Learning and the wisdom of the body
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According to Spence, the learning researcher's task is to explain the relationship between experimental variables and behavior changes occurring with practice. Spence eschewed biological speculation. In contrast, for a biologist, "explanation" consists of ascertaining how the observed behavior increases reproductive success. Fundamental to achieving reproductive success is survival to sexual maturity, and such survival depends on homeostatic mechanisms attenuating the effects of physiological disturbances that threaten existence. Drugs are one way of disrupting homeostatic functioning, and studies of drug effects indicate that homeostatic mechanisms are engaged not just by pharmacological perturbations, but also by stimuli that signal such perturbations. Similarly, we attenuate the effects of a variety of nonpharmacological stimuli by such anticipatory homeostatic adjustments. The learning researcher is a homeostasis researcher.
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