Classical (Respondent) conditioning


Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of practice and experience.

If we could understand principles of Learning, we would have a better idea of how to change a behaviour when we want to change it.

Behaviour modification involves assessing and modifying the current environmental events that are related to the behaviour.

Classical (Respondent) conditioning:-

Classical conditioning is learning through association. It was discovered by a Russian physiologist, Ivan P. Pavlov. In this experiment, two stimuli were linked together to produce a new learned response.

When Food (unconditioned stimulus) was given to a dog, Salivation (unconditioned response) occurred. But a ringing Bell (neutral stimulus) didn’t produce any Saliva (no response).

Then, he paired Bell with Food (unconditioned stimulus) & salivation (unconditioned response) occurred. After repeating it again & again, Bell became conditioned stimulus for dog which produced Saliva (conditioned response) on ringing the Bell.

In this way, two stimuli were linked together to produce a new learned response.

⭐⭐Note: Stronger the pairing of conditioned stimulus & unconditioned stimulus, there are more chances that conditioned response will follow conditioned stimulus.

Example of classical conditioning:-

School phobia is a classical example of classical conditioning.

Going to school is usually exciting for kids as they can have fun with their friends along with studies. But if a kid gets punishment in the school, he/she may develop anxiety/fear.

If the punishment is repeated multiple times, it may result in School phobia.

Significance of classical conditioning:-

Sometimes, emotional responses become conditioned to certain stimuli (conditioned stimuli).

For example: Aggressive reaction to a scene, face or voice.

We can change the behaviour of the person by unpairing conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. Two techniques are shown here:

1. Extinction:

In this technique, the conditioned stimulus is presented alone without the unconditioned stimulus for a number of trials.

It can be done in two ways:-
1) Gradual:- fear is gradually removed by slowly approaching water.
2) Non-Gradual:- Carry the child into water until the fear extinguishes.

Other examples where extinction can help:
•Making a presentation before a class.
•Stage fear.

⭐⭐Note: Extinction doesn’t completely erase conditioning. Reconditioning is usually more rapid than was the original conditioning and is known as “Spontaneous Recovery”. For example: Reading a news of Death due to Drowning may elicit phobia of water once again.

2. Counter Conditioning:

Conditioning of an unwanted behaviour (or response) to a stimulus into a wanted behaviour (or response) by the association of positive actions (incompatible response) with the stimulus. 

If sight of a Spider (unconditioned stimulus) produces excessive Anxiety (unconditioned response), counter Conditioning can be done by adding some Relaxation Techniques just after seeing Spider. So, a conditioned response i.e. Less or No Anxiety is seen.

⭐⭐Note: It is important that incompatible response should be dominant to undesired response. So, use gradual approach.

In the above example, Relaxation is dominant to ‘spider written on paper’.So, conditioned response (No Anxiety) is possible. When Step 1 is complete, only then we can move to 2nd step & so on.

Types of Counter Conditioning:

1. Desensitisation: It is performed for removing anxiety and anger (e.g. OCD).

2. Aversive Counter Conditioning: It is performed when undesired response is rewarding e.g. Alcohol & other Drug Addiction; Over-eating etc.

In this, undesired stimulus is followed by a painful stimulus.

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