From the earliest recorded days philosophers questioned why the world around us is as it is and why human kind behaves the way they do. What started with these philosophers continued with the science of psychology, scientists and psychologists have been studying the concept of learning what it entails, and all the multitude of ways both humans and animals store and access information they learn. There are many different theories that revolve around the way humans learn, no one theory is all encompassing each has their advantages, disadvantages and specific elements which attempt to explain the often enigmatic and elusive ways which the human minds work when individuals are trying to learn. Two of the most recognized learning theories are Skinner’s Operant Conditioning and the Theory of Classical Conditioning, which was first inadvertently discovered and then studied by Ivan Pavlov. This type of conditioning was the first type of learning discovered and analyzed by behaviorism, which is why it received the name “classical” conditioning (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2011).
Theory of Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is possibly one of the most recognized characteristics of the behavioral learning theory and it was discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. Classical conditioning is a learning process which occurs based on an individual’s associations between a naturally occurring stimulus and a corresponding environmental stimulus (Cherry, 2013). The main characteristic of classical conditioning is the individual’s exposure to a neutral signal immediately before a naturally occurring reflex. Pavlov noticed this while performing experiments to study digestion in dogs. In the experiment Pavlov introduced a neutral stimulus before feeding the dogs and noticed the dog’s reaction that developed after exposure to the neutral stimuli. Though it is commonly thought that the neutral stimuli was a bell there were multiple different stimuli that he used during the experiments, Any of the stimuli that he used were neutral as they had not occurred in any manner that the dogs would have had the opportunity to associate it with eating prior to the experiment. Regardless of the type of neutral stimuli used the expected reflex was the dog’s salivation when presented with food. The focus of Pavlov’s experiment was to get the dogs to salivate by presenting the sound of the “bell”, rather than food.
Process of Classical Conditioning
It is important to recognize what unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned stimulus and conditioned response mean so that one can understand the concept of classical conditioning. The unconditioned stimulus is a stimulus that need not be manipulated to trigger a response in a subject. In the example of Pavlov’s dog experiment, the food is the unconditioned stimulus as when presented with food any hungry dog would automatically salivate, independent of any encouragement to do so. Subsequently, the unconditioned response is the natural reaction to the unconditioned stimulus; in this case, it is the salivation of the dog. The conditioned stimulus is a stimulus that even though it at one time was purely neutral, it will trigger the conditioned response because of the association with the unconditioned stimulus. In Pavlov’s dog experiment, the conditioned stimulus was the “bell”, also the sound, or feeling. These stimuli when initially presented by did not induce any hunger feelings from the dogs, but once they were systematically introduced before the dog received food, it resulted in the dog involuntarily associating the stimuli with the food. The conditioned response is a minds learned response to the stimulus, in this case, the salivation occurring at the sound of the bell (Cherry, 2013).
Application of Classical Conditioning Theory Aside from what we know occurred with Pavlov’s Dog another