The Conditioning Process
It was raining when Sarah was driving home from work. Both she and the driver of the car in front of her were speeding. The car in front of her had immediately braked. There was not enough distance between that car and her own car to safely slow to a stop, so she had quickly switched lanes to avoid a car accident. Instead, the slick pavement caused her car to swerve out of control. When her car finally skidded to a stop, it was inches away from colliding into a tree. Two weeks later, Sarah noticed that she had become anxious every time she had to drive in the rain. Believe it or not, Sarah’s anxiety is due to an associative learning process called conditioning. According to Weiten (2008), conditioning involves learning associations between events that occur in an organism’s environment (p. 169). Although psychology has a grasp on how we learn through classical and operant conditioning, it is impaired by biological constraints. Classical conditioning, also referred to as Pavlovian conditioning (Weiten, 2008), was discovered by a Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov. This form of learning presents how an unconditioned stimulus (UCS), or a neutral event, is initially unable to evoke an unconditioned response (UCR), or a reflexive response, but attains the ability to do so by pairing with another stimulus that can elicit such a response. Sarah’s situation would be an example of classical conditioning. The UCS would be Sarah’s near-death experience. The UCR from Sarah was anxiety and fear. Now that she feels anxiety and fear every time she must drive when it rains, even if there is no chance of another accident, her reaction has become a conditioned response (CR) to the rain, which is now the conditioned stimulus (CS). Another type of conditioning is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning (Weiten, 2008) can be distinguished from classical conditioning in that...
References: Weiten, W. (2008). Psychology: Themes & variations briefer version (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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