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Unit of study_

PSYC3011: Learning and Behaviour

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit addresses the fundamental concepts and more important research findings related to contemporary theories of associative learning in animals and humans. It examines the application of such fundamental research to issues such as drug use and food choice. It is designed to foster skills in reading primary sources in this area, and provide the opportunity for hands-on experience in carrying out a research project.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PSYC3011
Academic unit Psychology Academic Operations
Credit points 6
(PSYC2011 or PSYC2911 or PSYC2010 or PSYC2910 or PSYC2015 or PSYC2915) and PSYC2012
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Evan Livesey,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam hurdle task Final take home exam
3-hour take-home short release
50% Formal exam period 3 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Tutorial quiz Tutorial quiz 1
Open book quiz to be completed on Canvas
10% Week 07
Closing date: 23 Apr 2021
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Assignment Research report
See Canvas
30% Week 10
Due date: 11 May 2020 at 23:59

Closing date: 08 Jun 2021
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Tutorial quiz Tutorial quiz 2
Open book quiz to be completed on Canvas
10% Week 12
Closing date: 28 May 2021
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Tutorial quizzes: If you do not complete all or some of these quizzes, you simply will not receive the marks associated with them.
  • Research report: If you do not complete it, you simply will not receive the marks associated with it.
  • Final exam: The initial final exam is a compulsory assessment, but so long as you attempt it, no minimum performance is

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

This work shows excellent understanding of the topic and clear evidence of independent
critical thought. It may contain blemishes, but these are compensated for by signs of high
intellectual quality, especially clear, well-organised and forceful argument; reading and
understanding beyond the set literature; and originality of approach.


75 - 84

This work shows a very good understanding of the relevant content; the essay reflects
independent thought; significantly it attempts to develop evaluative and critical arguments.
Such arguments may be second-hand and/or they may be flawed, but a serious and
sustained attempt at criticism has been made.


65 - 74

This work shows a clear understanding of the relevant material; it contains only small gaps
or minor errors; reading has obviously gone beyond lecture material; there are signs of
independent thought, and some attempt is made to evaluate arguments or develop critical


50 - 64

This work shows evidence of a satisfactory level of understanding of the relevant material; it
may contain gaps, errors or other kinds of blemishes, but it is obvious that the student has
read and digested material from lectures and/or set literature. The essay, however, is largely
derivative – it simply reports the views of others - and little or no criticism or evaluation of
arguments is attempted.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard. There may be a significant amount of ‘parroting’ of material from lectures or tutorials or set
reading, but this work shows little or no evidence of satisfactory understanding of the
relevant content; it may contain either serious errors or major gaps in what is considered
essential information.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction to learning and behaviour; 2. Darwin and mental evolution Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Week 02 1. Comparative psychology and early behaviourism; 2. Early learning theory: Pavlov, Hull and Tolman Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Introduction and laboratory Experiment 1 Tutorial (2 hr) LO4
Week 03 1. Skinner’s operant psychology vs associative learning theory; 2. The content of conditioning Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Laboratory Experiment 2 and 2. Experimental design discussion Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 1. The conditions necessary for conditioning: contiguity; 2. The conditions necessary for conditioning: contingency Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Discussion of laboratory experiments 1 and 2 Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 05 1. Theories of conditioning: variations in associability of the CS or US; 2. The Rescorla-Wagner model Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 06 1. The effects of non-reinforcement: extinction; 2. Conditioned inhibition – its role in extinction Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
1. Using models of learning Pt 1 - Simple acquisition and extinction 2. Trial spacing and learning Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 07 1. Latent inhibition; 2. Perceptual learning and discrimination Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
1. Initial Report Discussion 2. Discussion of trial spacing Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 1. Learning and attention; 2. Contingency learning and causal reasoning Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Using models of learning Pt2 - Cue competition Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO6
Week 09 1. Conditioning and cognition 1; 2. Conditioning and cognition 2 Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Final report discussion Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 1. Learning and drug use; 2. Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Critical discussion: Conditioning and awareness Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 1. The placebo effect 1; 2. The placebo effect 2 Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Drug use, tolerance & learning discussion Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 1. Food aversion learning; 2. Flavour preference learning Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Recap, preparation for exam and short-answer question writing Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 1. Social learning 1; 2. Social learning 2 Lecture (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. gain an in-depth knowledge of the history of comparative psychology from Darwin to contemporary learning theory
  • LO2. understand contemporary learning theory and its application to the analysis of behavior in laboratory and applied settings
  • LO3. gain knowledge of basic conditioning phenomena and an understanding of the necessary and sufficient conditions to produce them
  • LO4. develop skills in designing, conducting, interpreting experimental research in associative learning
  • LO5. develop skills in critically evaluating research, theory, and their application
  • LO6. gain an understanding of how basic learning principles can be applied to clinical, health and other issues in human behavior.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Feedback from students suggested that one tutorial discussion topic from last year did not fit very well with the rest of the content taught across this unit of study. We have replaced this with two tutorial discussions that are better integrated with the lecture content.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.