Classical Conditioning

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Different authors have different perspectives on classical conditioning, yet they agree on one aspect which is common, that it is a natural sequence of events; an unconscious, uncontrolled, and unlearned relationship. Comer (2004) defines classical conditioning as a process of learning by temporal association in which two events that repeatedly occur close together in time become fused in a person's mind and produce the same response. Conditioned stimulus or CS, comes to signal the occurrence of a second stimulus, the unconditioned stimulus or US. A stimulus is a factor that causes a response in an organism. The US is usually a biologically significant stimulus such as food or pain that elicits a response from the start; this is called the unconditioned response or UR. The CS usually produces no particular response at first, but after conditioning it elicits the conditioned response or CR. In this essay the writer is going to focus on Pavlov`s theory of classical conditioning showing its educational implications to a secondary school teacher.

According to Biehler and Snowman (1986) conditioning is usually done by pairing the two stimuli, as in Pavlov’s classic experiments. Pavlov presented dogs with a ringing bell followed by food. The food elicited salivation (UR), and after repeated bell-food pairings the bell also caused the dogs to salivate. In this experiment, the unconditioned stimulus is the dog food as it produces an unconditioned response, saliva. The conditioned stimulus is the ringing bell and it produces a conditioned response of the dogs producing saliva.

Huitt and Hummel (1997 objects that it was originally thought that the process underlying classical conditioning was one where the conditioned stimulus becomes associated with, and eventually elicits, the unconditioned response. But many observations do not support this hypothesis. For example, Skinner(1950) argues that the conditioned response is often quite different to the unconditioned response. He suggests that the CS comes to signal or predict the US. In the case of the salivating dogs in Pavlov's experiment, the bell tone signalled and predicted the arrival of the dog food, thus resulting in the dog to begin salivating.

Shettleworth (2010), summarised classical conditioning into three steps. In the first step, he says Ivan Pavlov, before conditioning gave a hungry dog a bowl of food. The dog is hungry, the dog sees the food and the dog salivates. During conditioning Pavlov presented the hungry dog with food and simultaneously rang a bell, and the dog salivated. This action (food and bell ringing) was done at several meals. Every time the dog sees the food, the dog also hears the bell.According to him , Pavlov was trying to associate, connect, bond or link something new with the old relationship. He wanted this new thing (the bell) to elicit the same response.

In the final step , Pavlov rang only the bell at mealtime, but he did not show any food. The dog salivated. The bell elicited the same response as the sight of the food gets. Over repeated trials, the dog has learned to associate the bell with the food. The bell has the power to produce the same response as the food. In other words, the dog has been conditioned to salivate when hearing the bell.

Carlson (2010) bought the idea but he however used specific terms. According to him, a neutral stimulus (NS) is a stimulus to which the organism does not respond in any noticeable way , is identified. In the case of Pavlov’s dog, the bell was originally a neutral stimulus that did not elicit a salivation response. The neutral stimulus is presented just before another stimulus, one that does lead to a response. This second stimulus is called an unconditioned stimulus (UCS), and the response to it is called an unconditioned response (UCR), because the organism responds to the stimulus unconditionally, without having had to learn to do so. For Pavlov’s dog, meat powder was an unconditioned...
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