What are some examples of classical conditioning?

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In this blog we will discuss some examples of classical conditioning.


We will also briefly touch upon what classical conditioning is, the various concepts of classical conditioning, and how classical conditioning is applied in the field of psychology.

What are some examples of classical conditioning?

Here are some everyday examples of classical conditioning:

Example 1

You have a habit or a schedule for the last few years where you go for picnics on saturdays with your friends- every saturday without fail. It is an event that you enjoy because it allows you to connect with people that you love and have a pleasant time over all. 

If you take time to notice, you might notice that you are always excited on fridays. Your attitude at work is happier, more motivated, and overall excited. 

After a few years, your schedule changes and you no longer have picnics on saturdays however you might notice that you feel happy on fridays, and might be excited and motivated regardless. 

This is because you have become conditioned to associate fridays with the porosity of having time to spend with loved ones the next day. 

Example 2

The most stressful time of the day for you is right before lunch. You finish your work and for lunch you get yourself a McDonalds meal. Everyday for five days a week for a few years- months even. 

The routine is more or less the same for you. Stressful hours before lunch after which you get yourself a burger. 

Now, you have changed your job or your position at work and it is no longer stressful. You might even have retired from the workforce. However, whenever you feel stressed- for things that do not even have to do with work- you might crave a burger from McDonalds. 

This is because you have been conditioning to associate stress with burgers and this diet of burgers when stressed can lead to an unhealthy diet.

Example 3

An army veteran has been on a tour in a war stiken area and their team, including them, had been hit by missiles, bombs, and gun fire. They have been in a state of war for weeks and months. 

What happens next for this returned army veteran is that they might panic and react to loud sounds like a car backfiring, or pot and pans falling in the kitchen, or they might even react with anxiety and panic where there is too much noise in general such as loud traffic. 

This is because the indidvdiaul has been ondiotning to associate loud sounds to life threatening missiles and bombs leading them to develop PTSD. 

Example 4

The use of conditioning in advertising. 

For example, advertisers might use conditioning to get consumers to associate their product with something positive or desirable. 

In the case of beer commercials- they might use hot models, in the hot sun, drinking a cool bottle of beer seemingly refreshed. 

Now, if consumers are exposed to this comercial a lot, which they usually are, it is most likely that they will carve a beer when the weather is hot.

What is classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian or respondent conditioning, refers to a type of learning that occurs unconsciously. 

This type of learning was first observed and discovered by Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. It was later proposed by John Watson that this particular process of unconscious learning could be used to explain human behaviour and psychology. 

According to behaviourists such as Pavlov and Watson, it is this conditioning response with respect to a septic stimulus that creates human behaviour. 

According to the theory of classical conditioning based on Pavlov’s observations, when you pair a neutral stimulus such as the sound of the bell with an unconditioned stimulus (US) such as food that already triggers an unconditioned response (UR) such as salivation, that neutral stimulus (bell) will become a conditioned stimulus (CS), triggering a conditioned response (CR) (Salivation) similar to the original unconditioned response.

What are the concepts of Classical conditioning?

The major concepts of classical conditioning include:

Unconditioned Stimulus

An unconditioned stimulus is a stimulus that leads to an automatic and unconscious response. 

For example, in Pavlov’s experiment, the unconditioned stimulus was the sight of food that was given to the dog that triggered them to salivate.

Neutral Stimulus

A neutral stimulus is a stimulus that doesn’t naturally trigger a response on its own.

 For example, the bell that indicates the arrival of the food in the experiment. 

Conditioned Stimulus

A conditioned stimulus is a stimulus that was once neutral. But it is conditioning to trigger a response. 

For example, the dogs have made an association that the sound of the bell means there is food coming so they begin to salivate when the bell rings. So here, the sound of the bell- which was a neutral stimulus has now become a conditioning stimulus. 

Unconditioned Response

An unconditioned response is an automatic response without thought when an unconditioned stimulus is present. 

For example, the sight of the food makes the dog salivate hence, the salivation is an Unconditioned response, it is natural and the dogs have not learned it. 

Conditioned Response

A conditioned response is a learned response that did not exist before. 

For example, for the dogs- the sound of the bell before might not have led them to salviate however after they were conditioning or they learned to associate the two has led them to salivate. So salivation with respect to the bell is the CR. 

Extinction

Extinction occurs when the newly learned behaviour goes extinct or the subject unlearns the behaviour because the conditioned stimulus (the bell) is presented without the unconditioned stimulus (food) over and over again. 

Generalisation

Generalisation is when the learned or learned behaviours are generalised over to other stimuli that are similar to the conditioned stimulus such as sounds similar to bells.

Discrimination

Discrimination refers to the subjects ability to tell the difference bweyeen the Cnditoning stimulus and other things which result in the non-prodcuton of the response. 

For example, dogs are able to discriminate between horn sounds from bells so they do not salivate when they hear the sound of horns. 

How does Classical Conditioning Work?

Classical conditioning occurs in three stages:

  • Before conditioning
  • During conditioning
  • After conditioning

Stage 1: Before Conditioning

In this stage, only the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) produces an unconditioned response (UCR) in the individual or the organism. 

This response is unlearned and is a natural response that has not been taught. At this stage we also have the neutral stimulus (NS) which does not produce any response as of yet because associations have not been made. 

Stage 2: During Conditioning:

During this stage, a neutral stimulus is associated with the unconditioned stimulus that produces a natural response. This is done by repetition and exposure etc. 

 at which point it now becomes known as the conditioned stimulus (CS).

During conditioning, the conditioned stimulus should occur before the unconditioned stimulus, for example, ringing the bell before giving the food so that the organism is able to predict the coming of the unconditional stimulus (food).

This conditioning process should occur in various trials, in different contionings, through repeating etc to strengthen the association. 

Stage 3: After Conditioning:

After coining, the neutral stimulus has become a conditioned stimulus (CS) by associating it with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to create a new conditioned response (CR).

What are the applications for classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning theory is used in variou sarees of psychology and is used in developing intervention techniques for the following:

Treating Phobias

Classical conditioning is used both in understanding and treating phobias. It is believed that classical conditioning played a part in “learning” that phobia, for example, in agoraphobia- an individual has associated the outside world with panic attacks. 

Experiments believe that classical conditioning can also  help treat phobia by counterconditioning, for example the individual with agoraphobia is exposed to outside spaces over and over again without negative outcome. This is an application of Exposure therapy that is based on classical conditioning. 

Treating PTSD

Experts believe that PTSD is a result of conditioning and because they have developed strong associations. 

For example, An army veteran has been on a tour in a war stiken area and their team, including them, had been hit by missiles, bombs, and gun fire. They have been in a state of war for weeks and months. 

What happens next for this returned army veteran is that they might panic and react to loud sounds like a car backfiring, or pot and pans falling in the kitchen, or they might even react with anxiety and panic where there is too much noise in general such as loud traffic. 

This is because the indidvdiaul has been conditioned to associate loud sounds to life threatening missiles and bombs leading them to develop PTSD. So treatment can include counterconditioning the individual’s associations.  However, it is to be mentioned that research indicates Simple conditioning cannot be a standalone treatment for PTSD but it can be integrated into the treatment plan. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed some examples of classical conditioning.

We have also briefly touched upon what classical conditioning is, the various concepts of classical conditioning, and how classical conditioning is applied in the field of psychology.

What type of conditioning is an alarm clock?

An alarm clock uses classical conditioning as it allows them to remember what they need to do by associating it to the sound of the alarm. 

How is classical conditioning used in schools?

Teachers can use classical conditioning in the class by creating a positive classroom environment.

So by creating this positive environment, the students can associate positive feelings with situations where they need to work with other people, collaborate, learn together etc. 

What do you mean by classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian or respondent conditioning, refers to a type of learning that occurs unconsciously. 

This type of learning was first observed and discovered by Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. It was later proposed by John Watson that this particular process of unconscious learning could be used to explain human behaviour and psychology. 

How long is classical conditioning?

Timing is important for conditioning to occur and the time intervals used between presentation of the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus should be short but not too short- sound five seconds at minimum. 

What is the conditioned stimulus in classical conditioning?

A conditioned stimulus is a stimulus that was once neutral. But it is conditioning to trigger a response. 

For example, the dogs have made an association that the sound of the bell means there is food coming so they begin to salivate when the bell rings. So here, the sound of the bell- which was a neutral stimulus has now become a conditioning stimulus. 

References

McLeod, S. A. (2018, August 21). Classical conditioning. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/classical-conditioning.html

Cherry.k.What Is Classical Conditioning? Verywellmind. Retrieved on 21st Feb 2022.https://www.verywellmind.com/classical-conditioning-2794859#toc-classical-conditioning-examples

Elmer.J.Classical Conditioning and How It Relates to Pavlov’s Dog. Healthline. Retrieved on 20th Feb 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/classical-conditioning

Rehman I, Mahabadi N, Sanvictores T, et al. Classical Conditioning. [Updated 2021 Aug 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470326/

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