Principles of Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a learning theory where learning is an association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response. It is developed by the Russian and Soviet psychologist, Ivan Pavlov.
The followings are the five main principles of classical conditioning. Let’s look at each of them.
In classical conditioning, acquisition refers to the initial stage of learning where a previously neutral stimulus becomes associated with a stimulus that naturally elicits a response. During acquisition, the neutral stimulus gradually gains the ability to evoke the response on its own.
For example, when Pavlov repeatedly paired the sound of a tone (neutral stimulus) with the presentation of food (unconditioned stimulus), the dogs eventually started salivating in response to the tone alone. This demonstrates acquisition, as the dogs learned to associate the tone with the food and developed a conditioned response of salivation.
Acquisition occurs through the formation of connections in the brain between the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus, leading to the development of a conditioned response. The process involves repeated pairings of the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus until the association is established.
The acquisition is a fundamental step in classical conditioning as it allows for the creation of new associations between stimuli, enabling organisms to learn and adapt to their environment.
Extinction in classical conditioning refers to the gradual disappearance of a learned response. It occurs when the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented without being followed by the unconditioned stimulus. As a result, the conditioned response weakens and eventually disappears.
For example, imagine a child who has been conditioned to fear a loud noise (conditioned stimulus) because it was paired with a scary event (unconditioned stimulus). If the loud noise is repeatedly presented without the scary event, the fear response will gradually diminish until it is no longer elicited by the noise alone.
During extinction, the brain forms new associations between the conditioned stimulus and the absence of the unconditioned stimulus, leading to the suppression of the conditioned response. Extinction is an important process in changing or eliminating undesired behaviors and responses.
By understanding how the extinction principle works, you can intentionally expose yourself to stimuli without reinforcing the conditioned response, helping to overcome fears, phobias, and maladaptive behaviors.
In classical conditioning, spontaneous recovery refers to the unexpected reappearance of a previously extinguished response after a period of rest or time without reinforcement. During the acquisition phase, a neutral stimulus becomes associated with an unconditioned stimulus to elicit a response.
After extinction, where the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented without the unconditioned stimulus, the response diminishes. However, when the conditioned stimulus is reintroduced, a temporary reemergence of the response occurs, known as spontaneous recovery.
For example, if a dog was conditioned to associate a bell sound with food and the salivation response gradually disappeared during extinction, the dog may briefly salivate again when the bell is presented after a rest period.
This demonstrates how the original association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus can spontaneously reappear, albeit temporarily. Spontaneous recovery highlights the persistence of learned associations, even after apparent extinction.
Stimulus generalization in classical conditioning refers to the tendency for a learned response to occur in the presence of stimuli that are similar to the original conditioned stimulus. When an organism is conditioned to respond to a specific stimulus, such as a particular tone, it may also exhibit the same response to similar tones that share common features.
The degree of similarity between the stimuli determines the strength of the generalized response. For example, if a dog has learned to associate a specific tone with receiving food, it may also respond to similar tones with the same excitement and anticipation.
Stimulus generalization allows learned behaviors to be applied to a broader range of stimuli, showcasing the influence of similarity on our conditioned responses.
Stimulus discrimination in classical conditioning refers to the ability to differentiate between a specific conditioned stimulus (CS) and other similar stimuli and respond selectively to the specific CS. It involves learning to respond to the original CS that is associated with a particular outcome while ignoring or not responding to similar stimuli that do not produce the same outcome.
For example, if a dog has been conditioned to salivate to the sound of a specific tone, it demonstrates stimulus discrimination if it only salivates when it hears that specific tone but not when it hears similar tones. The dog has learned to discriminate between the specific tone that is paired with the unconditioned stimulus and other tones.
Stimulus discrimination allows for selective responding and helps individuals to respond specifically to relevant stimuli while disregarding irrelevant ones. It involves recognizing and responding differently to different stimuli, which enhances adaptive behavior.
Examples of stimulus discrimination include a child responding to their parent’s voice but not to a similar voice, or a person differentiating between different smells and responding selectively to the desired smell.
Overall, the stimulus discrimination principle of classical conditioning enables individuals to respond specifically to the original conditioned stimulus while disregarding similar stimuli that do not produce the desired outcome.
In conclusion… These are the five main principles of classical conditioning. These principles let us know how classical conditioning works and ultimately how it trains behavior through conditioned practice.