural elimination of a learned behavior as reinforcement is withdrawn


General understanding of what an object or event is typically like.


Knowledge and beliefs about one’s own cognitive processes, as well as conscious attempts to engage in behaviors and thought processes that increase learning and memory.

conditioned stimulus

a previously neutral stimulus that evokes a particular response after having been paired with an unconditioned response

Bloom’s taxonomy

Taxonomy of six cognitive processes, varying in complexity, that lessons might be designed to foster.


Cognitive process in which information is repeated over and over as a possible way of learning and remembering it.


Cognitive process in which learners embellish on new information based on what they already know.

variable ratio (VR) schedule

reinforcement schedule in which desired behavior is rewarded following a constant amount of time

Working memory

Component of memory that holds and actively thinks about and processes a limited amount of information.

Conceptual change

Revision of one’s understanding of a topic in response to new information.

intrinsic reinforcers

behavior that a person enjoys engaging in for their own sake, without any other reward

time out

procedure of removing a student from a situation in which misbehavior was being reinforced


Overly broad view of the objects or events that a concept includes.

Stage theory

Theory that depicts development as a series of relatively discrete periods (stages).


signals as to what behavior(s) will be reinforced or punished


a relatively permanent change in an organism’s behavior due to experience

aversive stimulus

an unpleasant consequence that a person tries to avoid or escape


pleasant or unpleasant conditions that follow behaviors and affect the frequency of future behaviors


Demonstrating a behavior for another; also, observing and imitating another’s behavior.

presentation punsishment

an adverse stimulus following a behavior, used to decrease the chances that the behavior will occur again


vioral learning theoriesexplanations of learning that emphasize observable changes in behavior.

Authentic activity

Approach to instruction similar to one students might encounter in the outside world.

Information processing theory

Theoretical perspective that focuses on how learners mentally think about (process) new information and events and how such processes change with development.

Vicarious punishment

Phenomenon in which a response decreases in frequency when another person is observed being punished for that response.

Meaningful learning

Cognitive process in which learners relate new information to things they already know.

cognitive learning theories

explanations of learning that focus on mental processes.

Prior knowledge activation

Process of reminding learners of things they have already learned relative to a new topic.

positive reinforcer

pleasurable consequence given to strengthen behavior

vicarious learning

learning based on observation of the consequences of other’s behavior

Visual imagery

Process of forming mental pictures of objects or ideas.

extinction burst

the increase in levels of a behavior in the early stages of extinction

social learning theory

people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling

Sensorimotor stage

Piaget’s first stage of cognitive development, in which schemes are based largely on behaviors and perceptions.


Memory aid or trick designed to help students learn and remember a specific piece of information.

Conditioned response (CR)

Response that begins to be elicited by a particular (conditioned) stimulus through classical conditioning. e.g., blinking

Concept map

Diagram of concepts and their interrelationships; used to enhance learning and memory of a topic.


learning and behavior are described and explained in terms of stimulus-response relationships, and motivation is often the result of deficit-based drives.

Formal operations stage

Piaget’s fourth and final stage of cognitive development, logical reasoning processes are applied to abstract ideas as well as to concrete objects, and more sophisticated scientific and mathematical reasoning processes emerge.

Situated learning and cognition

Knowledge, behaviors, and thinking skills acquired and used primarily within certain contexts, with limited if any use in other contexts.

extrinsic reinforcers

praise or rewards given to motivate people to engage in behavior that they might not engage in without them


environment conditions that activate the senses


Phenomenon in which something a person has learned at one time affects how the person learns or performs in a later situation.


a pleasurable consequence that maintains or increases a behavior

variable interval schedule

reinforcement schedule in which desired behavior is rewarded following an unpredictable amount of time

Procedural knowledge

Knowledge concerning how to do something (e.g., a skill).


learners construct (rather than absorb) a body of knowledge from their experience

Sensitive period

Genetically determined age range during which a certain aspect of a child’s development is especially susceptible to environmental conditions.

Preoperational stage

Piaget’s second stage of cognitive development, in which children can think about objects beyond their immediate view but do not yet reason in logical, adult-like ways.

secondary reinforcer

a consequence that people learn to value through its association with a primary reinforcer

Spiral curriculum

Bruner’s design for teaching that introduces the fundamental structure of all subjects early in the school years, then revisits the subjects in more and more complex forms over time.

Comprehension monitoring

Process of checking oneself to be sure one understands and remembers newly acquired information.

premack principle

rule stating that enjoyable activities can be used to rienforce participaiton in less enjoyable activites

Reciprocal causation

Mutual cause-and-effect relationships among environment, behavior, and personal variables as these three factors influence learning and development.


imitation of others’ behaviors


Unfolding of genetically controlled changes as a child develops.

neutral stimuli

stumuli that have no effect on a particular response

Rote learning

Learning information in a relatively uninterpreted form, without making sense of it or attaching much meaning to it.

Social learning theory

Theoretical perspective in which learning by observing others is the focus of study. Initially, this perspective focused largely on stimulus-response relationships. More recently, it has come to incorporate cognitive processes as well, hence its alternative name social cognitive theory.

observational learning

learning by observation and imitation


Responding to a new object or event by either modifying an existing scheme or forming a new one.

Social constructivism

Theoretical perspective that focuses on people’s collective efforts to impose meaning on the world.

Developmental milestone

Appearance of a new, developmentally more advanced behavior.

Classical conditioning

the process of repeatedly associating a previously neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus in order to evoke a conditioned response

Declarative knowledge

Knowledge related to “what is”—that is, to the nature of how things are, were, or will be.

primary reinforcer

food, water, or other consequence that satisfy a primary need

cognitive behavior modification

procedures based on both behavioral and cognitive principles for changing one’s own behavior by means of self-talk and self-instruction


carry over of behaviors, skills, or concepts from on setting or task to another

Sensory register

Component of memory that holds incoming information in an unanalyzed form for a very brief time (perhaps one to two seconds).


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