Discussion On Classical Conditioning As An Explanation Of Learning

Discussion On Classical Conditioning As An Explanation Of Learning We use the term classical conditioning to describe one type of associative learning in which there is no contingency between response and reinforcer. This situation resembles most closely the experiment from Pavlov in the 1920s, where he trained his dogs to associate a bell ring with a food-reward. In such experiments, the subject initially shows weak or no response to a conditioned stimulus (CS, e.g. the bell), but a measurable unconditioned response (UCR, e.g. saliva production) to an unconditioned stimulus (UCS, e.g. food).

In the course of the training, the CS is repeatedly presented together with the UCS; eventually the subject forms an association between the US and the CS. In a subsequent test-phase, the subject will show the conditioned response (CR, e.g. saliva production) to the CS alone, if such an association has been established and memorized. Such Pavlovian conditioning is opposed to instrumental or operant, where producing a CR controls the UCS presentations. Therefore, classical conditioning involves learning by association – where you simply learn by associating two events that often occur together. Conditioning, in general occurs more rapidly when the conditioned stimulus in unfamiliar rather than familiar.

High order conditioning is when a CS can be used to produce a response from another neutral stimulus (can evoke CS). There are a couple of different orders or levels. Taking Pavlov’s dogs as an example, where light is paired with food. The food is a US since it produces a response without any prior learning. Then, when food is paired with a neutral stimulus (light) it becomes a Conditioned Stimulus (CS) – the dog begins to respond (salivate) to the light without the presentation of the food. One of the principles of classical conditioning is extinction.

If a CS is repeatedly presented without the unconditioned stimulus, the CR will disappear. In Pavlov’s case, if a dog learns to associate the sound of a bell with food and then the bell is rung repeatedly but no food appears, the dog will soon stop salivating to the bell. Another principle to classical conditioning is the spontaneous recovery. Supposing that a response is classically conditioned then extinguished. If a few hours or days later, the CS is presented again, the CR will probably reappear. As spontaneous recovery is a term used for this temporary return of an extinguished response after a delay.

Thus, the elimination of a conditioned response usually requires more than one extinction lesson. Pavlov’s dog who was conditioned to salivate to the sound of a bell of one tone may well salivate to a similar sounding bell or a buzzer. Stimulus generalisation is the extension of the conditioned response from the original stimulus to a similar stimuli. The conditioned response to a similar stimulus is not as strong as the response to the original stimulus; the less similar the weaker the response. An animal or person can be taught to ‘choose’ between stimuli, that is to discriminate stimuli.

For example, is a dog is shown a red circle everytime he is fed, then he will salivate at the sight of the red circle alone. However, the dog will usually generalise this response to that they may respond to circles of other colours. If we only feed the dog when it sees a red circle but not an orange one, then it will soon learn to respond to red but not orange. The dog would have learnt to discriminate between the two colours. Relating this to humans, we discriminate consistently, relying on everyday life.

Such as knowing someone’s voice. John Watson and Rayner conditioned a baby (Albert) to be afraid of a white rabbit by showing Albert the rabbit and then slamming two metal pipes together behind Albert’s head. The pipes produced a very loud, sudden noise that frightened Albert and made him cry. Watson did this several times (multiple trials) until Albert was afraid of the rabbit. Previously he would pet the rabbit and play with it.

After conditioning, the sight of the rabbit made Albert scream — then what Watson found was that Albert began to show similar terrified behaviours to Watson’s face. What Watson realized was that Albert was responding to the white beard Watson had at the time. So, the fear evoked by the white, furry, rabbit had generalized to other white, furry things, like Watson’s beard. Behaviourism overall is a good scientific theory. It is simple and parsimonious, with the approach of ’cause-and-effect’ idea.

Therefore, it is not necessary to invent hidden processes of learning (e.g. Freud) to explain why behaviour happens The behaviourists believed that behaviour is caused by environmental events (stimuli, reinforcers). With this idea, it cannot be controlled. Behaviourism is deterministic, as we do not control our own actions, and so therefore cannot be responsible for them. However, it becomes possible for others to control our behaviour by manipulation of environmental events.

Behaviourism assumes that human behaviour should be studied using the same methods applied in the physical sciences – that assuming psychology should restrict itself to studying only those things that can be studied directly. In this way, it means that anything that can’t be observed cannot be studied and that w cannot fully explain human behaviour and the complications behind it. Silfe and Williams 1995 added that although stimuli, response and reinforcement are essential in behaviourist explanation of behaviour, they are never observed directly. Although we can readily observe events in the environment, we have no way of knowing if they act as the stimulus for given response nor indeed whether they are acting as a reinforcer. Similarly, we have no way of knowing whether a particular response has been caused by a given stimulus. The notion of reinforcement poses considerable conceptual problems when we apply it to an explanation of human behaviour.

If reinforcing serves to strengthen the bond between stimulus and response, then it supposes that whatever we do we do it because it brings some pleasant consequence. Applying this to human behaviour, i.e. Altruism/other aspects of self-sacrifice, then behaviour theory might suggest that somehow this behaviourism are in fact producing pleasant consequen …