IntroductionClassicalconditioning is a theory of learning that was discovered by Ivan Pavlov.According to the theory, a new behavior is learned through the process ofassociation. According to the theorymentioned above, two or more stimuli are paired to produce a response. Theoutput response is later related to other different stimuli. The differentstimulus is often referred to as the neutral stimulus, which when paired withthe unconditioned stimulus triggers a conditioned response(McSweeney et al, 2014). The paperwill focus on explaining how classical conditioning works, the variouscomponents of the theory, classical conditioning processes as well as explainbehaviors from the perspective of classical conditioning.How classical conditioning worksTounderstand how the theory works, it is important to note how it was discovered.
Pavlov exposed the theory, after his observations on how his dog associated labcoats and lab attendants with food. Food is an unconditioned stimulus, whichcauses an unconditioned response(Weiner,2003). This stimulus-response connection is natural and requires nolearning. To disclose the existence of unconditioned response, Pavlov wouldpresent food to his dog and measure its salivary secretions. He later, however,realized that some events and objects would cause a similar response.
Suchevents and objects included the presence of the lab assistant and the lab coatsrespectively. The lab assistant and the lab coats are neutral stimuli, whichshould not cause a response. The stimuli, however, caused a response due totheir association with food, which is the unconditioned stimuli (Weiner, 2003).Pavlovlater experimented to verify his observations. In his experiment, he rang abell at the same particular time when he presented meat powder to his dog.
After a repeat of the procedure, he decided to ring the bell and present nomeat. He realized that the sound produced by the bell made his dog salivate. Thesound produced by the bell was a neutral stimulus, which had triggered a reaction(Weiner, 2003). The neutral stimulitriggered a conditioned response since his dog had acquired the behavior ofassociating the bell sound with the meat. For a response to be triggered by theneutral stimulus, the unconditioned and the neutral stimuli have to beinitially presented close together in time. Learning occurs if the duration oftime between the unconditioned stimulus and the neutral stimulus is minimal. Ifthe time gap is too great, then no learning occurs(Weiner, 2003).
Stages and components of classicalconditioningLearningthrough classical conditioning occurs in three stages. The first stage isnormally referred to as the stage before conditioning. During this stage, anatural stimulus causes a natural response(Keith, 2012). The natural stimulus is scientifically referred toas the unconditioned stimulus (UCS). The unconditioned stimulus in Pavlov’sexperiment is the meat powder. The natural response is scientifically referredto as the unconditioned response (UCR).
The unconditioned response in Ivan’strial was salivary secretions from the dog. The response is referred to as anatural response since it is not learned. It is a biological response.Duringthe same stage, another stimulus is presented. The stimulus triggers noresponse in an organism. The stimulus can be an event, an object, a person or aplace.
The stimulus is scientifically referred to as the neutral stimulus (NS).The NS in Pavlov’s case was the sound of the bell. According to the theory, theneutral stimuli triggers no response until it is paired with unconditionedstimuli(McSweeney et al, 2014).Thesecond stage is more often referred to as the stage during which conditioningoccurs. During this stage, a neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditionedstimulus to elicit a response. The neutral stimuli at this phase become conditionedstimuli (CS)(Keith, 2012).
The conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus must be presentedtogether on many occasions if learning has to take place at this particularstage. The conditioned stimulus in Pavlov’s experiment was the sound of thebell.Thethird stage occurs after conditioning.
During this period, a conditionedstimulus, which had initially been paired with an unconditioned stimulus toelicit an unconditioned reaction, is now able to trigger a similar response onits own. The new response that is triggered by the conditioned stimulus isscientifically referred to as the conditioned response (CR). The sound producedby the bell independently made Pavlov’s dog salivate. The bell sound, in thiscase, was the conditioned stimulus, which caused salivating. Salivating at thisstage is a conditioned response (Keith,2012).Classical conditioning processesThefive main processes in classical conditioning include extinction, acquisition,discrimination, spontaneous recovery and generalization.Stimuli AcquisitionThisis the first period of behavioral learning, during which an animal acquires thebehavior of associating a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus.
During this period, a neutral stimulus is presented together with the naturalstimulus to elicit a reaction. The neutral stimulus eventually becomes aconditioned stimulus and can trigger a response on its own. The response is theconditioned response. The time interval between which the neutral stimulus andthe unconditioned stimulus are presented determines how well a conditionedresponse or behavior will be acquired(Weiner,2003).ExtinctionWhena conditioned stimulus is presented on its own for a long duration of time, theconditioned response becomes extinct(Henton et al, 1978). There is a gradualdecrease of a conditioned reaction if the new conditioned stimulus is notpresented together with the unconditioned or else the natural stimulus for along time interval.
In Pavlov’s case,the dog failed to salivate after he presented the bell without the meatrepeatedly for a long time.Spontaneous recoveryDuringthis process, a response that had initially been extinct reappears. Theconditioned response reoccurs after a period of non-exposure to the conditionedstimulus. The response is usually unexpected as it has previously been extinct.A conditioned response that results from spontaneous recovery will soon becomeextinct especially if the conditioned stimulus is not paired with theunconditioned stimulus(McSweeney etal, 2014).GeneralizationStimulusgeneralization occurs when a conditioned response is caused by stimuli similarto the conditioned stimulus.
In Pavlov’s case, any other object that produces asound similar to that of a bell would cause a conditioned response, which wassalivation(Henton et al, 1978).Stimulus discriminationThisoccurs when an organism can make a distinction between a conditioned stimulusand other associated stimuli, which are not conditioned stimuli. The organismthat can establish the difference between a conditioned stimulus and similarstimuli will only respond to the conditioned stimuli (McSweeney et al, 2014).Second order conditioningThisis where a neutral stimulus is used as the basis for understanding and learninganother stimulus.
In Pavlov’s case, associating the bell with the meat powderwas the first-order conditioning. Second order conditioning would occur if thedog associated a light of a bell with the bell itself, and salivated wheneverthe light was present (Henton et al, 1978).Classical conditioning in everydaylifeLearningthrough classical conditioning occurs in our everyday lives. Most of theactivities individuals engage in as well as most changes in behaviors resultfrom classical conditioning(McSweeneyet al, 2014). One of the behaviors that I have acquired throughclassical conditioning is phobia and fear for dogs.
I used to love dogs untilone bit me. I admired and preferred dogs to cats until a dog bit me, in myearly childhood. The incidence changed my initial perception of dogs asfriendly animals.Thebite was an unconditioned stimulus (US). The resulting fear and pain was theunconditioned response (UR).
It is natural to feel pain when bitten. A naturalreaction to a stimulus is referred to as an unconditioned response. I alwaysassociate the pain I felt with all the dogs that I come across. I havedeveloped a phobia for dogs, and especially black dogs since the dog that bitme was black. The black dogs that I come across are the conditioned stimuli(CS). The fear resulting from the encounter with such dogs is a conditionedresponse (CR). Not all black dogs are harmful, yet I always find it difficultto go near any of them.
The other black dogs are the conditioned stimuli sincethey cause a similar response, as one caused by the dog that bit me. Theconditioned stimulus, in this case, was initially the neutral stimulus. I initiallyloved dogs; they were neutral stimuli at that point since they caused noresponse.Thefear for all dogs shows stimulus generalization. Although the fear caused byother dogs is not as much as that caused by the black dogs, the generalizedresponse towards all dogs shows stimulus generalization.Not every black dog bites. Being afraid of all black dogs shows that I amdisplaying stimulus generalization.ConclusionClassicalconditioning is an essential theory of learning that helps explain why we behavethe way we do as well as what triggers behavior.
It is a theory of learningthat explains why and how people associate an unconditioned stimulus with aconditioned stimulus and respond in the same way to both. It has been appliedin our everyday life to help eliminate undesirable behaviors and to enhancedesirable behaviors.