Other Considerations in Avoidance Learning

As revealed in the preceding example with lower organisms, avoidance learning is predicated on exposure to aver-sive stimulation that subsequently can be predicted by an exteroceptive cue or signal. Among humans, however, similar learning can be promoted without direct contact with an unpleasant situation. On one hand, an individual's behavior may adhere to the avoidance paradigm by observing the performance of other people. Avoiding interpersonal difficulties with a supervisor on the job, for instance, might be the outcome for a worker who sees colleagues chastised or rebuked, or receive similar harsh consequences, when they interact with that individual.

Learning through avoidance without actually experiencing negative situations also can be the result of giving an individual verbal instructions, directions, or explanations. Such is the case when a parent informs a young child, "Don't touch the stove," in order to prevent injury. Similarly, the visibility of "Do" and "Don't" signs abundant in our environment provides explicit warnings for the purpose of avoiding untoward (and possibly fatal) consequences. Verbal and written language is said to mediate or control behavior through rule governance.

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