Credit points


Campus offering

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PSYC100 Foundations of Psychology ; PSYC101 Applications of Psychology ; PSYC104 Research Design and Statistics I

Teaching organisation

3 hours contact per week over 12 weeks or equivalent

Unit rationale, description and aim

Central to an undergraduate degree in psychology is the ability to understand and critically analyse core knowledge areas in psychology, to understand and demonstrate practical skills in research methods, to apply the values and ethics of the discipline and to communicate effectively in various formats. This unit focuses on the contribution of models of learning to the understanding of behaviour change. It spans topics from classical to operant conditioning, and includes modern approaches to the quantitative analysis of behaviour. The methodological paradigms and philosophical implications of behaviourism will be covered, with a strong emphasis on experimental approaches to the development of theories of behaviour. In addition, the unit will also cover applied behaviour analysis approaches to interventions in clinical settings. The aim of this unit is to provide you with an in depth understanding of the topics, theories and methodological paradigms in the field of behaviourism and current clinical applications of theories of behaviour.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - describe the methodological paradigms that underpin the study of classical and operant conditioning processes, including comparative psychology approaches (GA5); 

LO2 - compare and contrast different theoretical models in the topic areas, with an emphasis on the empirical evidence in support of each, as well as on the evidence that may be used to refute them (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO3 - evaluate and interpret findings from basic and applied research in the areas of behaviour analysis and behaviour modification (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8);

LO4 - formulate testable hypotheses on the basis of arguments derived from knowledge of basic concepts and a critical analysis of research findings, theories and methods in the area (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9);

LO5 - analyse behaviour in its context, identifying the stimuli that control particular behaviours as well as the consequences that maintain them (GA3, GA5, GA7, GA8);

LO6develop models of intervention that specifically target behaviour modification by aiming to increase or decrease the likelihood of particular behaviours (GA3, GA5 GA6, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • Introduction to learning and behaviour.  
  • Overview of philosophical and experimental approaches to the study of learning. 
  • Habituation and sensitisation. 
  • Classical conditioning (CC) 
  • Basic principles and variables affecting classical conditioning  
  • Theories of associative learning (Rescorla-Wagner model, theories of effectiveness of the CS)  
  • Operant conditioning (OC) 
  • Basic principles of operant conditioning 
  • Schedules of reinforcement 
  • Avoidance and punishment  
  • Theories and research on operant conditioning 
  • Behavioural economics 
  • Stimulus control (absolute vs relational) 
  • Concept formation and stimulus equivalence 
  • Learning by observation 
  • Motor skills learning 
  • The matching law 
  • Theories of choice behaviour (matching, melioration, optimisation, momentary maximisation) 
  • Self-control 
  • Applications 1: Behaviour assessment 
  • Applications 2: Increasing behaviours 
  • Applications 3: Decreasing behaviours 
  • Applications 4: Generalisation to other settings 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The unit is delivered in face-to-face mode with 3 contact hours per week: each week there will be a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial. This mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures are to aid students with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge while the tutorials are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of that knowledge. Learning and teaching strategies include active learning, case-based learning, individual and group activities, cooperative learning, web-based learning, and reflective/critical thinking activities, delivered over 12 weeks. This range of strategies will provide students with appropriate access to required knowledge and understanding of unit content. These strategies will allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within class activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. A range of assessment strategies are used including: an APA style Lab report to demonstrate your ability to discuss, evaluate and synthesise the research literature to develop arguments and testable hypotheses and to interpret and evaluate contemporary research findings; and mid-term and final exams which provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Mid-term exam 

The exam provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the first half of the unit. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA9

Laboratory report 

The lab report is designed to allow you to demonstrate your ability to discuss, evaluate and synthesis the research literature to develop research hypotheses and argument, provide a description of the methodology of a study, and to interpret and discuss research findings. You are also to demonstrate your skill in locating and evaluating scholarly research and applying the APA referencing system to written work.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Final exam 

The exam provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the second half of the unit.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5, LO6

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9

Representative texts and references

Alloway, T., Wilson, G. & Graham, J. (2012). Sniffy: The virtual rat. Lite version 3.0. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Baum, W. M. (2004). Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture and Evolution. (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. 

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E. & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (2nd ed.). Pearson. 

Domjan, M. (2014). Principles of Learning and Behavior (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Mazur, J. E. (2012). Learning and Behaviour. (7th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: NJ. Pearson. 

Sarafino, E.P. (2011) Applied behaviour analysis: Principles and procedures in behavior modification. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 

Sulzer-Azaroff, B. and Mayer, R.G. (1991). Behaviour Analysis for Lasting Change. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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