Classical and Operant Conditioning

10 October 2016

Classical conditioning became part of a careful study in the early twentieth century, when the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov identified it as an important behavioral process. Pavlov started out his research focusing on the process of digestion in dogs. Along his research he noticed that the dogs from his studies often began to salivate when they saw or smelled food but before they even tasted it. Some of the dogs even salivated at sight of the pan where the food was kept, or at the sight of the person who usually brings the food. Pavlov said that the stimuli had somehow became signals for the food itself.

The dogs had learned that when the signals were present, food would soon follow. Pavlov quickly recognized the potential importance of his observation and started shifting his research. His experiment started out with a neutral stimulus, or a stimulus that has no previous effect of salivation such as the bell. He rang the bell then immediately followed it by a second stimulus know to produce salivation, such as a dried meat powder that was placed directly in the dogs mouth. The meat powder is considered to be the unconditioned stimulus or UCS, because the ability to salivate was automatic and not learned.

On the flipside the salivation of the dog to the meat powder is the unconditioned response or UCR. The bell now is termed the conditioned stimulus or CS because the ability for it to elicit saliva from the dog is dependent on being paired with the meat powder. Salvation in response to just the bell is called the conditioned response or CR. He found that if you ring the bell then give the god the meat powder soon or later the dog will start to salivate just to the ring of the bell without the meat powder even present.

Extinction is the process in which you lose the ability to evoke conditioned response when it no longer is followed by a unconditioned stimulus. In the case of Pavlov’s dogs, extinction could occur if Pavlov kept ringing the bell and not following it up with the meat powder. This means the dog no longer salivates in response to the bell. If Pavlov keeps ringing the bell sometimes the dog might remember about the meat powder and salivate even though no meat powder is present. This is called reconditioning.

This means the rapid recovery of a conditioned response (CR) to a conditioned stimulus (CS)- unconditioned stimulus (UCS) pairing. Let’s say Pavlov stops working with the dogs for several weeks because he is working on other research, then suddenly goes back to the dogs and rings the bell, the dogs should in theory then salivate due to a process called spontaneous recovery. This is the reappearance of a weakened conditioned response (CR) to a conditioned stimulus (CS) after an interval of time following extinction.

If Pavlov was cooking something and the timer goes off making a ringing sound, the dogs most likely would salivate because of a process called stimulus generalization, or the tendency of stimuli similar to a conditioned stimulus (CS) to evoke conditioned responses (CR). Through the process of stimulus discrimination, or the process by which organisms learn to respond to certain stimuli but not to others, the dogs will salivate to the ring of a bell but if the door bell rand they would not salivate because they discriminate and can tell the difference between the bell and the door bell.

Psychology. about. com says that classical conditioning is used in everyday life by many dog trainers helping to train people’s pets. Some techniques are also helpful in the treatment of many phobias or anxiety problems. Teachers can apply classical conditioning in the classroom by creating a positive classroom environment to help students overcome anxiety or fear especially with classroom speeches. It helps to get the student relaxed instead of anxious. Operant conditioning is a process through which organisms learn to repeat behaviors that yield positive outcomes.

In operant conditioning it is broken down into reinforcements and punishments. In the reinforcement part there are two reinforcers, positive and negative. A positive reinforcement is a stimulus that strengthens responses, and a negative reinforcement is a stimulus that strengthens responses that permit the organism to avoid or escape from their presence. An example of a positive reinforcement is when I brought home my report card in 6th grade and there were all A’s my mom and dad gave me 5 dollars for every A.

The target behavior for that example would be the getting A’s and the positive reinforcement would be my parents giving me 5 dollars an A. An example of a negative reinforcement would be on a cold and dark morning your all snug and warm under your covers, and suddenly your alarm clack goes off across the room. Getting out of the warm bed is the last thing you want to do but the noise is intolerable. The target behavior is turning off the alarm, and the negative reinforcement is getting out of the warm bed in order to turn off the annoying alarm clock.

The punishment section of operant conditioning is broken in half just about the same way. There is negative and positive punishment. In negative punishment, the rate if a behavior is weakened or decreased because the behavior is linked to the loss of potential reinforcements. An example of a negative punishment is in a kindergarten class a young boy lashes out and hits the teacher in the stomach with a pencil as he throws it. The teacher sentences him to 10 minutes in the time out corner. The target behavior is the lashing out and throwing the pencil.

The negative punishment is the 10 minutes of isolation in the corner. In positive punishment, stimuli weaken responses that precede them. For example you are driving home from work at an excessive speed, About 25 mile per hour over the speed limit. As you go over the little hill you see a state trooper parked on the side of the highway with his radar gun pointed right at you. The next thing you know is the flashing lights are right behind you and pulling you over. You get a pretty hefty ticket for your speeding. After you pay your fine you always obey the speed limit signs.

The target behavior in this example is the speeding and the positive punishment is the speeding ticket you receive for speeding. B. F. Skinner is known as the father of operant conditioning. He invented a box called the Skinner box where a rat is trapped inside with a lever. Every time the rat presses the lever it receives a food pellet. Shaping might have to be used in order to get the rat to press the lever. Shaping is a technique in which closer and closer approximations to desired behavior are required for the delivery of positive reinforcement.

Basically this means Skinner might have had to shock the rat’s feet when the rat started going the wrong way. That way it will remember to not go that way. When it finally presses the lever the food pellet drops and it works as a positive reinforcement because if the rat got a food pellet from pressing the lever maybe he will do in again and remember that whenever you press the lever you get rewarded with a food pellet. There are many different schedules of reinforcement you can follow. A schedule of reinforcement is rules determining when and how reinforcements will be delivered.

A continuous reinforcement schedule is a schedule in which every occurrence of a particular behavior is reinforced. A fixed interval schedule is a schedule of reinforcement in which a specific interval of time must elapse before a response will yield reinforcement. There is also variable-interval schedule which is a schedule in which a variable amount of time must elapse before a response will yield reinforcement. A fixed ratio schedule occurs only after a fixed number of responses have been emitted.

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