What is Classical Conditioning?
• The study of learning which involves reflex responses. Essentially, classical conditioning explores how a new stimulus can come to elicit an existing reflex response due to learning. • It occurs when an individual acquires the response of reproducing an action that they can already perform but in response to a new situation.
A puppy will learn that going in the car leads to exciting places to walk. Soon it gets excited every time the car door is opened.
The learned response becomes an automatic and unavoidable consequence of exposure to the new stimulus.
Ivan Pavlov's Study With Dogs
Pavlov measured a number of factors, including how much the dog salivated when it was given food. One day he noticed a phenomenon he labelled ‘physic salivation’ – a dog would salivate before it was actually given food.
Pavlov found that by ringing a bell and then immediately giving the dog some food, the bell came to evoke the same response as the food itself.
Pavlov’s studies of digestion showed salivating at the presence of food is a basic neural reflex that requires no learning.
John Watson's Study Of Little Albert
Albert was an 11 month old boy who had been admitted to hospital for reasons unrelated to Watson’s research. Watson observed Albert at play and tested his response to various stimulus objects including blocks, a ball of cotton, some furry material and a white rat. Watson and Rayner began to systematically associate the white rat with the noise of a loud metal gong. The loud noise elicited a startle response (UCR) causing Albert to cry. After a total of seven conditioning trials, the white rat was presented without ringing the gong and Albert began to cry. Thus, a fear reaction has been classically conditioned to the rat, which previously had a neutral stimulus. Watson called this fear a conditioned emotional response. Albert began to generalise his fear of the white rat to any other fluffy white stimulus; such as balls of cotton, a white fur coat and a Santa Claus mask with a white beard.