conditioning is a theory of learning that was discovered by Ivan Pavlov.
According to the theory, a new behavior is learned through the process of
association. According to the theory
mentioned above, two or more stimuli are paired to produce a response. The
output response is later related to other different stimuli. The different
stimulus is often referred to as the neutral stimulus, which when paired with
the unconditioned stimulus triggers a conditioned response(McSweeney et al, 2014). The paper
will focus on explaining how classical conditioning works, the various
components of the theory, classical conditioning processes as well as explain
behaviors from the perspective of classical conditioning.
How classical conditioning works
understand how the theory works, it is important to note how it was discovered.
Pavlov exposed the theory, after his observations on how his dog associated lab
coats and lab attendants with food. Food is an unconditioned stimulus, which
causes an unconditioned response(Weiner,
2003). This stimulus-response connection is natural and requires no
learning. To disclose the existence of unconditioned response, Pavlov would
present food to his dog and measure its salivary secretions. He later, however,
realized that some events and objects would cause a similar response. Such
events and objects included the presence of the lab assistant and the lab coats
respectively. The lab assistant and the lab coats are neutral stimuli, which
should not cause a response. The stimuli, however, caused a response due to
their association with food, which is the unconditioned stimuli (Weiner, 2003).
later experimented to verify his observations. In his experiment, he rang a
bell at the same particular time when he presented meat powder to his dog.
After a repeat of the procedure, he decided to ring the bell and present no
meat. He realized that the sound produced by the bell made his dog salivate. The
sound produced by the bell was a neutral stimulus, which had triggered a reaction(Weiner, 2003). The neutral stimuli
triggered a conditioned response since his dog had acquired the behavior of
associating the bell sound with the meat. For a response to be triggered by the
neutral stimulus, the unconditioned and the neutral stimuli have to be
initially presented close together in time. Learning occurs if the duration of
time between the unconditioned stimulus and the neutral stimulus is minimal. If
the time gap is too great, then no learning occurs(Weiner, 2003).
Stages and components of classical
through classical conditioning occurs in three stages. The first stage is
normally referred to as the stage before conditioning. During this stage, a
natural stimulus causes a natural response(Keith, 2012). The natural stimulus is scientifically referred to
as the unconditioned stimulus (UCS). The unconditioned stimulus in Pavlov’s
experiment is the meat powder. The natural response is scientifically referred
to as the unconditioned response (UCR). The unconditioned response in Ivan’s
trial was salivary secretions from the dog. The response is referred to as a
natural response since it is not learned. It is a biological response.
the same stage, another stimulus is presented. The stimulus triggers no
response in an organism. The stimulus can be an event, an object, a person or a
place. The stimulus is scientifically referred to as the neutral stimulus (NS).
The NS in Pavlov’s case was the sound of the bell. According to the theory, the
neutral stimuli triggers no response until it is paired with unconditioned
stimuli(McSweeney et al, 2014).
second stage is more often referred to as the stage during which conditioning
occurs. During this stage, a neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditioned
stimulus to elicit a response. The neutral stimuli at this phase become conditioned
stimuli (CS)(Keith, 2012).
The conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus must be presented
together on many occasions if learning has to take place at this particular
stage. The conditioned stimulus in Pavlov’s experiment was the sound of the
third stage occurs after conditioning. During this period, a conditioned
stimulus, which had initially been paired with an unconditioned stimulus to
elicit an unconditioned reaction, is now able to trigger a similar response on
its own. The new response that is triggered by the conditioned stimulus is
scientifically referred to as the conditioned response (CR). The sound produced
by the bell independently made Pavlov’s dog salivate. The bell sound, in this
case, was the conditioned stimulus, which caused salivating. Salivating at this
stage is a conditioned response (Keith,
Classical conditioning processes
five main processes in classical conditioning include extinction, acquisition,
discrimination, spontaneous recovery and generalization.
is the first period of behavioral learning, during which an animal acquires the
behavior of associating a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus.
During this period, a neutral stimulus is presented together with the natural
stimulus to elicit a reaction. The neutral stimulus eventually becomes a
conditioned stimulus and can trigger a response on its own. The response is the
conditioned response. The time interval between which the neutral stimulus and
the unconditioned stimulus are presented determines how well a conditioned
response or behavior will be acquired(Weiner,
a conditioned stimulus is presented on its own for a long duration of time, the
conditioned response becomes extinct(Henton et al, 1978). There is a gradual
decrease of a conditioned reaction if the new conditioned stimulus is not
presented together with the unconditioned or else the natural stimulus for a
long time interval. In Pavlov’s case,
the dog failed to salivate after he presented the bell without the meat
repeatedly for a long time.
this process, a response that had initially been extinct reappears. The
conditioned response reoccurs after a period of non-exposure to the conditioned
stimulus. The response is usually unexpected as it has previously been extinct.
A conditioned response that results from spontaneous recovery will soon become
extinct especially if the conditioned stimulus is not paired with the
unconditioned stimulus(McSweeney et
generalization occurs when a conditioned response is caused by stimuli similar
to the conditioned stimulus. In Pavlov’s case, any other object that produces a
sound similar to that of a bell would cause a conditioned response, which was
salivation(Henton et al, 1978).
occurs when an organism can make a distinction between a conditioned stimulus
and other associated stimuli, which are not conditioned stimuli. The organism
that can establish the difference between a conditioned stimulus and similar
stimuli will only respond to the conditioned stimuli (McSweeney et al, 2014).
Second order conditioning
is where a neutral stimulus is used as the basis for understanding and learning
another stimulus. In Pavlov’s case, associating the bell with the meat powder
was the first-order conditioning. Second order conditioning would occur if the
dog associated a light of a bell with the bell itself, and salivated whenever
the light was present (Henton et al, 1978).
Classical conditioning in everyday
through classical conditioning occurs in our everyday lives. Most of the
activities individuals engage in as well as most changes in behaviors result
from classical conditioning(McSweeney
et al, 2014). One of the behaviors that I have acquired through
classical conditioning is phobia and fear for dogs. I used to love dogs until
one bit me. I admired and preferred dogs to cats until a dog bit me, in my
early childhood. The incidence changed my initial perception of dogs as
bite was an unconditioned stimulus (US). The resulting fear and pain was the
unconditioned response (UR). It is natural to feel pain when bitten. A natural
reaction to a stimulus is referred to as an unconditioned response. I always
associate the pain I felt with all the dogs that I come across. I have
developed a phobia for dogs, and especially black dogs since the dog that bit
me was black. The black dogs that I come across are the conditioned stimuli
(CS). The fear resulting from the encounter with such dogs is a conditioned
response (CR). Not all black dogs are harmful, yet I always find it difficult
to go near any of them. The other black dogs are the conditioned stimuli since
they cause a similar response, as one caused by the dog that bit me. The
conditioned stimulus, in this case, was initially the neutral stimulus. I initially
loved dogs; they were neutral stimuli at that point since they caused no
fear for all dogs shows stimulus generalization. Although the fear caused by
other dogs is not as much as that caused by the black dogs, the generalized
response towards all dogs shows stimulus generalization.
Not every black dog bites. Being afraid of all black dogs shows that I am
displaying stimulus generalization.
conditioning is an essential theory of learning that helps explain why we behave
the way we do as well as what triggers behavior. It is a theory of learning
that explains why and how people associate an unconditioned stimulus with a
conditioned stimulus and respond in the same way to both. It has been applied
in our everyday life to help eliminate undesirable behaviors and to enhance