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Classical Conditioning

  • According to Driscoll, learning is a persisting ‘change in performance or performance potential that results from experience and interaction within the world  It is any relatively permanent changes in behavior brought about by experience or practice. Studies suggest that when the human being “learns” a new thing, part of its brain changes structure to record the new information.
Learning Brain 
  • That is why you do not “forget” something; it is simply lost in your memory and needs to be retrieve by practices.
  • For example, the pie situation: You have learn that if you eat the pie again, then you will get sick so you change your behavior, according to your learning, and avoid the food. However, not all king of change is learning. Any kind of change in the way an organism is behaving is learning.
One of the most famous research about learning would be classical conditioning.  
  • In 1890s, the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov was researching salivation in dog in response of receiving food. Pavlov attached a sort of “barometer” to count the amount of salivation when receiving the food
Ivan Pavlov 
  • Unfortunately, the dog would salivate each time he would hear Pavlov’s footstep, which causes the experiment to be ruin. At first, Pavlov was a bit annoyed about this type of behavior but his clever mind realized that another interesting process was taking place: Learning. He termed it classical conditioning
Ivan Pavlov Experiment 

Pavlov eventually identified couple of elements that must be present for such process could take place:

Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS): An “unlearned” or “naturally occurring” stimulus that leads to an involuntary response. It leads to reflex, involuntary response (The food).

Unconditioned Response (UCR): An involuntary response to the “unlearned” or unconditioned stimulus (Salivation to the food given).

Conditioned Stimulus (CS): It is Stimulus that becomes able to produce a learned reflex response by being paired with the original unconditioned stimulus (Pavlov’s Footsteps)

Conditioned response (CR): It is the learned reflex response to a conditioned stimulus (Salivation to the footsteps).

Another element added is the neutral stimulus. It is a stimulus that has no effect on the desired response.  
  • Pavlov extended is studies, he added a bell as a Neutral Stimulus (NS), since the bell would have no effect on the dog salivating. He again wanted to test his theory on classical conditioning.
Pavlov Experiment Structure 
  • Before the conditioning, he rings the bell and the dog did not salivate. During the conditioning, he rings the bell (NS) and gives the food (UCS) to the dog and the dog salivates (UCR)
  • The dog now has learned that the ring of a bell is the result of food. After the conditioning, Pavlov rings the bell again and the dog salivates. This has proven that classical conditioning have taken place, since the dog, now, attributed the ring of a bell as receiving food
Pavlov Experiment
  • Pavlov and other researchers also found that the strength of the response to a similar bell was not as strong as the original one, but the more similar the bell was from the original one, the stronger was the response. He called it Stimulus generalization.
  • When Pavlov would ring the “fake” bell, he would not give the dog food and it did not take the dog too long to differentiate between the “original” and the “fake” bell. That is called Stimulus discrimination

However, conditioning could also be “extent”, meaning “unlearned”. That is if the learning response weakens following the removal or absence of unconditioned stimulus, also called Extinction. Spontaneous recovery would take place if the learned response would reoccur after extinction. Similar famous experience would be “The Little Albert Experiment”. The Little Albert Experiment
Classical conditioning is also an excellent advertising tool use by marketing manager to persuade a targeted public to buy products or services. Advertisement