PSYA01 – STUDY NOTES
Classical Conditioning: One Thing Leads to Another
Learning: the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, or responses from experience that result in a
relatively permanent change in the state of the learner.
Classical Conditioning: when a neutral stimulus produces a response after being paired with a stimulus
that neutrally produces responses.
Pavlov’ showed that dogs learned to salivate to neutral stimuli such as a bell or a tone after that
stimulus had been associated with another stimulus that naturally evokes salivation, such as food.
Pavlov’s Experiment … four basic elements of classical conditioning:
I. Initially presented with a plate of food, they began to salivate.
a. Unconditioned stimulus (CS): something that reliably produces a naturally occurring
reaction in an organism.
II. Dogs’ salivation
a. Unconditioned response (UR): reflexive reaction that is reliably produced by an
III. Make the dogs salivate to stimuli that don’t usually make animals salivate, such as the sound of
a buzzer. Paired the presentation of food with the sound of a buzzer; he found that the dogs
salivated to the sound of a buzzer.
a. Conditioned stimulus (CS): stimulus that is initially neutral and produces no reliable
response in an organism.
IV. The animal will learn to associate food with the sound and eventually the CS is sufficient to
produce a response, or salivation.
a. Conditioned response (CR): a reaction that resembles an unconditioned response but
is produced by a conditioned stimulus. Acquisition: the phase of classical conditioning when the CS and the US are presented together.
The brain is constantly using past experience to make predictions about future events, and is preparing
the body to behave in advance.
Second-order conditioning: conditioning where the stimulus that functions as the US is actually the CS
from an earlier procedure in which it acquired its ability to produce learning.
Second-order conditioning: Conditioning where the US is a stimulus that acquired its ability to
produce learning from an earlier procedure in which it was used as a CS. In an early study Pavlov
repeatedly paired a new CS, a black square, with the now reliable tone. After a number of training trials,
his dogs produced a salivary response to the black square even though the square itself had never been
directly associated with the food.
Extinction: The gradual elimination of a learned response that occurs when the US is no longer
presented. Un-learning a behavior; connection is forgotten. The conditioned response is “extinguished”
and no longer observed.
Spontaneous recovery: The tendency of a learned behavior to recover from extinction after a rest
period. Back to their old ways. Extinction had not completely wiped out the learning that had been
acquired. The ability of the CS to elicit the CR was weakened, but it was not eliminated.
Generalization: A process in which the CR is observed even though the CS is slightly different from the
original one used during acquisition. The more the new stimulus changes, the less conditioned
responding is observed.
In classical conditioning, generalization refers to the extent to which a stimulus similar to the CS can
elicit the CR.
In operant conditioning, generalization refers to the extent to which a stimulus similar to the
discriminative stimulus elicits a response.
When an organism generalizes to a new stimulus, two things are happening. First, by responding to the
new stimulus used during generalization testing, the organism demonstrates that it recognizes the
similarity between the original CS and the new stimulus. Second, by displaying diminished responding to
that new stimulus, it also tells us that it notices a difference between the two stimuli. In the second
case, the organism shows discrimination, or the capacity to distinguish between similar but distinct
Watson wanted to see if such a child could be classically conditioned to experience a strong emotional
reaction—namely, fear. Watson presented Little Albert with a variety of stimuli. While Albert was
watching Rayner, Watson unexpectedly struck a large steel bar with a hammer, producing a loud noise.
Predictably, this caused Albert to cry, tremble, and be generally displeased. Watson and Rayner then led
Little Albert through the acquisition phase of classical conditioning. Albert was presented with a white
rat. As soon as he reached out to touch it, the steel bar was struck. This pairing occurred again and again over several trials. Eventually, the sight of the rat alone caused Albert to recoil in terror. A US (the loud
sound) was paired with a CS (the presence of the rat) such that the CS all by itself was sufficient to
produce the CR (a fearful reaction). Little Albert also showed stimulus generalization.
Patients are repeatedly exposed to conditioned stimuli associated with their trauma in a safe setting in
an attempt to extinguish the conditioned fear response.
Pavlov’s dogs were sensitive to the fact that Pavlov was not a reliable indicator of the arrival of food.
Pavlov was linked with the arrival of food, but he was also linked with other activities that had nothing
to do with food. These observations suggest that perhaps cognitive components are involved in classical
conditioning after all.
Robert Rescorla and Allan Wagner were the first to theorize that classical conditioning only occurs when
an animal has learned to set up an expectation. The sound of a tone, because of its systematic pairing
with food, served to set up this cognitive state for the laboratory dogs; Pavlov, because of the lack of
any reliable link with food, did not.
The Rescorla-Wagner model introduced a cognitive component that accounted for a variety of classical-
conditioning phenomena that were difficult to understand from a simple behaviorist point of view. For
example, the model predicted that conditioning would be easier when the CS was an unfamiliar event
than when it was familiar. The reason is that familiar events, being familiar, already have expectations
associated with them, making new conditioning difficult. In short, classical conditioning might appear to
be a primitive and unthinking process, but it is actually quite sophisticated and incorporates a significant
Delay conditioning, the CS is a tone that is followed immediately by the US, a puff of air, which elicits
an eyeblink response. Importantly, the tone and air puff overlap in time—the air puff follows the
tone, but the tone remains on when the air puff is delivered. Then, the tone and air puff end at the
same time. After a few pairings of the tone and air puff, conditioning occurs and the tone alone elicits
an eyeblink response.
Trace conditioning uses the identical procedures, with one difference: In trace conditioning, there is a
brief interval of time after the tone ends and the air puff is delivered. Delay conditioning does not require awareness of the contingency between the tone and the air puff,
whereas trace conditioning does. Informing participants in advance about the relationship between the
tone and the air puff increased the amount of trace conditioning but not delay conditioning.
Trace conditioning depends on awareness of the contingency between the CS and the US, the
researchers argued that trace conditioning in the vegetative state reflects some degree of conscious
processing in these patients.
The cerebellum is critical for both delay and trace conditioning; part of the hindbrain and plays an
important role in motor skills and learning. The hippocampus is important for trace conditioning but not
Amygdala plays an important role in the experience of emotion, including fear and anxiety. The
amygdala, particularly an area known as the central nucleus, is also critical for emotional conditioning.
When fear conditioning takes place, these two components—one behavioral and one physiological—
occur, except that now they are elicited by the CS.
Biological preparedness: A propensity for learning particular kinds of associations over others. Some
behaviors are relatively easy to condition in some species but not others. Conditioning works best with
stimuli that are biologically relevant to the organism.
Objective, external person can measure without you need to interrupt what you are feeling.
Subjective, ask you to do/tell me something about your mental process.
7.6 IN SUMMARY
Classical conditioning can be thought of as an exercise in pairing a neutral stimulus with a
meaningful event or stimulus. Ivan Pavlov’s initial work paired a neutral tone (a conditioned
stimulus) with a meaningful act: the presentation of food to a hungry animal (an unconditioned
stimulus). As he and others demonstrated, the pairing of a CS and US during the acquisition
phase of classical conditioning eventually allows the CS all by itself to elicit a response called a
conditioned response (CR).
Classical conditioning was embraced by behaviorists such as John B. Watson, who viewed it as
providing a foundation for a model of human behavior. As a behaviorist, Watson believed that
no higher-level functions, such as thinking or awareness, needed to be invoked to understand
Later researchers showed, however, the underlying mechanism of classical conditioning turned
out to be more complex (and more interesting) than the simple association between a CS and a
US. Researchers discovered that even simple species set up expectations and are sensitive to the
degree to which the CS functions as a genuine predictor of the US, indicating that classical conditioning involves some degree of cognition. One form of classical conditioning-trace
conditioning-appears to depend on awareness of the contingency between CS and US.
Different parts of the brain are involved in different types of classical conditioning: the
cerebellum in delay conditioning, the hippocampus in trace conditioning, and the amygdala in
The evolutionary aspects of classical conditioning show that each species is biologically
predisposed to acquire particular CS-US associations based on its evolutionary history. In short,
classical conditioning is not an arbitrary mechanism that merely forms associations. Rather, it is
a sophisticated mechanism that evolved precisely because it has adaptive value.
Operant Conditioning: Reinforcements from the experiment
Operant: Not about association in the same sense, more about consequences. Consequences influence
Skinner strong supporter of epiphenomenal, consciousness doesn’t actually do anything. Whole
previous behavior shapes future behavior.
Operant conditioning: A type of learning in which the consequences of an organism’s behavior
determine whether it will be repeated in the future.
Instrumental behaviors: behavior that required an organism to do something.
Law of effect: The principle that behaviors that are followed by a “satisfying state of affairs” tend to
be repeated and those that produce an “unpleasant state of affairs” are less likely to be repeated.
Operant behavior: Behavior that an organism produces that has some impact on the environment. All
of these emitted behaviors “operated” on the environment in some manner, and the environment
responded by providing events that either strengthened those behaviors or made them less likely to
Reinforcer: Any stimulus or event that functions to increase the likelihood of the behavior that led to
Punisher: Any stimulus or event that functions to decrease the likelihood of the behavior that led to it.
Positive Reinforcement - A given behaviour tends to increase in frequency if it is followed by an
appetitive (something good) (desirable) stimulus. Addition Negative Reinforcement - A given behaviour also tends to increase in frequency if it is reliably followed
by the termination of an aversive (something bad) (undesirable) stimulus. Strengths connection
between stimulus and behavior. Subtract
Punishment - A given behaviour tends to decrease in frequency if it is reliably followed by an aversive
stimulus. Weaken behavioral tendency
Response Cost - A given behaviour tends to decrease in frequency if it is reliably followed by the
termination of an appetitive stimulus.
Skinner used the term positive for situations in which a stimulus was presented and negative for
situations in which it was removed. Consequently, there is positive reinforcement (where a rewarding
stimulus is presented) and negative reinforcement (where an unpleasant stimulus is removed), as well
as positive punishment (where an unpleasant stimulus is administered) and negative punishment (where
a rewarding stimulus is removed). Here the words positive and negative mean, respectively, something
that is added or something that is taken