Applying Classical Conditioning Study to Humans

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Classical conditioning involves the neutral stimulus (NS) becoming directly associated with the Unconditioned stimulus (US) and, because of this association, comes to elicit a response that is related to the US (Powell, Honey & Symbaluk, 2013). There are five key terms that come with classical conditioning, the unconditioned stimulus, conditioned stimulus, neutral stimulus, unconditioned response and conditioned response. The unconditioned stimulus (US) is the stimulus that naturally elicits a response, and the unconditioned response (UR) is the response that is naturally elicited by the US (Powell, Honey & Symbaluk, 2013). The conditioned stimulus (CS) is the stimulus that, although initially a neutral stimulus (NS), comes to elicit a response because it has been associated with the US. The conditioned response (CR) is the response that is elicited by the CS (Powell, Honey & Symbaluk, 2013). Elicited is used to characterize behaviour that is controlled primarily by antecedent events or stimuli such as an unconditioned stimulus (US) or a conditioned stimulus (CS) in a Pavlovian or classical conditioning procedure (Domjan, 2016).

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Classical Conditioning was first discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov had the idea dogs do not need to learn some things. E.g. dogs do not need to learn to salivate when there is food around. In his study Pavlov was able to show the existence of the unconditioned response when the dog was presented with a bowl of food and then measured the levels of salivation. Nonetheless, Pavlov then discovered that the presence of any object or an event which the dog had learned to associate the food with would prompt the same response to that of seeing the food.After the works of Pavlov, other researchers wanted to see if they could replicate similar results in other animals in regard to classical conditioning. Kvitvik, Berg, & Ågmo (2010) conditioned male rats to associate an odour with trying to procreate with a female rat. Once conditioned, they found that the male rats spent longer in the places that had the odour and female rats than the places that just had the female rats. Also, the time took to choose a room was also shortened when rats were next to the area with the conditioned odour.

This shows that the male rats associated the odour with the urge to pro create when in fact the odour itself had no meaning. Von Essen, Pauls, Thum, & Sprecher (2011) used Drosophila larvae as a model to study visual classical conditioning. In their study they were able show that larvae can associate positive or negative cues with either light or darkness, which led them to changing their native light-preference. Also, showing that early forms of harmless light can be conditioned to be avoided in such larvae. Thus, showing that light can be used as a conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. Biologically we are very similar to animals, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties” (Darwin, 1871). With this information, we research has shown its effects on humans. Watson & Rayner (1917) would be a good example of this. Though it is key to point out beforehand that this is a case study and their original aim was to condition fear into their participant. In their study they found that “Little Albert” showed emotional maturity and would interact a lot with a white rat. A hammer hit against a steel bar produced a loud noise that Albert showed dislike to. This was used to conditioned fear in Albert. Through conditioning Watson & Rayner were able to condition Albert to now fear the white rat that we once liked. Additionally, through this they found that he also showed a fear to anything like the rat, such as a fur coat, rabbit and dog.

This was the first research that showed a neutral and fairly harmfulness stimulus such as a rat or a fur coat through conditioning can implicit a negative response. Blass, Ganchrow, & Steiner (1984) were able to show classical conditioning in 2-48-hour year old babies after they learned to associate a ten second head stroke with the feeding of sucrose solution through a pipette. This was shown by the experimental group showing more head orient and sucking responses than the control group during the head stroking intervals. Thus, showing that the babies in the experimental group had learned to associate the head stroke with the feed from the pipette. The purpose of this study was to replicate findings that are like those of Pavlov. However, unlike Pavlov, we would see if we could replicate these results in human participants. Using a lemon sherbet as the food to bring about salivation and a picture of a daisy as the neutral stimulus. We hypothesise that there we will see salivation levels increase as the study goes on. Thus, when seeing the daisy, it will bring about salivation levels close to that of eating the lemon sherbet. This hypothesis is like the results to those found in Pavlov’s work. If our hypothesis is correct than we know classical conditioning exists and is not just present in animals but humans too.

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