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Classical Conditioning

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PSY/390
July 25, 2011

Introduction There are many theories about learning, one in particular sought to explain learning through processes that occur through associations with environmental stimuli and natural stimuli. This theory was discovered coincidently by a Russia physiologist named Ivan Pavlov; Pavlov called this approach classical conditioning. The following short essay will describe the theory of classical conditioning as well to provide some history on its’ development through Ivan Pavlov. This essay will also provide some common behavioral patterns that are associated with the theory of classical conditioning. I will also choose a scenario in which the classical conditioning theory could be applied in terms of learning. Lastly, I will prepare a chart in which I illustrate how I could apply classical conditioning to the selected scenario of my choice, a mentioned above.
Classical Conditioning Classical conditioning can be defined as a learning process in which a conditioned stimulus that previously had not been present becomes associated with an unconditioned stimulus that can produce a response. Eventually, the conditioned stimuli will elicit a response that the unconditioned stimuli produced (Pavlov, 1927). A Russian physiologist stumbled upon the concept of classical conditioning by the name of, Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov was researching and studying the digestive processes of dogs when he noticed a strange concept within the animals. It seemed that every time Ivan or his associated entered into the room where the dogs were the dogs would begin to salivate. Pavlov found this occurrence to be of interest and he began to study this affect more within his research. With some time and through some investigations Pavlov noticed that the salivation of the dogs was not attributed to an automatic response like he had once speculated but was actually a learned process. Pavlov had discovered something, the dogs were not just salivating in response to the presence of the food, and they were actually responding and salivating in expectation to the food. Pavlov suggested that such an occurrence could be attributed to a conditioned reflex. Pavlov was more than interested in his new finding of the dogs and there seemingly conditioned responses, so he began further experiments with the dogs. One such experiment dealt with a bell being ringed prior to food being given to the dogs; this experiment lead to Pavlov’s discovery of classical conditioning. Pavlov had discovered that a reflux and/or natural responses could be conditioned by external stimuli, thus creating a conditioned response (Hock, 2002). Pavlov’s coincidental discovery lead to the theory of classical conditioning in psychology, and it has become one of the top theories in learning as we no it today.
Behavioral Patterns Associated with Classical Conditioning Within the theory of classical conditioning there are behavioral patterns that are associated in conjunction to classical conditioning. The first of those patterns is referred to as extinction. Extinction occurs when a conditioned stimulus is presented numerous times without the presence of unconditioned stimuli. An example of extinction would be valid in Pavlov’s dog experiment; if the dos continued to hear a bell over and over again but without the presence of any food, the dog eventually would no longer salivate to the sound of the bell. The second pattern associated with classical conditioning is known as stimulus generalization. Stimulus generalization occurs when a stimulus similar to the conditioned stimuli creates a reflex or response. Other words a dog could in fact salivate to any bell ringing as long as the noises produced were very similar to the very first noise produced. This brings us to the final pattern that is known as discrimination. This pattern can be viewed with the dog example as well. If a bell was rang and the sound that was produced was completely different, the dog may not salivate to the noise; thus, showing discrimination towards the noise because of the loss of association with the initial noise heard and the presence of the food.
Selected Scenario and Chart A scenario in which I would apply the classical conditioning theory is the teaching of a child to use the potty, rather than in their diaper or underpants. Every child has to eventually learn how to use the potty rather than to continue going in their diapers, the best way to potty train a child is through classical conditioning. The chart below illustrates how that could be accomplished and how classical conditioning would be applied.

Classical Conditioning and Potty Training

References:
Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned Refluxes. An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. London: Oxford University Press.
Hock, R. R. (2002). Forty studies that changes psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research. (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Eduation

References: Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned Refluxes. An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. London: Oxford University Press. Hock, R. R. (2002). Forty studies that changes psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research. (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Eduation

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