You all must have heard about Pavlov’s experiment on a dog. “It is a process of learning that has a major influence on our behavior. It is a type of learning that occurs through associations between stimulus in the environment and a naturally occurring stimulus.”
There are three stages of classical conditioning theory:
a. Before Conditioning: The first part requires the natural existing stimulus which will automatically elicit the response. For example, presenting food naturally causes salivation, whereas presenting food or the smell of food is Unconditional Stimulus (UCS) which results in salivation, an Unconditional Response (UCR). At this moment, Neutral Stimulus (a bell alone) has no effect on the response yet.
b. During Conditioning: During this phase, the Neutral Stimulus is paired with the unconditional stimulus. As a result of pairing, an association between a neutral stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus is formed which now results in a Conditional Stimulus (CS). For example, after triggering a bell (neutral stimulus) along with the smell of food (unconditional stimulus) multiple times, the sound of the bell alone will act as a Conditional Stimulus.
c. After Conditioning: The Conditional Stimulus will evoke the response even without the unconditional stimulus which now results in a Conditional Response (CR). For example, the conditioned response would be feeling hungry when the bell is rung.
Classical conditioning isn’t only for dogs. Human behavior is also influenced quite a bit by it. It occurs in our daily life, but we just fail to recognize them. There are plenty of daily life activities that are associated with classical conditioning theory. Some of them are listed below:
1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
A mental illness called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the need to repeat something over and over again (compulsions). The obsession often develops through respondent conditioning. Whenever a neutral stimulus is associated with an unconditioned stimulus, the individual is likely to feel anxious and obsessive. These obsessive thoughts are classically conditioned responses.
We all get the desire to eat (a Conditional response) at a specific time of the day, say Lunchtime (Conditional stimulus), even though sometimes, we are not hungry. Similarly, most of the time when we pass through a particular restaurant or cross a food street, we automatically develop a desire to eat rather, even though we do not feel hungry.
3. Getting Vaccinated at School
Do you remember getting vaccinated in a school as a child? As soon as a child starts crying after getting a shot or vaccination, the other students standing in the queue also start crying. They have already associated the needle with the pain.
4. Association of Something with the Past
Do you have any particular song, object, or place that reminds you of your past? When we listen to a specific song or come across any place or object, sometimes they usually remind us of our past incidents.
5. Post-Traumatic Disorders
Have you ever been a victim of an accident in your life? People who have been through a traumatic experience may feel a rush of anxiety or respond with fear if they’re found stuck in a similar situation. For example, folks who have been a victim of a car accident may have a hard time stepping inside another vehicle again, or who have been a victim of an animal bite may have developed a long-time fear towards that animal, even though sometimes that particular animal might not be harmful.
The art of advertising can be considered a classic case of classical conditioning. Companies make commercial advertisements to attract consumers. To make their products more lucrative, most companies use the brand value of celebrities in their advertisements. By associating these celebrities with their products, they try to enhance the market values of their products; as the consumers often get convinced by the campaigns of these celebrities for a particular product.
7. Phobias and Anxiety related Problems
Classical conditioning techniques are helpful to people to cope with their phobias and anxiety-related problem. Teachers in school apply this technique to decrease or remove the anxiety or phobia from the students. They pair an anxiety-provoking situation with pleasant surroundings and help the student to learn new associations and behavior. This helps the student to remain calm and stress-free instead of feeling anxious. For example, a student suffering from a stage phobia when encouraged to perform on the stage repeatedly with a positive response, after some time, the phobia of the student will automatically vanish.
It’s Applied Behavior Analysis. You can begin by getting a job as an RBT or Registered Behavior technician and see if you like the field. Then go for your masters to become a BCBA or board certified behavior analyst.
Thank you. Very helpful.
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