PS1050 NAU Sp’19 Classical And Operant Conditioning Pattern Analysis

Description

After locating and solving online examples of classical conditioning, post a minimum of two examples that you found along with your answers (identify the US, UR, CS, and CR). Try to post examples which have not already been posted by other students.

Then post two additional examples of your own creation and identify the US, UR, CS and CR.

6.3 Operant Conditioning
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Summary
The previous section of this chapter focused on the type of associative learning known as classical
conditioning. Remember that in classical conditioning, something in the environment triggers a reflex
automatically, and researchers train the organism to react to a different stimulus. Now we turn to the
second type of associative learning, operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, organisms learn
to associate a behavior and its consequence (Table). A pleasant consequence makes that behavior
more likely to be repeated in the future. For example, Spirit, a dolphin at the National Aquarium in
Baltimore, does a flip in the air when her trainer blows a whistle. The consequence is that she gets a
fish.
Classical and Operant Conditioning Compared
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
An unconditioned stimulus (such as food) is paired with a
Conditioning neutral stimulus (such as a bell). The neutral stimulus
approach
eventually becomes the conditioned stimulus, which brings
about the conditioned response (salivation).
The target behavior is followed by
punishment to either strengthen or
the learner is more likely to exhibi
behavior in the future.
Stimulus
timing
The stimulus (either reinforcemen
occurs soon after the response.
The stimulus occurs immediately before the response.
Psychologist B. F. Skinner saw that classical conditioning is limited to existing behaviors that are
reflexively elicited, and it doesn’t account for new behaviors such as riding a bike. He proposed a
theory about how such behaviors come about. Skinner believed that behavior is motivated by the
consequences we receive for the behavior: the reinforcements and punishments. His idea that
learning is the result of consequences is based on the law of effect, which was first proposed by
psychologist Edward Thorndike. According to the law of effect, behaviors that are followed by
consequences that are satisfying to the organism are more likely to be repeated, and behaviors that
are followed by unpleasant consequences are less likely to be repeated (Thorndike, 1911).
Essentially, if an organism does something that brings about a desired result, the organism is more
likely to do it again. If an organism does something that does not bring about a desired result, the
organism is less likely to do it again. An example of the law of effect is in employment. One of the
reasons (and often the main reason) we show up for work is because we get paid to do so. If we
stop getting paid, we will likely stop showing up—even if we love our job.
Working with Thorndike’s law of effect as his foundation, Skinner began conducting scientific
experiments on animals (mainly rats and pigeons) to determine how organisms learn through
operant conditioning (Skinner, 1938). He placed these animals inside an operant conditioning
chamber, which has come to be known as a “Skinner box” (Figure). A Skinner box contains a lever
(for rats) or disk (for pigeons) that the animal can press or peck for a food reward via the dispenser.
Speakers and lights can be associated with certain behaviors. A recorder counts the number of
responses made by the animal.
(a) B. F. Skinner developed operant conditioning for systematic study of how behaviors are
strengthened or weakened according to their consequences. (b) In a Skinner box, a rat presses a
lever in an operant conditioning chamber to receive a food reward. (credit a: modification of work by
“Silly rabbit”/Wikimedia Commons)
Watch this brief video clip to learn more about operant conditioning: Skinner is interviewed, and
operant conditioning of pigeons is demonstrated.
6.2 Classical Conditioning
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Summary
Does the name Ivan Pavlov ring a bell? Even if you are new to the study of psychology, chances are
that you have heard of Pavlov and his famous dogs.
Pavlov (1849–1936), a Russian scientist, performed extensive research on dogs and is best known
for his experiments in classical conditioning (Figure). As we discussed briefly in the previous
section, classical conditioning is a process by which we learn to associate stimuli and,
consequently, to anticipate events.
Ivan Pavlov’s research on the digestive system of dogs
unexpectedly led to his discovery of the learning process now known as classical conditioning.
Pavlov came to his conclusions about how learning occurs completely by accident. Pavlov was a
physiologist, not a psychologist. Physiologists study the life processes of organisms, from the
molecular level to the level of cells, organ systems, and entire organisms. Pavlov’s area of interest
was the digestive system (Hunt, 2007). In his studies with dogs, Pavlov surgically implanted tubes
inside dogs’ cheeks to collect saliva. He then measured the amount of saliva produced in response
to various foods. Over time, Pavlov (1927) observed that the dogs began to salivate not only at the
taste of food, but also at the sight of food, at the sight of an empty food bowl, and even at the sound
of the laboratory assistants’ footsteps. Salivating to food in the mouth is reflexive, so no learning is
involved. However, dogs don’t naturally salivate at the sight of an empty bowl or the sound of
footsteps.
These unusual responses intrigued Pavlov, and he wondered what accounted for what he called the
dogs’ “psychic secretions” (Pavlov, 1927). To explore this phenomenon in an objective manner,
Pavlov designed a series of carefully controlled experiments to see which stimuli would cause the
dogs to salivate. He was able to train the dogs to salivate in response to stimuli that clearly had
nothing to do with food, such as the sound of a bell, a light, and a touch on the leg. Through his
experiments, Pavlov realized that an organism has two types of responses to its environment: (1)
unconditioned (unlearned) responses, or reflexes, and (2) conditioned (learned) responses.
In Pavlov’s experiments, the dogs salivated each time meat powder was presented to them. The
meat powder in this situation was an unconditioned stimulus (UCS): a stimulus that elicits a
reflexive response in an organism. The dogs’ salivation was an unconditioned response (UCR): a
natural (unlearned) reaction to a given stimulus. Before conditioning, think of the dogs’ stimulus and
response like this:
Meat powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)Meat powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)
In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is presented immediately before an unconditioned
stimulus. Pavlov would sound a tone (like ringing a bell) and then give the dogs the meat powder
(Figure). The tone was the neutral stimulus (NS), which is a stimulus that does not naturally elicit a
response. Prior to conditioning, the dogs did not salivate when they just heard the tone because the
tone had no association for the dogs. Quite simply this pairing means:
Tone (NS) + Meat Powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)Tone (NS) + Meat Powder (UCS) → Sali
vation (UCR)
When Pavlov paired the tone with the meat powder over and over again, the previously neutral
stimulus (the tone) also began to elicit salivation from the dogs. Thus, the neutral stimulus became
the conditioned stimulus (CS), which is a stimulus that elicits a response after repeatedly being
paired with an unconditioned stimulus. Eventually, the dogs began to salivate to the tone alone, just
as they previously had salivated at the sound of the assistants’ footsteps. The behavior caused by
the conditioned stimulus is called the conditioned response (CR). In the case of Pavlov’s dogs,
they had learned to associate the tone (CS) with being fed, and they began to salivate (CR) in
anticipation of food.
Tone (CS) → Salivation (CR)Tone (CS) → Salivation (CR)
Before conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus (food) produces an unconditioned response
(salivation), and a neutral stimulus (bell) does not produce a response. During conditioning, the
unconditioned stimulus (food) is presented repeatedly just after the presentation of the neutral
stimulus (bell). After conditioning, the neutral stimulus alone produces a conditioned response
(salivation), thus becoming a conditioned stimulus.
Now that you have learned about the process of classical conditioning, do you think you can
condition Pavlov’s dog? Visit this website to play the game.
6.2 Classical Conditioning
Get This Book!
Page by: OpenStax
Summary
Does the name Ivan Pavlov ring a bell? Even if you are new to the study of psychology, chances are
that you have heard of Pavlov and his famous dogs.
Pavlov (1849–1936), a Russian scientist, performed extensive research on dogs and is best known
for his experiments in classical conditioning (Figure). As we discussed briefly in the previous
section, classical conditioning is a process by which we learn to associate stimuli and,
consequently, to anticipate events.
Ivan Pavlov’s research on the digestive system of dogs
unexpectedly led to his discovery of the learning process now known as classical conditioning.
Pavlov came to his conclusions about how learning occurs completely by accident. Pavlov was a
physiologist, not a psychologist. Physiologists study the life processes of organisms, from the
molecular level to the level of cells, organ systems, and entire organisms. Pavlov’s area of interest
was the digestive system (Hunt, 2007). In his studies with dogs, Pavlov surgically implanted tubes
inside dogs’ cheeks to collect saliva. He then measured the amount of saliva produced in response
to various foods. Over time, Pavlov (1927) observed that the dogs began to salivate not only at the
taste of food, but also at the sight of food, at the sight of an empty food bowl, and even at the sound
of the laboratory assistants’ footsteps. Salivating to food in the mouth is reflexive, so no learning is
involved. However, dogs don’t naturally salivate at the sight of an empty bowl or the sound of
footsteps.
These unusual responses intrigued Pavlov, and he wondered what accounted for what he called the
dogs’ “psychic secretions” (Pavlov, 1927). To explore this phenomenon in an objective manner,
Pavlov designed a series of carefully controlled experiments to see which stimuli would cause the
dogs to salivate. He was able to train the dogs to salivate in response to stimuli that clearly had
nothing to do with food, such as the sound of a bell, a light, and a touch on the leg. Through his
experiments, Pavlov realized that an organism has two types of responses to its environment: (1)
unconditioned (unlearned) responses, or reflexes, and (2) conditioned (learned) responses.
In Pavlov’s experiments, the dogs salivated each time meat powder was presented to them. The
meat powder in this situation was an unconditioned stimulus (UCS): a stimulus that elicits a
reflexive response in an organism. The dogs’ salivation was an unconditioned response (UCR): a
natural (unlearned) reaction to a given stimulus. Before conditioning, think of the dogs’ stimulus and
response like this:
Meat powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)Meat powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)
In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is presented immediately before an unconditioned
stimulus. Pavlov would sound a tone (like ringing a bell) and then give the dogs the meat powder
(Figure). The tone was the neutral stimulus (NS), which is a stimulus that does not naturally elicit a
response. Prior to conditioning, the dogs did not salivate when they just heard the tone because the
tone had no association for the dogs. Quite simply this pairing means:
Tone (NS) + Meat Powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)Tone (NS) + Meat Powder (UCS) → Sali
vation (UCR)
When Pavlov paired the tone with the meat powder over and over again, the previously neutral
stimulus (the tone) also began to elicit salivation from the dogs. Thus, the neutral stimulus became
the conditioned stimulus (CS), which is a stimulus that elicits a response after repeatedly being
paired with an unconditioned stimulus. Eventually, the dogs began to salivate to the tone alone, just
as they previously had salivated at the sound of the assistants’ footsteps. The behavior caused by
the conditioned stimulus is called the conditioned response (CR). In the case of Pavlov’s dogs,
they had learned to associate the tone (CS) with being fed, and they began to salivate (CR) in
anticipation of food.
Tone (CS) → Salivation (CR)Tone (CS) → Salivation (CR)
Before conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus (food) produces an unconditioned response
(salivation), and a neutral stimulus (bell) does not produce a response. During conditioning, the
unconditioned stimulus (food) is presented repeatedly just after the presentation of the neutral
stimulus (bell). After conditioning, the neutral stimulus alone produces a conditioned response
(salivation), thus becoming a conditioned stimulus.
Now that you have learned about the process of classical conditioning, do you think you can
condition Pavlov’s dog? Visit this website to play the game.
REAL WORLD APPLICATION OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING
How does classical conditioning work in the real world? Let’s say you have a cat named Tiger,
who is quite spoiled. You keep her food in a separate cabinet, and you also have a special electric
can opener that you use only to open cans of cat food. For every meal, Tiger hears the distinctive
sound of the electric can opener (“zzhzhz”) and then gets her food. Tiger quickly learns that
when she hears “zzhzhz” she is about to get fed. What do you think Tiger does when she hears
the electric can opener? She will likely get excited and run to where you are preparing her food.
This is an example of classical conditioning. In this case, what are the UCS, CS, UCR, and CR?
What if the cabinet holding Tiger’s food becomes squeaky? In that case, Tiger hears “squeak”
(the cabinet), “zzhzhz” (the electric can opener), and then she gets her food. Tiger will learn to
get excited when she hears the “squeak” of the cabinet. Pairing a new neutral stimulus
(“squeak”) with the conditioned stimulus (“zzhzhz”) is called higher-order conditioning,
or second-order conditioning. This means you are using the conditioned stimulus of the can
opener to condition another stimulus: the squeaky cabinet (Figure). It is hard to achieve anything
above second-order conditioning. For example, if you ring a bell, open the cabinet (“squeak”),
use the can opener (“zzhzhz”), and then feed Tiger, Tiger will likely never get excited when
hearing the bell alone.
In higher-order conditioning, an established conditioned stimulus is paired with a new neutral stimulus
(the second-order stimulus), so that eventually the new stimulus also elicits the conditioned response,
without the initial conditioned stimulus being presented.
CLASSICAL CONDITIONING AT STINGRAY CITY
Kate and her husband Scott recently vacationed in the Cayman Islands, and booked a boat tour to
Stingray City, where they could feed and swim with the southern stingrays. The boat captain
explained how the normally solitary stingrays have become accustomed to interacting with
humans. About 40 years ago, fishermen began to clean fish and conch (unconditioned stimulus)
at a particular sandbar near a barrier reef, and large numbers of stingrays would swim in to eat
(unconditioned response) what the fishermen threw into the water; this continued for years. By
the late 1980s, word of the large group of stingrays spread among scuba divers, who then started
feeding them by hand. Over time, the southern stingrays in the area
were classically conditioned much like Pavlov’s dogs. When they hear the sound of a boat
engine (neutral stimulus that becomes a conditioned stimulus), they know that they will get to eat
(conditioned response).
As soon as Kate and Scott reached Stingray City, over two dozen stingrays surrounded their tour
boat. The couple slipped into the water with bags of squid, the stingrays’ favorite treat. The
swarm of stingrays bumped and rubbed up against their legs like hungry cats (Figure). Kate and
Scott were able to feed, pet, and even kiss (for luck) these amazing creatures. Then all the squid
was gone, and so were the stingrays.
Kate holds a southern stingray at Stingray City in
the Cayman Islands. These stingrays have been classically conditioned to associate the sound of a boat
motor with food provided by tourists. (credit: Kathryn Dumper)
Classical conditioning also applies to humans, even babies. For example, Sara buys formula in
blue canisters for her six-month-old daughter, Angelina. Whenever Sara takes out a formula
container, Angelina gets excited, tries to reach toward the food, and most likely salivates. Why
does Angelina get excited when she sees the formula canister? What are the UCS, CS, UCR, and
CR here?
So far, all of the examples have involved food, but classical conditioning extends beyond the
basic need to be fed. Consider our earlier example of a dog whose owners install an invisible
electric dog fence. A small electrical shock (unconditioned stimulus) elicits discomfort
(unconditioned response). When the unconditioned stimulus (shock) is paired with a neutral
stimulus (the edge of a yard), the dog associates the discomfort (unconditioned response) with
the edge of the yard (conditioned stimulus) and stays within the set boundaries. In this example,
the edge of the yard elicits fear and anxiety in the dog. Fear and anxiety are
the conditionedresponse.
For a humorous look at conditioning, watch this video clip from the television show The Office,
where Jim conditions Dwight to expect a breath mint every time Jim’s computer makes a
specific sound.
GENERAL PROCESSES IN CLASSICAL CONDITIONING
Now that you know how classical conditioning works and have seen several examples, let’s take
a look at some of the general processes involved. In classical conditioning, the initial period of
learning is known as acquisition, when an organism learns to connect a neutral stimulus and an
unconditioned stimulus. During acquisition, the neutral stimulus begins to elicit
the conditionedresponse, and eventually the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus
capable of eliciting the conditioned response by itself. Timing is important for conditioning to
occur. Typically, there should only be a brief interval between presentation of
the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus. Depending on what is
being conditioned, sometimes this interval is as little as five seconds (Chance, 2009). However,
with other types of conditioning, the interval can be up to several hours.
Taste aversion is a type of conditioning in which an interval of several hours may pass between
the conditioned stimulus (something ingested) and the unconditioned stimulus (nausea or
illness). Here’s how it works. Between classes, you and a friend grab a quick lunch from a food
cart on campus. You share a dish of chicken curry and head off to your next class. A few hours
later, you feel nauseous and become ill. Although your friend is fine and you determine that you
have intestinal flu (the food is not the culprit), you’ve developed a taste aversion; the next time
you are at a restaurant and someone orders curry, you immediately feel ill. While the chicken
dish is not what made you sick, you are experiencing taste aversion: you’ve been conditioned to
be averse to a food after a single, negative experience.
How does this occur—conditioning based on a single instance and involving an extended time
lapse between the event and the negative stimulus? Research into taste aversion suggests that this
response may be an evolutionary adaptation designed to help organisms quickly learn to avoid
harmful foods (Garcia & Rusiniak, 1980; Garcia & Koelling, 1966). Not only may this
contribute to species survival via natural selection, but it may also help us develop strategies for
challenges such as helping cancer patients through the nausea induced by certain treatments
(Holmes, 1993; Jacobsen et al., 1993; Hutton, Baracos, & Wismer, 2007; Skolin et al., 2006).
Once we have established the connection between the unconditioned stimulus and
the conditioned stimulus, how do we break that connection and get the dog, cat, or child to stop
responding? In Tiger’s case, imagine what would happen if you stopped using the electric can
opener for her food and began to use it only for human food. Now, Tiger would hear the can
opener, but she would not get food. In classical conditioning terms, you would be giving
the conditioned stimulus, but not the unconditioned stimulus. Pavlov explored this scenario in his
experiments with dogs: sounding the tone without giving the dogs the meat powder. Soon the
dogs stopped responding to the tone. Extinction is the decrease in the conditioned response
when the unconditioned stimulus is no longer presented with the conditioned stimulus. When
presented with the conditioned stimulus alone, the dog, cat, or other organism would show a
weaker and weaker response, and finally no response. In classical conditioning terms, there is a
gradual weakening and disappearance of the conditioned response.
What happens when learning is not used for a while—when what was learned lies dormant? As
we just discussed, Pavlov found that when he repeatedly presented the bell
(conditioned stimulus) without the meat powder (unconditioned stimulus), extinction occurred;
the dogs stopped salivating to the bell. However, after a couple of hours of resting from this
extinction training, the dogs again began to salivate when Pavlov rang the bell. What do you
think would happen with Tiger’s behavior if your electric can opener broke, and you did not use
it for several months? When you finally got it fixed and started using it to open Tiger’s food
again, Tiger would remember the association between the can opener and her food—she would
get excited and run to the kitchen when she heard the sound. The behavior of Pavlov’s dogs and
Tiger illustrates a concept Pavlov called spontaneous recovery: the return of a previously
extinguished conditioned response following a rest period (Figure).
This is the curve of acquisition, extinction, and spontaneous recovery. The rising curve shows
the conditioned response quickly getting stronger through the repeated pairing of
the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus (acquisition). Then the curve decreases, which
shows how the conditioned response weakens when only the conditioned stimulus is presented
(extinction). After a break or pause from conditioning, the conditioned response reappears
(spontaneous recovery).
Of course, these processes also apply in humans. For example, let’s say that every day when you
walk to campus, an ice cream truck passes your route. Day after day, you hear the truck’s music
(neutral stimulus), so you finally stop and purchase a chocolate ice cream bar. You take a bite
(unconditioned stimulus) and then your mouth waters (unconditioned response). This initial
period of learning is known as acquisition, when you begin to connect the neutral stimulus (the
sound of the truck) and the unconditioned stimulus (the taste of the chocolate ice cream in your
mouth). During acquisition, the conditioned response gets stronger and stronger through repeated
pairings of the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. Several days (and ice cream
bars) later, you notice that your mouth begins to water (conditioned response) as soon as you
hear the truck’s musical jingle—even before you bite into the ice cream bar. Then one day you
head down the street. You hear the truck’s music (conditioned stimulus), and your mouth waters
(conditioned response). However, when you get to the truck, you discover that they are all out of
ice cream. You leave disappointed. The next few days you pass by the truck and hear the music,
but don’t stop to get an ice cream bar because you’re running late for class. You begin to salivate
less and less when you hear the music, until by the end of the week, your mouth no longer waters
when you hear the tune. This illustrates extinction. The conditioned response weakens when only
the conditionedstimulus (the sound of the truck) is presented, without being followed by the
unconditioned stimulus (chocolate ice cream in the mouth). Then the weekend comes. You don’t
have to go to class, so you don’t pass the truck. Monday morning arrives and you take your usual
route to campus. You round the corner and hear the truck again. What do you think happens?
Your mouth begins to water again. Why? After a break from conditioning,
the conditioned response reappears, which indicates spontaneous recovery.
Acquisition and extinction involve the strengthening and weakening, respectively, of a learned
association. Two other learning processes—stimulus discrimination and stimulus
generalization—are involved in distinguishing which stimuli will trigger the learned association.
Animals (including humans) need to distinguish between stimuli—for example, between sounds
that predict a threatening event and sounds that do not—so that they can respond appropriately
(such as running away if the sound is threatening). When an organism learns to respond
differently to various stimuli that are similar, it is called stimulus discrimination.
In classical conditioning terms, the organism demonstrates the conditioned response only to
the conditioned stimulus. Pavlov’s dogs discriminated between the basic tone that sounded
before they were fed and other tones (e.g., the doorbell), because the other sounds did not predict
the arrival of food. Similarly, Tiger, the cat, discriminated between the sound of the can opener
and the sound of the electric mixer. When the electric mixer is going, Tiger is not about to be
fed, so she does not come running to the kitchen looking for food.
On the other hand, when an organism demonstrates the conditioned response to stimuli that are
similar to the condition stimulus, it is called stimulus generalization, the opposite of stimulus
discrimination. The more similar a stimulus is to the condition stimulus, the more likely the
organism is to give the conditioned response. For instance, if the electric mixer sounds very
similar to the electric can opener, Tiger may come running after hearing its sound. But if you do
not feed her following the electric mixer sound, and you continue to feed her consistently after
the electric can opener sound, she will quickly learn to discriminate between the two sounds
(provided they are sufficiently dissimilar that she can tell them apart).
Sometimes, classical conditioning can lead to habituation. Habituation occurs when we learn
not to respond to a stimulus that is presented repeatedly without change. As the stimulus occurs
over and over, we learn not to focus our attention on it. For example, imagine that your neighbor
or roommate constantly has the television blaring. This background noise is distracting and
makes it difficult for you to focus when you’re studying. However, over time, you become
accustomed to the stimulus of the television noise, and eventually you hardly notice it any
longer.
BEHAVIORISM
John B. Watson, shown in Figure, is considered the founder of behaviorism. Behaviorism is a
school of thought that arose during the first part of the 20th century, which incorporates elements
of Pavlov’s classical conditioning (Hunt, 2007). In stark contrast with Freud, who considered the
reasons for behavior to be hidden in the unconscious, Watson championed the idea that all
behavior can be studied as a simple stimulus-response reaction, without regard for internal
processes. Watson argued that in order for psychology to become a legitimate science, it must
shift its concern away from internal mental processes because mental processes cannot be seen or
measured. Instead, he asserted that psychology must focus on outward observable behavior that
can be measured.
John B. Watson used the principles of classical conditioning in
the study of human emotion.
Watson’s ideas were influenced by Pavlov’s work. According to Watson, human behavior, just
like animal behavior, is primarily the result of conditioned responses. Whereas Pavlov’s work
with dogs involved the conditioning of reflexes, Watson believed the same principles could be
extended to the conditioning of human emotions (Watson, 1919). Thus began Watson’s work
with his graduate student Rosalie Rayner and a baby called Little Albert. Through their
experiments with Little Albert, Watson and Rayner (1920) demonstrated how fears can
be conditioned.
In 1920, Watson was the chair of the psychology department at Johns Hopkins University.
Through his position at the university he came to meet Little Albert’s mother, Arvilla Merritte,
who worked at a campus hospital (DeAngelis, 2010). Watson offered her a dollar to allow her
son to be the subject of his experiments in classical conditioning. Through these experiments,
Little Albert was exposed to and conditioned to fear certain things. Initially he was presented
with various neutral stimuli, including a rabbit, a dog, a monkey, masks, cotton wool, and a
white rat. He was not afraid of any of these things. Then Watson, with the help of
Rayner, conditioned Little Albert to associate these stimuli with an emotion—fear. For example,
Watson handed Little Albert the white rat, and Little Albert enjoyed playing with it. Then
Watson made a loud sound, by striking a hammer against a metal bar hanging behind Little
Albert’s head, each time Little Albert touched the rat. Little Albert was frightened by the
sound—demonstrating a reflexive fear of sudden loud noises—and began to cry. Watson
repeatedly paired the loud sound with the white rat. Soon Little Albert became frightened by the
white rat alone. In this case, what are the UCS, CS, UCR, and CR? Days later, Little Albert
demonstrated stimulus generalization—he became afraid of other furry things: a rabbit, a furry
coat, and even a Santa Claus mask (Figure). Watson had succeeded in conditioning a fear
response in Little Albert, thus demonstrating that emotions could become conditioned responses.
It had been Watson’s intention to produce a phobia—a persistent, excessive fear of a specific
object or situation— through conditioning alone, thus countering Freud’s view that phobias are
caused by deep, hidden conflicts in the mind. However, there is no evidence that Little Albert
experienced phobias in later years. Little Albert’s mother moved away, ending the experiment,
and Little Albert himself died a few years later of unrelated causes. While Watson’s research
provided new insight into conditioning, it would be considered unethical by today’s standards.
Through stimulus generalization, Little Albert
came to fear furry things, including Watson in a Santa Claus mask.
View scenes from John Watson’s experiment in which Little Albert was conditioned to respond
in fear to furry objects.
As you watch the video, look closely at Little Albert’s reactions and the manner in which
Watson and Rayner present the stimuli before and after conditioning. Based on what you see,
would you come to the same conclusions as the researchers?
ADVERTISING AND ASSOCIATIVE LEARNING
Advertising executives are pros at applying the principles of associative learning. Think about
the car commercials you have seen on television. Many of them feature an attractive model. By
associating the model with the car being advertised, you come to see the car as being desirable
(Cialdini, 2008). You may be asking yourself, does this advertising technique actually work?
According to Cialdini (2008), men who viewed a car commercial that included an attractive
model later rated the car as being faster, more appealing, and better designed than did men who
viewed an advertisement for the same car minus the model.
Have you ever noticed how quickly advertisers cancel contracts with a famous athlete following
a scandal? As far as the advertiser is concerned, that athlete is no longer associated with positive
feelings; therefore, the athlete cannot be used as an unconditioned stimulus to condition the
public to associate positive feelings (the unconditioned response) with their product
(the conditioned stimulus).
Now that you are aware of how associative learning works, see if you can find examples of these
types of advertisements on television, in magazines, or on the Internet.
Summary
Pavlov’s pioneering work with dogs contributed greatly to what we know about learning. His
experiments explored the type of associative learning we now call classical conditioning.
In classical conditioning, organisms learn to associate events that repeatedly happen together,
and researchers study how a reflexive response to a stimulus can be mapped to a different
stimulus—by training an association between the two stimuli. Pavlov’s experiments show how
stimulus-response bonds are formed. Watson, the founder of behaviorism, was greatly influenced
by Pavlov’s work. He tested humans by conditioning fear in an infant known as Little Albert. His
findings suggest that classical conditioning can explain how some fears develop.

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