Everything about Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning is a learning type, a simplest conditioning form. Learning is any relatively Permanent change in behavior brought by Experience or Practice. What have you learn? Recall any painful experience and think what you have learned from that. Can you do that again? you don’t want to, right ? so you change your behavior to avoid that pain. This is how we learn, we change our behavior to get pleasure or avoid pain.

Not every change is acquired through learning. Changes in height, size are due to Maturation, due to Biology. Reflex – an unlearned, involuntary response that is not under personal control or choice occur in both animals and humans.

Russian physiologist  Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) who pioneered the empirical study of the basic principles of learning. He found out in his Dog Salivation Experiment a type of learning which later named Classical Conditioning-


Definition Of Classical Conditioning 

Ivan Pavlov defined Classical Conditioning as learning to elicit an involuntary, reflex-like, response to a stimulus other than the original, natural stimulus that normally produces the response.

Elements of Classical Conditioning 

  • Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)- naturally occurring stimulus, Unconditioned means Unlearned which will lead to involuntary response. For example, Pavlov’s dogs Experiment, the food is the unconditioned stimulus.
  • Unconditioned Response (UCR) – The automatic and involuntary response to the unconditioned stimulus. For example, in Pavlov’s experiment, the salivation to the food is the UCR.
  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS) –  Any stimulus can be Conditioned Stimulus; Conditioned =learned, Unconditioned= Unlearned.
  • Conditioned Response (CR) – The response that is given to the CS (conditioned stimulus)

Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning Dog Experiment-

Before Conditioning 

Neutral Stimulus (Metronome)—–> No salivation of dog

During Conditioning 

Neutral Stimulus (Metronome) + Unconditioned Stimulus (Food)—–>  Unconditioned Response  salivation of dog

After Conditioning

Conditioned Stimulus (Metronome)———> Conditioned Response (Salivation)

Basic Principles of Classical Conditioning

  1. The CS must come before the UCS. If Pavlov sounded the metronome just after he gave the dogs the food, they did not become conditioned (Rescorla, 1988).
  2. The CS and UCS must come very close together in time—ideally, no more than 5 seconds apart.
  3. The neutral stimulus must be paired with the UCS several times, often many times, before conditioning can take place (Pavlov, 1926).
  4. The CS is usually some stimulus that is distinctive or stands out from other competing
    stimuli. (Pavlov, 1927; Rescorla, 1988).

Stimulus Generalization in Classical Conditioning

The tendency to respond to a stimulus that is similar to the original conditioned stimulus is called stimulus generalization. For Example, Sound of Dentist Drill and Grinder will lead to same kind of anxiety.

Stimulus Discrimination in Classical Conditioning

Stimulus discrimination occurs when an organism learns to respond to different stimuli in different ways. For example, person identify the sound of Dentist Drill  and grinder.

Extinction & Spontaneous Recovery in Classical Conditioning

When the metronome’s ticking (conditioned stimulus) was repeatedly presented in the absence of the UCS (unconditioned stimulus or food), the salivation (CR or conditioned response) “died out” in a process called extinction. During extinction, the CS–UCS association that was learned is weakened

In spontaneous recovery the conditioned response can briefly reappear when the original CS returns, although the response is usually weak and short-lived.

Higher-Order Conditioning

Higher-order conditioning: occurs when strong CS is paired with new neutral stimulus; new previously neutral stimulus becomes a second CS.

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Ciccarelli, S. K., White, J. N., & Ciccarelli, S. K. (2012). Psychology. Boston, Mass: Pearson Learning Solutions

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