This course will focus on behavioural and psychological processes underlying the acquisition of new knowledge in human and non-human animals. Although the focus is on a psychological level of description, where possible attempts will be made to integrate this level in a multidisciplinary framework, searching for neurobiological and neuropsychological evidence supporting psychological theories. Additionally, the application of learning paradigms in clinical and cognitive research will be discussed. After this course, the student is able to (1) explain and relate key experimental paradigms, empirical phenomena, neurocognitive mechanisms, concepts, and theories concerning the acquisition of new knowledge, (2) apply experimental paradigms, neurocognitive mechanisms, concepts, and theories from the psychology of learning to anecdotal, experimental, developmental, and clinical data, cases, and studies, (3) combine the knowledge implicated in (1) and (2) for the purpose of explicating a novel research question and associated experimental research design to address this question.
The course starts with an overview of behavioural phenomena, basic principles, and current psychological theories and (computational) models in the research fields of classical and operant conditioning. Thereafter, a number of topical lectures will be presented, largely building on concepts and basic principles discussed in the initial lectures. The topical lectures address a discussion of the distinction between implicit and explicit learning (also in a clinical context), the neuropharmacology of behavioural flexibility in learning contexts, the learning capacity across the lifespan, second-language learning, and the learning capacity of psychopathic individuals.