Classical Conditioning

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Classical Conditioning, Biblical and Personal

The phenomenon studied by Pavlov is an interesting one to consider. (Myers, 2010) Trying to choose a personal experience that reflects classical conditioning was difficult. There were many obvious choices, so it took a while to choose one. When I was a little girl I attended a funeral with my mother. One of the hymns played at the funeral was “In the Garden”. Being a funeral, it was a very sad event and there were many tears. Afterward, my mother said to me, “I want that song played at my funeral”. To this day I cannot hear that song without tears coming to my eyes. I hear it and imagine my mother’s funeral.

I think a good example of Operant Conditioning in the Bible is Jonah. God commanded him to go to Ninevah, and instead of obeying God’s command, Jonah sailed away (Jonah 1:1-17 NIV) on a ship traveling in the opposite direction. We all know how the story goes. There is a storm, Jonah is thrown overboard and is swallowed by a large fish, in the belly of which Jonah remains for three days and nights. After this, he is spat out of the fish and again God commands him to go to Ninevah and preach. This time Jonah obeys! Operative Conditioning is thus “learning by consequences” (Skinner, 1935)

Jonah 1:1-17 NIV.
Myers, D. G. (2010). Psychology, Ninth Edition. New York, New York: Worth Publishers. Skinner, B. (1935). The Behavior of Organisms. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.
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