Classical Conditioning Examples

Classical Conditioning

In the field of psychology, classical conditioning is a type of learning that has had a major influence on behaviorism. Classical conditioning was discovered by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, better known for the work he did with dogs often referred to as "Pavlov's dogs." It is a learning process that occurs through associations between stimulus in the environment and a naturally occurring stimulus.

Classical conditioning is similar to the current term used today: behaviorism. Behaviorism is based on certain assumptions: All learning occurs through interactions with the environment, the environment shapes behavior, and considering internal mental states such as thoughts, feelings, and emotions is useless in explaining behavior.

Classical conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a naturally occurring reflex. For Pavlov and his experiments with the dogs, the neutral signal was the sound of a tone, and the natural reflex was the dogs' salivating in response to the tone. Connecting and associating the tone to the food resulted in the sound of the tone alone producing the salivation from the dogs.

In general, classical conditioning involves forming an association between two stimuli resulting in a learned response. There are three basic phases. The first is Before Conditioning, which requires a naturally occurring stimulus automatically eliciting a response such as salivating when smelling food.

The second phase is During Conditioning, a previously neutral stimulus (food odor) is repeatedly paired with the unconditional stimulus (tone). During this phase the odor of the food for instance will cause the stimulus, even though the food may not be served to the subject.

The final phase is After Conditioning, which is when the association has been made between the unconditioned stimulus (tone) and the conditioned stimulus (food odor). The sound of the tone without the odor of the food will still produce the salivation.

Examples of Classical Conditioning:

1. Fear response: Albert was a boy in an experiment where a fear response was conditioned. Initially, the boy did not fear a white rat. The rat was paired or associated with loud and scary noises and the boy then became fearful of the rat and other white fuzzy objects.

2. Taste aversions: A person may eat chicken as a meal but later become sick through no fault of what was eaten. However, the taste of the chicken may later cause the person to feel nauseous because they associate it with an illness. Some aversions are helpful, such as the taste of sour milk, which immediately tells a person it is not safe.

3. Training pets: Many dog trainers use classical conditioning to help people train their pets. Associating the word sit with a tasty treat for the dog will eventually lead the dog to sit without needing to give it the treat. Other types of tricks and commands may also be taught to pets using classical conditioning.

4. Behavior: Classical conditioning is also used to increase or decrease an amount of behavior in raising children or by teachers in a classroom.

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