6.1: Classical Conditioning: Learning by Association
Learning: is a process by which behavior or knowledge changes as a result of
Associative Learning: When we associate certain events with different symbols. For
example associating certain holidays with speciﬁc sights, sounds or smells. This is
another type of learning.
Pavlov’s Dogs: Classical Conditioning of Salivation
pavlov studied digestion-->used dogs as model--> collected saliva when presented w/
meat powder--> dog began salivating even before the meat was presented--> new
experiment to salivary response--> presented a sound from a metronome and then
presented the meat powder--> After a few times, the dog began to salivate when he
heard the metronome--> this is called classical conditioning
Classical Conditioning: learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus elicits a response
that was originally caused by another stimulus. This is also referred to as Pavlovian
- in Pavlov’s experiment, the neutral stimulus was the sound
Neutral Stimulus: A neutral stimulus is a stimulus which initially produces no speciﬁc
response other than focusing attention. In classical conditioning, when used together
with an unconditioned stimulus, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus.
Stimulus: an external event or cue that elicits a response. Examples are food, water,
pain and sexual contact
Unconditioned Stimulus (US): a stimulus that elicits a reﬂexive response without
Unconditioned Response (UR): a reﬂexive reaction to an unconditioned stimulus.
- link bwtween US and UR is, by deﬁnition, unlearned
- Examples of unconditioned stimulus and response relationships include:
- ﬂinching (UR) in response to a loud sound (US)
- blinking (UR) in response to a puff of air in the eye (US)
Conditioned Stimulus (CS): a once neutral stimulus that elicits a conditioned response
because it has a history of being paired with an unconditioned stimulus Conditioned Response (CR): the learned response that occurs to the conditioned
- In Pavlov’s experiment, the sound was originally a neutral stimulus because it didn’t
elicit a response. But, after the dog associated the sound with the food and, began
salivating even before the food was presented, the sound became a CS
- Before, the stimulus was the meat but slowly, the stimulus became the sound which is
now CS. To know that conditioning has taken place, the sound (CS) must elicit
salvation, instead of the food (US).
- The difference between UR and CR is the stimulus that elicits it. In Pavlov’s
experiment they are both salvation. Salvation is a UR if it occurs in response to a US
(food). Salvation is a CR if it occurs in response to a CS (sound).
Processes of Classical Conditioning
Acquisition, Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery
- Conditioned responses involve reﬂexive actions, but can also be pretty ﬂexible
- Conditioned responses may be very strong and reliable if the CS and the US have a
long history. For example, in the easy button video shown in class, the longer the
roommate pressed the easy button and threw the slingshot at his friend, the more
likely it is for the friend to ﬂinch after the easy button is pressed, but the slingshot isn’t
thrown. Here the CS is easy button and the US is slingshot.
Acquisition: is the initial phase of learning in which a response is established. This is
the phase the neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with the US. A critical part of
acquisition is the predictability with which the CS (tone) and US (food) occur together
Extinction: the loss or weakening of a conditioned response when a conditioned
stimulus and unconditioned stimulus no longer occur together.
- CS and US may not always occur together. So extinction may occur. If the tone is no
longer a reliable a reliable predictor of food, then salvation becomes unnecessary.
Spontaneous Recovery: the recurrence of a previously extinguished conditioned
response, typically after some time has passed since extinction.
- The fact that responses can be spontaneously recovered suggests that extinction does
not result in “forgetting”. Rather, the opposite occurs. Extinction= learning something
new. eg. in Pavlov’s experiment, as time passed, the dog would begin to salivate when
it entered the room where the food was given. The sound and food conditioned
response was gone, or extinct. However, the dog has learned to associate the room
and the food. Therefore, it has learned that the sound wsa no longer a reliable
stimulus for predicting food. - Spontaneous recovery and extinction are evidence that classically conditioned
responses can change once they are acquired.
Stimulus Generalization and Discrimination
Stimulus Generalization: a process in which a response that originally occurs to a
speciﬁc stimulus also occurs to different, though similar stimuli
- In Pavlov’s experiment, the dog did not just salivate to the familiar sound, but other
similar sounds as well
Discrimination: occurs when an organism learns to respond to one original stimulus
but not to new stimuli that may be similar to the original stimulus.
- Pavlov’s dogs also showed discrimination.
Applications of Classical Conditioning
Conditioned Emotional Responses
Conditioned Emotional Responses: consist of emotional and physiological responses
that develop to a speciﬁc object or situation.
- Watson and Rayner conducted a study and 11- month child, Albert. They showed him
a white rat, but Albert was not scared if it. Then while Albert was in site of the rat, they
startled him but striking a steel bar with a hammer. The child then showed conditioned
emotional response to the rat.
- Another example: Boy touching cat + cat scratching boy = fear of cat (conditioned
emotional response. Generalization may occur (boy us scared of all cats)
- An experiment was done to see fear conditioning. An image or sound and then shock
would follow. Normal patients would associate the image/ sound and the pain coming
from the shock. However, psychopathy patients did not respond at all.
- fear of snakes is learning, as children are curious about them when they are younger.
- snake pictures + electric shock = palm sweating which is the skin conductance
response. Palm sweating = unconditioned response. This reaction occurs when bodies
are aroused by threatening/ uncomfortable stimulus
- snake is CS and skin conductance response is CR
- less threatening photos were shown, along with shock as a comparison study. There
were much less intense conditioned responding developed in response to pictures of
ﬂowers, even though the pictures had been paired up with the same number of
shocks. Therefore we are taught to be afraid snakes. - snakes gave a bigger conditioned response than guns did and conditional arousal to
snake photos last longer and are slower to extinguish
Preparedness: refers to biological predisposition to rapidly learn a response to a
particular class of stimuli
- this ﬁts in the case of the fear of snakes and guns. We learn to fear snakes faster than
- evolutionary perspective- over time people have learned to fear an animal (snake)
that cause injuries and death. Survival advantage has gone to those who were quick to
learn to avoid snakes. Flowers don’t harm and guns are a new in our history.
Conditioned Taste Aversions
- food aversions is an example of biological factors inﬂuencing classical conditioning
Conditioned Taste Aversion: is the acquired dislike or disgust of a food or drink
because it was paired with illness. In this case, CS is the taste which causes the illness
(US).Getting sick is the UR. The CR is the nausea and other signs of disgust in
response to CS
- may develop through food poisoning, ﬂu, medical procedures or excessive intoxication
- only certain types of stimuli can get a response for developing conditioned taste
- humans are prepared to associate food and illness but not food and sound
- most food conditioning happens when the CS (taste) and the US (illness) occur very
closely together. Eg. in food poisoning, the sickness will start to set in hours after
- taste aversions are learned quickly. Single CS- US pairing is enough
Latent Inhibition: occurs when frequent experience with a stimulus before it is paired
with a US makes it less likely that conditioning will occur after a single episode of illness
- if the person is familiar with the taste but one day gets sick because of the taste, is
less likely to develop conditioned taste aversions. Same thing with fear. if a child is
scratched by a child who was friendly for years, is less likely to develop a fear of cats.
Learning Without Awareness
Drug Use and Tolerance
- classical conditioning= craving and tolerance in drugs. eg. cigarette lighter, smell of
tobacco, or presence of another smoker can elicit cravings
- tolerance= more use of drugs= decreased reaction. This leads people to more drugs
*Conditioned Drug Tolerance: involves physiological responses in preparation for drug
administration - The body begins to associating environmental cues to the drug itself. eg. when a
person takes heroin in a certain room with a speciﬁc set of paraphernalia and rituals
for injection. This is when the conditioned drug tolerance develops. Overtime, more
drug is needed to override these preparatory responses to that desired effect can be
- in male quails, they copulate with inanimate objects (CS) even though the sexual
opportunities have long since vanished. Therefore, the responses resist the process of
- fetish involves the attachment to something. Some fetishes involve leather, lace,
showes, boots, and undergarments, none of which elicit unconditioned sexual
- an object and sexual acts can be paired up. This is a sexual fetish
Conditioning and Traumatic Brain Injury
- minimal brain function can be conditioned
- can’t report on anything but there response is demonstrated by a an eye blink
The Paradox of “Diet” Beverages
- artiﬁcially sweetened be