Conditioning Essay

For my paper I wanted to examine the idea of conditioning and focus mainly on the emotional aspect of it.Continuing affects us in several ways. Most the time, in ways we are not fully

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aware of. One of the more indirect ways is emotionally. I have a close friend, who we’ll

call Jordan for reasons of privacy, who seems to be deathly afraid of medicine. While I

find this fear irrational and unrealistic, he finds it extremely real and sometimes

Until recently I saw no real problem with his fear, but a strange thing happened

and I found myself trying to analyze and almost diagnose what had happened.

Due to

some sort of food poisoning, he was forced to be taken into the local emergency room.

His reaction to the food he had eaten seemed to be serious and upon arrival, the first thing

the nurse did was place an IV in his arm. Immediately his fear of medicine came into

play. Though the IV was different than the medicine he was normally afraid of, the IV

fell into a category I believe to be a “stimulus generalization.” A stimulus generalization

is defined as the occurrence of a learned response not only to the original stimulus, but

to the other similar stimuli as well. His conditioned response to antibiotics in the past,

became a conditioned reaction to all forms of medicine. Jordan acted out the way anyone

would to such a fear. He began screaming at the nurse, and tearing at the needle in his

arm. After later recalling the incident, he told me that it bothered him even more than

taking a pill that they were putting things directly into his blood stream. I was interested

by the whole incident and became determined to find the psychological reasons behind

his response. As you read this, bare in mind that I am not a psychologist nor a scientist,

so if I am far off in my conclusions, forgive me.I began by analyzing Jordan’s past life experiences and applied them to the many

concepts I had recently learned in psychology. I immediately noticed a direct correlation

between his past experience and the idea of conditioning. I now believe that Jordan has a

conditioned response to the idea of taking medicine, that makes him fearful of the results

As a child Jordan had several severe cases of strep throat, a common illness in

both children and adults. Each time he was prescribed with different types of antibiotics

and cough syrups. He is allergic to penicillin, a popular ingredient in many antibiotics.

Because of this he was forced to take only liquid antibiotics which caused his initial

dislike towards medicine. The medicine was both sticky and thick. The horrible tasting

medicine, he recalled, always caused him to gag. As he continued taking the prescription

he noticed that the medicine didn’t settle well in his stomach which eventually made him

vomit. I believe this is what conditioned him to respond the way he does now to

In a sense, the form of conditioning that caused his extreme dislike in taking

medicine is “operant conditioning.” Operant conditioning is defined as the basic

learning process that involves changing the probability of a response being repeated by

manipulating the consequences of that response. The consequences of Jordan “not”

taking the medicine was “not” vomiting, which he deemed as VERY positive

Though I believe Jordan is conditioned not to take medicine, he admits there are

extreme cases where he would be willing to take them. This has to do with the idea of

punishment. He accepts the notion that when a person refuses to take medicine, chances

are, their symptoms will increase. Even with this realization he still vows to avoid

As a person goes through life, they rarely question the reasons why they react to a

certain stimulus the way they do. Most behavior patterns are formed through some sort of

conditioning. Jordan is a key example of this. A series of events early in his childhood

conditioned him to act a certain way. He said that maybe one day he will be able to

overcome his fear, but for now it doesn’t affect him enough to change his ways.

In conclusion I believe that nearly all behavior patterns are formed through some

sort of conditioning. Jordan was not born disliking medicine. It was a characteristic he

acquired as he aged. it was something he was conditioned to dislike. this is one of the

main reasons some of the most prominent psychologists in history believe that any

healthy person can be conditioned to do anything or act any certain way, despite having

the talent. By being aware of this, I believe that we can become the people we want to be

and do the things that we want to do if we condition ourselves correctly.

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