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Pavlov`s Experiment and Essence of Classical Conditioning



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    Have you ever ran through a red light? Probably not because when you are learning to drive you are aware that green means go and red means stop. You probably are also aware that when you see yellow you should slow down. These are all elicit reactions to a color that is familiar to you when you are driving. This type of learning is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning takes a great part in structures of society and all individuals encounter it at some point in their lives. To better understand how classical conditioning relates to our lives we first must define it. Once defined, it will be easier to relate to our lives, as I will be doing in this paper. It is important to take note that our behavior could also be related to different learning theories and I will also be relating my behaviour to one of the many that exist.

    Classical conditioning is a learning process occurring through associations between two different stimuli’s. The first to discover classical conditioning was Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov came across such discovery when he was doing an experiment with dogs and their salivation. He would serve the dogs meat powder but noticed they would start salivating before the meat was even served. The dogs were salivating at a noise the serving device would make. However, to begin to understand classical conditioning we must first look at important terms. Firstly there is the unconditional stimulus (UCS) this is what naturally triggers a response. Secondly there is the unconditioned response (UCR) this is a natural reflex in response to a stimulus. Thirdly, a conditioned stimulus (CS) is a stimulus that comes into response when paired with the UCS.

    Lastly, the term conditioned response (CR) is the learned response to the conditioned stimulus. For example in Pavlov’s discovery before the process the unconditioned stimulus would be the food, the unconditioned response would be the salivation. During the acquisition period, this is when the association between the unconditioned stimulus (food) and conditioned stimulus (noise of serving device) are being paired. Once learned, or conditioned, the dogs were able to react to the noise of the serving device by salivating, creating a conditioned response. Another few important things to know about conditional learning are that it is possible to disassociate the two stimuli’s after they have been paired this is called extinction. This could gradually happen when the conditioned stimulus is not being paired with the unconditioned stimulus and the conditioned response does not happen. After extinction has happened spontaneous recovery is possible.

    This is when the condition response reappears when paired with the conditioned stimulus after a period that they have not been. A few other things that could happen with classical conditioning are stimulus generalization and discrimination. Stimulus generalization is when various stimuli’s that are familiar to the conditioned stimulus evoke the conditioned response as well. For example in Pavlov`s experiment, if the dogs were to salivate to tones that sounded similar to the noise the serving dish would make, it would be generalizing. Discrimination is when an individual has the capability to distinguish the conditioned stimulus and other similar stimuli’s. Once again using Pavlov`s experiment, if the dogs could distinguish between the noise the serving dish made and other similar tones it would be discrimination.

    Finally, classical conditioning can be extended out this is a process called higher order conditioning. Higher order conditioning is when the conditioned stimulus is used like an unconditioned stimulus to elicit the conditioned response to a second conditioned stimulus. For example, in Pavlov`s experiment he began to use a second stimulus, he paired a black mat with the noise the serving dish would make. Eventually the dogs began to salivate when they saw the black mat. Like stated before, classical conditioning can be found throughout everyone’s life, sometimes it is very recognizable and other times it can be difficult to identify. Once taught classical conditioning and having a better understanding of it I was able .

    Pavlov`s Experiment and Essence of Classical Conditioning. (2016, Jun 13). Retrieved from

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