Classical Conditioning

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‘Classical conditioning provides us with a way to learn cause and effect relations between environmental events’ (Martin, Carlson and Buskist, 2010, pg 259). Classical conditioning is learning by association and is the main way in which we develop phobias. The main type being specific phobias which are generally influenced by genetics or a traumatic childhood event. There are three basic principles off classical conditioning which are important to be aware of when researching the development of phobias: Acquisition, extinction and spontaneous recovery. Indirect conditioning is also a major factor in how phobias can develop. Examples of indirect conditioning are generalisation, higher order conditioning, sensory preconditioning and vicarious conditioning. Ivan Pavlov’s discovery is by far one of the best for describing the process of classical conditioning. In this essay it will explain how he used dogs and the production of saliva to show how we learn by association. Phobias are sometimes treated by systematic desensitisation. ‘The verb to sensitize means “to make someone highly responsive or susceptible to certain stimuli,” and the prefix de- indicates removing, or doing the opposite.’ (Sarafino E.P., 1996, pg 232). This essay will also show some examples of how systematic desensitization is performed.

Although Ivan Pavlov was a trained physiologist he still became one of the most famous researchers in psychology. He started out studying various substances secreted by animals which helped aid digestion and on noble prize for his study in 1904. One substance which was of particular interest to him was saliva. He became intrigued as to what stimuli influenced the production of saliva. Pavlov based his study on dogs and was able to measure the amount of saliva produced by connecting a tube to their salivary ducts (Mazur, 2006). He did a number of testing sessions where food powder would be placed in the dog’s mouth each time. After a few times the dogs became...
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