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 trainer can lure the behavior by moving the treat like a magnet until the animal moves into the position the trainer wants. The trainer then clicks the clicker and gives the animal the treat. Shaping a behavior can be accomplished by clicking and treating when the animal hints at the behavior, eventually only treating when the animal refines the behavior, no matter how small the advancement is. A cue word is added after the animal understands the behavior and performs it reliably. A series of test and repeating the steps may be necessary until the animal has the behavior mastered. The trainer then ignores the un-cued behaviors. The animal may do an extinction burst, repetition of the behavior, until the behavior is only done on cue. To solidify the training, the animal is put on a variable reinforcement schedule and the behavior is generalized, meaning that the behavior is practiced in different locations (Braslou-Schneck, 1998).
The behavior I have chosen for this scenario is teaching my dog not to bolt out the door. In this case, the behavior will be to stay inside when the door opens. To achieve this behavior, I will follow the schedule below for the training:
Desired Behavior: Stay inside when the door opens.
Conditioned Stimulus (CS): Clicker
Conditioned Response (CR): Stay inside when the door opens.
Stage 1: Create the Conditioned Stimulus Click Treat
Stage 2: Capture, Lure or Shape Behavior Behavior Click Treat
Stage 3: Add a Cue Word Behavior Cue Click Treat
Stage 4: Test the Cue Cue Behavior Click Treat
Stage 5: Ignore Un-Cued Behavior Behavior No Click No Treat Extinction
Stage 6: Introduce Variable Reward Cue Average 5 intervals of behavior Click Treat
Stage 7: Generalize Behavior Cue Average 5 intervals of behavior Click Treat
Once the desired behavior is complete, follow-up sessions might be necessary. If the dog backpedals on the behavior, I will need to go back and repeat the previous step until the behavior is properly and adequately reinforced.
Classical conditioning is still used today for humans and animals alike. Many teachers and parents follow a specific schedule of reinforcement and conditioned responses to condition children in the learning process. With a simple Internet search, one will find a variety of sites with charts and resources to implement classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is also used in advertizing and marketing products. By associating the product with good feelings, eventually one responds to the product name with good feelings. McDonald’s restaurants and the Coca-Cola Company are notorious examples of classical conditioning and marketing strategy.
Braslau-Schneck, S. (1998) Getting started with clicker training. Stacy’s Wagon Train, San Jose, CA. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from: http://www.wagntrain.com/OC/GetStarted.htm
Cherry, K. (2010). Introduction to Classical Conditioning? About.com. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/classcond.htm
Olson, M., and Hergenhahn, B. (2009). An Introduction to Theories of Learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
References: Braslau-Schneck, S. (1998) Getting started with clicker training. Stacy’s Wagon Train, San Jose, CA. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from: http://www.wagntrain.com/OC/GetStarted.htm Cherry, K. (2010). Introduction to Classical Conditioning? About.com. Retrieved July 27, 2010 from http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/classcond.htm Olson, M., and Hergenhahn, B. (2009). An Introduction to Theories of Learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.