The classical conditioning is a theory by Ivan Pavlov describing the learning achievements caused by the association between stimuli of the environment and automatic reactions in the body.
Following the studies of Pavlov, John Watson came to an idea that all complex behaviors were strings of conditioned behavior and learning through classical conditioning would cause many phobias.
The Pavlov learning has five variables:
- The first is the neutral stimulus (NS), which are the stimulus that does not trigger, prima facie, any reflex or response, or does not trigger the desired response.
- The second is an unconditional stimulus (US) (or unconditioned stimulus), a stimulus that triggers a (unconditional) response reflexively, without necessary learning.
- The third is the unconditional response (RI) (or unconditioned response) response elicited by a (unconditional) stimulus reflexively, without necessary learning. It can manifest itself in the form of emotion or reaction.
- After conditioning, the fourth variant is the conditional stimulus (CS) (or conditioned stimulus), an initially neutral stimulus that eventually triggers a conditioned response (CR) when it is associated with an unconditioned stimulus (SI).
- The fifth and final alternative is the conditional response (or conditioned response), triggered by a conditional stimulus response when it was associated with an unconditioned stimulus (and therefore the unconditioned response).
Classical conditioning occurs when a neutral stimulus is associated with an unconditioned stimulus.
The unconditioned stimulus automatically triggers a certain response: unconditioned response.
Then, in a regular and frequent manner, when a neutral stimulus is in the presence of unconditioned stimulus, usually an unconscious association is created between the two stimuli.
Thus, the neutral stimulus becomes conditioned stimulus and response shows a similar, if not identical, response to that of the unconditioned stimulus (i.e., to the unconditioned response). This response is then the conditional response since is a desired response, that of classical conditioning.
Shortly after the classical conditioning was defined and theorized by Pavlov, before the English translation of his work in 1927, Watson made an experiment on the behaviors that fall under this type of conditioning.
Watson had conducted an experiment on a young child, at a time when the rules of ethics were not relevant in the research of psychology. This was the “Little Albert experiment.” The psychologist had first presented a small white mouse to the child (SN). Until that time, the boy was delighted by the presence of small animals. On the other hand, when Watson hit two metal sticks together (US) to create a loud sound, the boy panicked and started crying (UR).
So when the boy approached to play with the white mouse, Watson hit two sticks (US) and the child began to cry (UR).
In doing so frequently and repetitively, Watson created in the child a fear towards (the) white mouse(s). After a while, the child was afraid (CR) of white mice (CS) and cried (CR) when approaching them. Watson could also see that he also became a CS for the child who had the same reaction to him. In addition, the fear that the child had of white mice became widespread as against rabbits and other animals with white hair but also to white fur coats.
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