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Psychology Learning

By KatyKatyq1 Oct 15, 2013 1266 Words
Humans learn in everyday life. ‘Learning is an adaptive process in which the tendency to perform a particular behaviour is changed by. As conditions change, we learn new behaviours and eliminate old ones’. (Sarma,Pearson). Learning cannot be directly seen occurring, therefore there are many research projects involved with the discovery of how one learns. However different situations affect the learning performance. This assignment acquires one to discuss how classical condition principals explain the development of phobias. It is then asked, to determine how fears and phobias may be out ruled with the aid of systematic desensitisation.

As humans, we develop our behaviours due to classical conditioning. ‘Through classical conditioning organisms learn about the signalling properties of events ’(Naime, Psychology) Through a reaction to a stimulus or an emotion, a humans will act accordingly due to their pervious reaction and experience of a situation. One does not simply acquire fear toward a situation unless they have had a disturbing experience or have been warned of the consequences of their actions, by another. Fear is acquired though life experiences. One associates their trauma to a stimulus, therefore one learns by association. ‘In acquiring these fears, a process known as fear conditioning, the brain's amygdala plays a critical role.’ ( Classical conditioning is associated with Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov was studying digestive process in dogs when he discovered that the dogs salivated before they received their food. In fact, after repeated pairing of the lab attendant and the food, the dogs started to salivate at the sight of the lab assistants. Pavlov coined these phenomena “psychic secretions." He noted that dogs were not only responding to a biological need (hunger), but also a need developed by learning. Pavlov spent the rest of life researching why this associate learning occurred, which is now called classical conditioning. To experiment on classical conditioning, Pavlov utilized a tuning fork and meat powder. He hit the tuning fork and followed the sound with the meat powder. Pavlov presented the sound (tuning fork) with the meat powder at the exact same time increments. In the beginning, the dog salivated only to the meat powder, but after this was repeated, salivated at the sound of the tuning fork. Even when Pavlov took away the meat powder, the dog continued to salivate at the sound of the tuning fork.’ (

Pavlov, therefore, demonstrates that one becomes conditioned through experience of particular situations. Classical condoning is a natural learned response, and is a developmental learning process. As classical condition is a natural learning response, it will take only a short time, for one, to maintain a certain reflex, emotional or behavioural response to particular stimuli. As a result, there is set of basic principals which define and explain classical conditioning. There are such learning principals like acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery, stimulus generalisation and discrimination. Acquisition in terms of classical conditioning ‘ involves repeated pairings of the conditioned stimulus (CS) and Unconditioned Stimulus (US). Gradual increases in the magnitude of the, Conditioned Response (CR) occur over trials until performance levels off, called the asymptote of acquisition.’ ( ‘The selection of US's and CS's may have a major impact on the acquisition of the CR. US strength affects the amount of conditioning that is possible. CS saliency is important in determining the rate of acquisition of the CR. The time at which the CS and US are presented is also an important factor. In simultaneous conditioning, the CS and US are presented at the same time. The most productive procedure is delayed conditioning, in which the CS is presented before the US, but the two overlap. In trace conditioning, the CS is presented and offsets before the US presentation. Time functions as the CS in temporal conditioning. Backward conditioning is when the US is presented before the CS and is usually difficult to obtain.’ ( Extinction involves repeatedly presenting the CS in the absence of the US. When the pairings of the two stimuli are discontinued for several trials, the CS loses the capacity to cause the CR. This happens because the CS is a neutral stimulus, and when training stops, the CS resumes a neutral status. It is possible that a CR, having been extinguished, may suddenly reappear even though there has been no reconditioning with the US. This phenomenon is referred to spontaneous recovery.’ ( ‘Spontaneous Recovery occurs after extinction. The conditioned response often reappears if the CS is presented after some time.’ ( Stimulus generalization can be defined when; a CS is paired with a US and forms a reaction. Stimuli that vary along the same dimension as the CS may also produce a conditioned response. The more the new stimuli are like the original CS, the greater the strength of the CR. Through the process of generalization, we can relate the reaction with many stimuli without actual contact with the experience. ‘Discrimination involves the organism's ability to detect differences among stimuli and respond to only one or a few such stimuli. Discrimination training signals the behavioural course appropriate to the circumstance.’ ( Once a CR has been firmly established, the CS that elicits it may function in a manner to a US and thereby serve to strengthen responses to novel stimuli. In their early experiments, Pavlov and his associates took their observations of this as evidence of second-order conditioning. The significance of second-order effects is that the range for behaviour for which classical conditioning might be responsible is extended’ ( Phobias that are condoned are treated by systematic desensitization. This treatment is a form of behavioural therapy, which predicates the principle of classical conditioning. This behavioural aid promotes a relaxation replication to the conditional stimulus gradually utilizing counter conditioning, to overcome fear. Phobias are overcome by creating a hierarchy of trepidation, involving the conditioned stimulus that is ranked from least fearful to most terrifying. The process commences when the patient begins to expose themselves to that the least unpleasant stimulus and practicing their relaxation technique. As they feel more comfortable the patient is exposed to the next fearful stimulus. ‘The client reaches a state of deep relaxation, and is then asked to imagine the least threatening situation in the anxiety hierarchy. The client perpetually imagines this situation until it fails to evoke any anxiety at all, indicating that the therapy has been successful. This process is reiterated while working through all of the situations in the anxiety hierarchy until the most anxiety-inciting. The therapist provides the patient with techniques to overcome fears.’ (

Therefore, to conclude, classical condition principals explain the development of phobias. Fears and phobias can be ruled with the aid of systematic desensitisation. Though the understanding of the development of fears, a therapist can out rule the stems of the fears and alter the clients’ state of fears.


Sarma, K. (Ed.). (2011). Introduction to Psychology . (4th ed.). Great Britain : Pearson.

Science Daily (2007, March 16). Fears Learned By Observing Others Are Similar To Those Learned From Direct Experience. Retrieved February 22, 2012, from

Millis Classical Conditioing. Retrieved February 22, 2012, from

Academics (n.d.). Classical Condition . Retrieved February 22, 2012, from

McLeod, S. (2008). Systematic Desensitization behavior Therapy. Simply Psychology . Retrieved February 22, 2012, from

Nairne, J.S (2009) Psychology, (5th ed.) Canada; Thomson Learning Inc.

Trick cyclists.(n.d) Basic Psychology, Retrieved April 10, 2012, from

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