IntroductionWhat is classical conditioning? Well, whether we are aware of it or not,it is a part of everyday life, and it has been around for as long as time. Mostpeople have no idea that classical conditioning effect our actions on a dailybasis. It can happen anywhere, our homes simply making tea, or being outside playingsports. Classical conditioning is a way of learning what happens when twostimuli are presented together, which then become associated with each other.The term “Classical conditioning” was first discovered by Ivan Pavlov, and thisdiscovery is so closely associated to him that sometimes people tend to name it”Pavlovian Conditioning”. What`s interesting about this phenomenon is how “Classicalconditioning” does not only affect humans, but it affects all animals rangingfrom the smallest bacteria to dogs and elephants. This type of conditioning isalso used in advertising and even treating different type of phobias.
The 3 stagesClassical conditioning is a type of conditioning that links two stimulitogether to produce a new response. Classical conditioning has three stages.The first step, before conditioning, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) makes anunconditioned response (UCR). This means that there is a stimulus that producesa response, usually a natural response. One example of this would be if a sharpsunlight lights right at us, our face would turn quickly, and our eyes wouldclose fast, humans didn’t have to learn this response it came by nature.Another example of an unconditioned response would be someone touching a very hotcup of coffee and pulling the hand back, or salivation at the sight of food.Stage two, during the conditioning, a new response is presented, theconditioned stimulus (CS).
The unconditioned stimulus is tied in with theconditioned stimulus. This stage can last for a couple of hours, to many years.One example of this would be if someone makes a specific sound, for example awhistle whenever a person sees food. In time that one individual would begin tosalivate when they hear that whistle.
The third stage,after the conditioning, the conditioned stimulus is now fully tied in with theunconditioned stimulus, which creates a new conditioned response (CR). So, the whistle is now the conditionedresponse.Various Classical conditioningAcquisition – During acquisition, the conditioned stimulus andunconditioned stimulus are repeatedly paired to create an association. Multiplepairings are required, but the number of trials needed can vary depending onwhat is being learned. For example, imagine that you are teaching a dog to fearthe sound of a snake. This type of learning will likely occur much more quicklysince the dog may already be primed to form such an association. As a result,the acquisition will happen much faster than if you are teaching your dog toplay dead.
Extinction – is when the occurrences of a conditioned responsedecreases or disappears. In classical conditioning, this happens when aconditioned stimulus is no longer paired with an unconditioned stimulus. Forexample, if the smell of food (the unconditioned stimulus) had been paired withthe sound of a whistle (the conditioned stimulus), it would eventually come toevoke the conditioned response of hunger. However, if the unconditionedstimulus (the smell of food) were no longer paired with the conditionedstimulus (the whistle), eventually the conditioned response (hunger) woulddisappear.Spontaneous Recovery – Sometimes a learned response can suddenly reemergeeven after a period of extinction. Spontaneous Recovery is the reappearance ofthe conditioned response after a rest period or period of lessened response.For example, imagine that after training a hamster to salivate to the sound ofa bell, you stop reinforcing the behavior and the response eventually becomesextinct. After a rest period during which the conditioned stimulus is notpresented, you suddenly ring the bell and the hamster spontaneously recoversthe previously learned response.
If the conditioned stimulus and unconditionedstimulus are no longer associated, extinction will occur very rapidly after aspontaneous recovery.Generalization – is the tendency for the conditioned stimulus to evokesimilar responses after the response has been conditioned. For example, if a puppyhas been conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell, the puppy may alsoexhibit the same response to stimuli that are similar to the conditionedstimulus.
In John B. Watson’s famous Little Albert Experiment, for example, asmall child was conditioned to fear a white rat. The child demonstratedstimulus generalization by also exhibiting fear in response to other fuzzywhite objects including stuffed toys and Watson own hair.Discrimination – is the ability to differentiate between aconditioned stimulus and other stimuli that have not been paired with anunconditioned stimulus. For example, if a bell tone were the conditionedstimulus, discrimination would involve being able to tell the differencebetween the bell tone and other similar sounds. Because the subject is able todistinguish between these stimuli, he or she will only respond when theconditioned stimulus is presented.Higher-Order Conditioning – In higher-order conditioning the presence of theinitial CS can actually reinforce a second CS.
For example: Your boyfriend or girlfriend usedto wear a very unique cologne. Even though you broke up six months ago, youstill get a warm feeling on the rare occasion when you smell the cologne on astranger.Ivan Petrovich Pavlov Classical conditioning was discovered by a famous Russian physiologistnamed Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. After finishing his doctoratedegree Ivan Pavlov traveled to Germany to study in Leipzig with Carl Lidwig inBreslau. While in Germany he studied the digestive tract of dogs using the exteriorizedsection of the stomach.
He later fixed the problem with maintaining theexternal nerve supply and now the exteriorized section is known as the Pavlovpouch. He won the noble prize at the Institute of Experimental Medicine on thegastric functions of dogs and children. This was when he found out that thedogs actually began salivating before they ate the food. He called it the “psychicsecretion” when he first found out about it. He began working with IvanFilippovitch Tolochinov in 1901 to figure out why the dogs began to salivatebefore the food was given to them. He began using a bell before the food waspresented to them, they would then begin to salivate.
It is widely believedthat Ivan Pavlov only used a bell but he used many things such as,whistlestuning forks, and electric shocks to get the dogs to salivateWatanabe H, Mizunami MThe most recent experiment that was done to test classical conditioningwas created by Watanabe H, Mizunami M. This experiment was done with Americancockroaches, “Periplaneta Americana”, and instead of sound, scents were used.The cockroaches would receive drops of sugar syrup, and then a sound wouldplay.
After many repetitions the cockroaches would begin to salivate when theysimply hear the sound. This was a very important experiment because this provesthat classical conditioning not only affects dogs and humans, but alsocockroaches. Classical conditioning and my behaviourAs we have come to learn, Classical conditioning influences ourbehavior, because our mind associates feelings, sense of smell, thoughts,memories in other words as mentioned, the conditioned stimulus is now fullytied in with the unconditioned stimulus, which creates a new conditionedresponse (CR). However, it can also treat phobias.
The mostcommon phobia in the world is arachnophobia, which is the fear of spiders.This phobia can actually be treated with counter-conditioning. But before I getto the counter conditioning, I will first explain the generalization of myclassical conditioning.
Stimulus generalization occurs when a response spreadsfrom one specific stimulus to other stimuli that resemble the original (in mycase responding to anything that resembled what I feared, which was dark creepyspiders) I use to be so scared of dark creepy spiders when I was small, thatanything dark with the slightest resemblance on the floor use to make me screamand I would have a severe panic attack. The neutral stimulus (NS) in thisscenario is spiders, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is spiders/ spiderlooking objects on the floor. The unconditioned response (UCR) is my fear. Theconditioned stimulus (CS) would be spiders/ spider looking objects, whichresulted to my conditioned response (CR) fear. Counter conditioning however, isbased on the principles of classical conditioning that attempts to replace bador unpleasant emotional responses to a stimulus with more pleasant, adaptiveresponses. That`s exactly what happened to me. As mentioned, as a small girl Iuse to cry and scream over the smallest spider, even though the spider eventuallywent away, or anything resembling a spider ( like mentioned generalization) Iwould still cry for hours because just the sight of a spider made me so scared.It was an intense fear, that I had since I was 2 till I was 8 years old.
Eventually my mother felt she had to do something, because it became tiringwhen the slightest dark object thing on the floor would scare me badly. She wasadvised by a child therapist to show me a picture of a spider, and then give mea “relaxing stimuli” so that the next time that I actually saw a spider I willassociate the spider with that relaxing stimuli. My mother was hesitating onthis advice, but was assured that the “relaxing stimuli” could be something assimple as a cookie, a toy that I liked, or a song I enjoyed. Therefore, everythird day my mom presented a photo of a spider, and sang the song “itzty bitzyspider” to make me remember that the spider was a little victim of the rain,not a scary little monster as I always saw them as. At first, I screamed andcried when my mom showed me the spider book, (even thought it was a cartoonspider!) this is expected when going through classical counter conditioning, thefear or phobias cannot be cured by initiating counter conditioning once. Counterconditioningis very similar to extinction seen in classical conditioning.
It is the processof getting rid of an unwanted response. But in counterconditioning, theunwanted response does not just disappear, it is replaced by a new, wantedresponse. The conditioned stimulus is presented with the unconditioned stimulus.
However, the outcome of this process can vary from hours to years. So, in orderfor counter conditioning to take place, time is essential. Therefore, it tookme a good 3 months to associate the scary spiders, with poor “itzy bitzyspiders”. The new conditioned response (CR) when seeing a spider got methinking of the story of the itzy bitzy spider, which triggered compassioninstead of fear, because I had been conditioned with the song for 3 months.
Therefore, my brain associated spiders, with helpless victims being washed awayby the rain (as the song goes). Furthermore, my compassion became theconditioned response in this matter. I did not react in fear as I use to everytime I saw a spider afterwards, but with compassion in getting the spider outto its natural sunny environment.
I still have the same compassionate reactionwhen I see spiders till this day. My changed behavior is a result of counterconditioning. My behaviour as Prepared LearningAnother interesting factor and theory that also played a part of my pastbehavior is “Preparedness”. Martin Seligman (1971) Seligman asked, why are somephobias so much more common and difficult to treat than others? He pointed outthat the most common phobias involved spiders, snakes, and small animals suchas rats. This confirms what I mentioned previously, that one of the most commonphobia in the world is arachnophobia, which is thefear of spiders. These phobias are also the most difficult to treat.
Hence, theamount of time it took for me to finally get over my arachnophobia. However, inour modern world, more people are hurt by hammers and electrical outlets thanby spiders and snakes. So why do psychologists hear no complaints about hammerphobias, or electrical outlet phobias? Well, Seligman suggested that the commonphobias must be biologically prepared by evolution. (the DNA that encouragessuch a fear response). By contrast, we do not fear hammers and automobilesbecause they were not a threat to our ancestors, so we have no built-in biasagainst them. Therefore, my phobia was also a result of preparedness.
ConclusionClassical conditioning plays a huge role in our lives. Classicalconditioning can be easily seen in commercials in the newspapers, magazines, TVand billboards. Some of the best designed commercials are played during theSuperbowl where a single 30 second commercial costs $3.5 million. Thesecommercials have to be perfectly designed so they attract as many people asthey can, therefore Classical conditioning is used to attract as many consumersas possible. One example of this would be the beer commercials, especially theBudweiser ones. People drinking the beer always have unlimited freedom alwayshaving a good time with friends, which is associated with the beer. Peoplethink they will experience the same feeling if they buy the beer.
Anotherfamous company that uses classical conditioning in its commercials iscoco-cola. In almost all of the commercials the drink is tied in withhappiness. As a result of this when people go to the store and look at all thesoda, they will see coco-cola and then associate it with happiness, withouteven realizing what implanted that thought into them. Therefore, understandinghow classical conditioning operates and changes our behavior over time isessential for our own knowledge. It is important to be aware of exactly why wechange our behavior at times, so that we can better understand ourselves. Aspresented earlier, counter conditioning is remarkable way to cure phobias, thathas made our lives difficult. The counter conditioning method makes it possibleto understand what can be done to achieve a wanted outcome.
I also believe thatit is healthy to know how Classical Conditioning is a method used for amanipulation purpose, in advertising. We need to be aware that these advertsare here to sell an illusion, by using Classical Conditioning, in order for usto be lured into buying their product. But now that we are aware, we canidentify it in our ever day lives .