A type of learning in which a neutral stimulus, when paired with an unconditioned stimulus, starts generating the same response as that generated naturally by an unconditioned stimulus and becomes conditioned is called classical conditioning.
A type of learning in which an organism starts giving a particular response to that stimulus, to which it does not give that response in daily routine is called classical conditioning.
- Neutral stimulus is a stimulus which does not generate any response before conditioning e.g. the ringing bell.
- Unconditioned Stimulus is that which brings about a response naturally e.g. food/ meat.
- Conditioned Stimulus, a previously neutral stimulus, starts generating a response similar to that generated by unconditioned stimulus after being paired with an unconditioned stimulus e.g. ringing bell.
- Unconditioned Response is a naturally generated response of unconditioned stimulus e.g. salivation.
- Conditioned Response is a response similar to unconditioned response but is generated by the conditioned stimulus e.g. salivation.
Ivan Pavlov performed an experiment to explain the phenomenon of classical conditioning. He attached a tube with the salivary gland of a dog to measure the amount of saliva. He used to ring a bell (neutral stimulus) and then give food (unconditioned stimulus) to the dog under observation. In the initial days, the dog salivated at food only. But when the experiment was repeated for multiple days, he observed that the dog salivated (conditioned response) at the ring only. In other words, we can say that neutral stimulus (ringing bell) has become a conditioned stimulus.
Another experiment to study the concept of classical conditioning is called Little Albert Experiment. In this experiment, a small baby called Albert’s behavior was observed. He used to give a Fear (UCR) response to Noise (UCS). But when rat (NS) was presented repeatedly after being paired with noise, the appearance of rats also started generating the same response (fear) as that generated by the noise i.e. rat became a conditioned stimulus.
2. Principles/Stages of Classical Conditioning:
The stages or principles of classical conditioning are acquisition, extinction, Spontaneous recovery, stimulus generalization and Stimulus discrimination. They are explained as follows:
The stage or principle of classical conditioning in which the stimulus under observation starts generating a response similar to the unconditioned response is called Acquisition. This is the initial stage of learning in which responses are established and then strengthened as a result of repeated presentations or experiments e.g. in Pavlov experiment ,the time till the dog starts salivation at ring of bell can be called as the stage of acquisition.
If we present conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus multiple times, the conditioned response starts decreasing till it disappears e.g. it was observed in Pavlov experiment that when ringing bell (conditioned stimulus) was presented without meat (unconditioned stimulus) repeatedly, the response (salivation) started decreasing and eventually it disappeared. This phenomenon is called extinction of a response.
2.3 Spontaneous Recovery:
A principle or stage of classical conditioning in which a conditioned response, which has been extinguished earlier, reemerges after a long break is called spontaneous recovery e.g. Pavlov observed that after extinction, when the bell started ringing, the dog salivated at the ring only despite the fact that he did not give any meat to the dog after ringing the bell. Another example is that of a person who has quitted smoking. When in a gathering, he sees people smoking, he feels as if he is smoking.
2.4 Stimulus Generalization:
A phenomenon in which the stimuli, similar to the conditioned stimulus, starts generating the same response as that generated by conditioned stimulus is called stimulus generalization e.g. we stop at the red traffic lights without bringing their shape or size in consideration. Although the effect is not as intense as the original one but it helps a lot. Greater the similarity, greater is the effect.
2.5 Stimulus Discrimination:
The principle of classical conditioning in which one can differentiate between two stimuli i.e. one can generate the response and the other cannot, is called stimulus discrimination e.g. the ability to differentiate between phone bell and door bell or neighbor’s dog barking and your dog barking.
3. Applications of Classical Conditioning:
The concept of classical conditioning occur in emotional responses e.g. associating pleasure with friend’s house because you feel relax over there, advertising e.g. associating a beautiful lady with beauty soaps , associating relaxation with coffee, tea or smoking, post –traumatic disorders, psychotherapy etc.