Classical Conditioning

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 6 November 2016

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is one of the very improtnat aspects as it can help to predict huiman behavior and hence can be applied in various fields. It was developed by the Russian Scientist and researcher Ivan Pavlov, who was trained in biology and medicine. The scientist was interested in studying the digestive system of dog, and it was only by coincidence hat he concentrated on the behavioral aspects of the dogs during his study. He observed that whenever he walked into the room during a particular time of the day, the dogs salivated.

He was fascinated with this phenomenon and conducted further research in order to investigate it (Huitt, 1999). The classical conditioning theory was renamed as “respondent conditioning” by Skinner, as it involved changes demonstrated by the individual or organism to changes in the environment. According to the classical condition theory, a previously neutral stimulus would transform into a conditioned stimulus, when it is closely associated with an unconditioned stimulus.

Whenever a dog is presented with a neutral stimulus such as a bell sound, a response is elicited because it is closely associated several times with an unconditioned or a natural stimulus for a particular response (for example, showing food to a hungry dog). The association should be reasonable in the sense that it should be presented at the same time (close link should exist). Classical conditioning is also known as “stimulus substitution. ” The classical conditioning usually starts with a reflex, such as an involuntary behavior, which is caused following a previous event in the environment.

A reflexive response is generated for a stimulus from the environment. This response, which occurs to an unconditioned stimulus, is an unconditioned response. A neutral stimulus would usually not generate an unconditional response. For example, an unconditioned response would be produced when an unconditional stimulus is presented. However, a neutral stimulus (sound of a bell) will only orient the dog (attract the dog’s attention), but not produce an unconditional response (that is salivation).

Take for example, pairing or linking a neutral stimulus (sound of the bell) is to an unconditional stimulus (such as the smell of food), then the hungry dog will salivate once the neutral stimulus is presented. In this case, the neutral stimulus would transform into a conditioned reflex by close association. Such a converted stimulus is now a conditioned stimulus, and the response from the dog is known as a conditioned reflex (Butterfield, 2007; & Butterfield, 1996).

Classic conditioning in human beings provides us with several functions including meeting with our basic needs; developing protective mechanisms or reflexes; developing fear towards other objects; etc. It plays a very important role in the functioning of an organism. One of the scenarios where the classical conditioning theory can be applied is the Baby Albert experiment. This was originally performed by John Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner on Baby Albert, who was at that time one year old (Northern Illinois University (NIU), 2008).

In this experiment, Watson was trying to create the fear of rats in Baby Albert, by the process of classical conditioning. He first passed the unconditional stimulus that is a large sound near baby Albert, which created an unconditional response in the form of fear. Then he passed a neutral stimulus (the appearance of a rat), which drew the attention of Baby Albert but did not generate an unconditional response of fear. Then Watson slowly began to associate the large sound with the appearance of the rat.

By the process of conditioning, the rat gets converted into a conditioned stimulus generating a conditioned response. This can have a very important role in the development of phobias (fear and anxiety disorders). The process of classical conditioning works very well in lower animals and human beings. Children learn through a process of classical conditioning. Many companies are also using the process of classical conditioning as it works instinctively and unknowingly in human beings.

For example in the sale of cars, men usually are interested in buying cars. Many companies are using young models to unconditionally stimulate men who develop an unconditional response towards these girls. The association between cars and girls, put something in their mind, and hence they get attracted to cars by the process of conditioning. In this case, the cars act as a conditioned stimulus, producing a conditioned response (NIU, 2008; & Butterfield, 1996).


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 6 November 2016

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