Classical Conditioning

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Classical conditioning has become a part of daily life for the last 50 years or so. Though other forms of behavior modification have grown from the original experiments of the early behaviorist, classical conditioning has found a permanent place in society. Originally discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, classical conditioning is a learning process that occurs when associations are formed between an organism’s naturally occurring response and an environmental stimulus (Cherry, 2010). By using an unconditioned stimulus on an unconditioned response and introducing a neutral stimulus the organism can be conditioned to respond to, known as a conditioned stimulus, a conditioned response occurs (Olsen & Hergenhahn, 2009). An unconditioned stimulus (US) is a stimulus that causes a natural reaction. In Pavlov’s research the unconditioned stimulus was food. An unconditioned response (UR) is the response an organism has without conditioning. In Pavlov’s research, this was salivation. A conditioned stimulus (CS) occurs when a neutral stimulus is introduced to train the response, known as a conditioned response (CR). Pavlov used a tone for this purpose. When the US is removed, the subject still responds to the CS (Olsen & Hergenhahn, 2009). One can easily train an animal using classical conditioning. Most trainers use a tone or clicker as their CS. According to Stacy Braslou-Schneck (1998), a trainer can create the CS by using a clicker as a neutral stimulus and treats as the unconditioned stimulus. Trainers call the “charging up the clicker” (Braslou-Schneck, 1998, p. 1). Once the animal is well conditioned and not distracted, the trainer captures the behavior by waiting for the animal to perform a task such as sitting or standing. When the trainer sees the desired behavior, he or she clicks the clicker and gives the animal a treat. This is repeated until the animal repeats the behavior to receive a treat. If the animal does not perform the task on its own, the...
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