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Classical Conditioning

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Green Light Go, Red Light Stop Classical conditioning shapes many of society's common, everyday tasks. Whether we know it or not, many actions we do numerous times a day are a direct result of classical conditioning. To better understand why we act the way we do in society, classical conditioning must be defined and described. Classical conditioning is defined as: a process by which a previously neutral stimulus acquires the capacity to elicit a response through association with a stimulus that already elicits a similar or related response. Discovered by Ivan Pavlov, classical conditioning is a form of learning. Pavlov revealed this trait when experimenting with dog's amounts of saliva in response to meat. He started noticing that after many repetitions, the dogs were salivating before the meat was even introduced. Pavlov concluded that some other stimulus that was repetitively associated with the meat was triggering the salivation. This simple concept describes how many actions are carried out in society today. Many times classical conditioning is not something that is purposefully done, but rather an incidental outcome. Conditioning may take a variable amount of time to occur. For example, humans are not born associating red with stop. As we grow, and ride in cars, we begin to consciously or subconsciously figure out that when a stoplight is red-you stop. Stop signs are red, stoplights are red, and brake lights are red. All of these things symbolize stopping. Yes, when you turn sixteen and you get your license you are told that red means stop, but by this point in your life, this is common knowledge. So how does associating red with stopping an example of classical conditioning? Within classical conditioning there are many specific components that are needed. First is an unconditioned stimulus, in this case maybe stopping cars. Next is the unconditioned response. If you see stopped cars, you will probably stop your car. A conditioned stimulus would come from noticing that the stopped cars in front of you are sitting in front of a red light and when that light turns green, they begin to move again. The conditioned response that results from this would show up when you come up to a stop light and no other cars are around. If the light is red, you now associate past experiences with your current situation and stop. Red lights in and of themselves do not convey stopping, but when associated with automobiles and traffic, the conditioned response to red lights is to stop. We don't walk around at Christmas time stopping every time we see a red light, yet when we see red lights on the road we always know to stop. Classical conditioning surrounds us in many forms. Many common tasks within society stem from Pavlov's discoveries about conditioning. Classical conditioning plays a large part in everyday life for all human beings.

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