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Classical Or Operant Conditioning Essay

1187 words - 5 pages

Classical conditioning developed from the findings of Ivan Pavlov, laying the foundations for behaviourism. From this J.B Watson and other behaviourists argued psychology should be indicative of predicting and controlling overt behaviour using the conditional reflex. (Watson, 1994). This essay will describe the important features of classical conditioning, consider their use in explaining pathological behaviour and will be answered using empirical evidence. The earlier part of the essay will focus on the development of the classical conditioning paradigm and cover the following topics: the findings of Ivan Pavlov and the conditional reflex and the components of classical conditioning. The latter part of the essay will cover: the fear response, how phobias and addictions can be attributed to conditional reflex paradigm. Additionally, will briefly describe therapeutic work in extinction of pathological behaviours and pose an argument for a more heterogeneous explanation of acquisition.
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 referred only 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 (US) produced an unconditioned response (UR). Pavlov did not teach this pairing to the animal; it was a biologically natural reflex. The dog saw food (US) 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 whereby 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 counters extinction when pairings are re-presented, this time however, the learning is faster, showing the initial acquisition is not completely removed from the memory of the animal. Spontaneous recovery is a phenomenon of the learned behaviour returning extemporaneously after the animal has rested. Hence the CS is again presented provoking the CR. Generalisation explains response to stimuli that is close to but not an exact match of the original CS. The closer the...

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