Classical Conditioning Essay

1167 words - 5 pages

Classical conditioning developed from the findings of Ivan Pavlov laying the foundations for behaviourism which was the dominant approach in psychology from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Behaviourism studied the nature of relationships between the environment and the fact of observable behaviour. This essay will describe the important features of classical conditioning, consider their use in explaining pathological behaviour and will be answered using a variety of empirical evidence from academic texts, journal papers focussing on the following topics: the findings of Ivan Pavlov and the conditional reflex, the components of classical conditioning, acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery and stimulus generalisation, the work of Watson and Rayner with little Albert and conditioned fear response and finally, how phobias and addictions can be explained by classical conditioning.
The work of J.B Watson and other behaviourists argued psychology should be indicative of predicting and controlling overt behaviour using the conditional reflex. (J. B. Watson, 1994) In 1938 Watson published his paper outlining the behaviourist’s interpretation, discussing this as a new psychological, scientific and objective experimental approach in examining observable behaviour. (J. B. Watson, 1994) Classical conditioning as discussed by (Clark, 2004) was realised through the work of Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov for his findings in the areas of physiology and digestion. Nevertheless, in his acceptance speech he only referred to the phenomenon of conditional reflexes. Pavlov used dogs in his experiments where the amount of saliva secreted was measured when the dog was presented with meat powder. The paradigm as defined by (Colman, 2009) is one of the two key processes of learning the other being operant conditioning. In classical conditioning the pairing of a conditioned stimulus creates a conditioned response. (Clark, 2004) describes the process and components. The unconditioned stimuli (UCS) produced an unconditioned response (UCR). Pavlov did not teach this pairing to the animal; it was a biologically natural reflex. The dog saw food (UCS) and salivated (UR). In order to induce a conditioned reflex Pavlov paired neutral stimuli in this case a bell, with the meat powder. Acquisition is the root of learning in classical conditioning. In the acquisition process the CS is paired several times with the US. The more pairings the more robust the learning as discussed by (Balkenius, 1999). Pavlov observed that after conditioning when the bell rang the dog salivated therefore, the neutral stimuli became conditioned stimuli (CS) and the dog, when presented with the bell would show the reflexive response (CR) salivation. Extinction occurred if the CS is no longer presented with the US. (Dhir, 2007). Conversely, reconditioning countered extinction when pairings are again presented, this time however, the learning is much faster showing the initial acquisition is not...

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