Psychological Conditioning

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Psychology 102 – Midterm Essay

Midterm Essay
Herbert Joseph
Psychology 102

The classical conditioning approach is an associative learning approach that played a major role in the development of the science of psychology. Classical conditioning can also be referred to as Pavlovian or respondent conditioning. The process begins with a stimulus in the environment, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS), which produces a natural behavior, the unconditioned response (UCR) in an organism. For example, when a person feels a puff of air entering their eye, they will blink. Another stimulus with no effect on the organism is introduced, called the neutral stimulus (NS), which could be anything. The NS must be paired with the UCS repeatedly to produce the UCR, which would become the conditioned response (CR) if the conditioning is successful. This is strength of classical conditioning, because repetition is a proven method to increase memory, keeping the conditioned stimulus (CS) in the brain longer. Therapists use classical conditioning to change behavior and address problems in a patient, such as panic or irrational fear.

Weaknesses of classical conditioning lie in the inflexibility of the rules. Some behaviors are not based on reflex, so what can be learned is limited. For example, trying to teach someone to walk won’t work, because walking isn’t the result of an UCS. Another weakness would be that some behaviors aren’t the direct result of an external stimulus. For example, seeing purse store doesn’t directly result to buying a purse; it is an impulse-driven action, not a result of external stimulus. Operant conditioning is the underlying frame of apprehension and knowledge.   In other words it is a type of learning in which the likelihood of a behavior is increased or decreased   by the use of reinforcement or punishment. Operant conditioning deals more with the cognitive thought process and it could be used on animals or humans. Behaviors are maintained or stopped by using three types of responses or operant that follows the behavior: neutral operants, reinforcers, or punishers. For example, kids getting good grades are positively reinforced by parents, increasing the probability of the behavior being repeated. This method of learning is proven effective with action sequences like brushing teeth, driving safely, showering, etc. It’s also helpful for managing undesirable behavior, an example being a teacher rewarding her kindergarteners with gold stars for good behavior. Weaknesses in operant conditioning come from its ethical ties. Long-term dependence on externals forms or reinforcement is dangerous is people no longer give that sort of response. For example, when a kid is used to getting good grades and being praised for it, and they stop being praised, it could cause a drastic drop in the behavior leading to the good grades. Another problem would be the punishment received for actions, such as spanking. When a parent spanks a child, it is shown to be ineffective and to be more of a neutral response rather than a punishment. This method could lead to some unethical punishments to lessen the behavior. B.F. Skinner analyzed behavior in animals and in people. He developed a theory that explains how we're conditioned to behave the way we do. He also demonstrated how we can use scientific principles to change the behaviors in others. Skinner did this by applying his theory of reinforcement to behavior. You'll find information about why this is important for people who can't change their own behaviors in the section about shaping behavior. He believed that there was no such thing as personality, only how everyone would behave under a specific set of conditions. B.F. Skinner argues in Beyond Freedom and Dignity that unrestricted reinforcement is what led to the "feeling of freedom", thus removal of aversive events allows people to "feel freer". For example, if a child makes faces at the teacher in school, the laughter of the...
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