Introduction to Classical Conditioning

What you’ll learn to do: explain learning and the process of classical conditioning

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In this section, you’ll learn about learning. It might not be “learning” as you typically think of the word, because we’re not talking about going to school, or studying, or even effortfully trying to remember something. Instead, you’ll see that one of the main types of behavioral learning that we do is simply through an automatic process of association, known as 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. Ivan 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.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize and define three basic forms of learning—classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning
  • Explain how classical conditioning occurs
  • Identify the NS, UCS, UCR, CS, and CR in classical conditioning situations
  • Describe the processes of acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery, generalization, and discrimination
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