Classical conditioning was the first type of learning to be discovered and studied within the behaviorist tradition (hence the name classical). The major theorist in the development of classical conditioning is Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist trained in biology and medicine (as was his contemporary, Sigmund Freud). Pavlov was studying the digestive system of dogs and became intrigued with his observation that dogs deprived of food began to salivate when one of his assistants walked into the room. He began to investigate this phenomenon and established the laws of classical conditioning. Skinner renamed this type of learning “respondent conditioning” since in this type of learning, one is responding to an environmental antecedent.
It’s a simple remembering of cause and effect.
Bell rings- I get a treat.
Bell rings- I get a treat.
Bell rings- dog behavior indicated he expects a treat (looks at treat jar, looks at your hand, salivates, etc.)
The basic explanation, after a period of consistent behavior, you get “If this, then that” responses from any animal or human
Classical Conditioning Examples
Classical conditioning theory involves learning a new behavior via the process of association. In simple terms, two stimuli are linked together to produce a newly learned response in a person or animal. There are three stages to classical conditioning. In each stage the stimuli and responses are given special scientific terms:
Stage 1: Before Conditioning:
In this stage, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) produces an unconditioned response (UCR) in an organism. In basic terms, this means that a stimulus in the environment has produced a behavior/response which is unlearned (i.e. unconditioned) and therefore is a natural response which has not been taught. In this respect no new behavior has been learned yet.
For example, a stomach virus (UCS) would produce a response of nausea (UCR). In another example, a perfume (UCS) could create a response to happiness or desire (UCR).
This stage also involves another stimulus which has no effect on a person and is called the neutral stimulus (NS). The NS could be a person, object, place etc. The neutral stimulus in classical conditioning does not produce a response until it is paired with the unconditioned stimulus.
Stage 2: During Conditioning:
During this stage, a stimulus which produces no response (i.e. neutral) is associated with the unconditioned stimulus at which point it now becomes known as the conditioned stimulus (CS).
For example, a stomach virus (UCS) might be associated with eating a certain food such as chocolate (CS). Also, perfume (UCS) might be associated with a specific person (CS).
Often during this stage, the UCS must be associated with the CS on a number of occasions, or trials, for learning to take place. However, one trail learning can happen on certain occasions when it is not necessary for an association to be strengthened over time (such as being sick after food poisoning or drinking too much alcohol).
Stage 3: After Conditioning:
Now the conditioned stimulus (CS) has been associated with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to create a new conditioned response (CR).
For example, a person (CS) who has been associated with nice perfume (UCS) is now found attractive (CR). Also, chocolate (CS) which was eaten before a person was sick with a virus (UCS) now produces a response of nausea (CR).