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Classical Conditioning and My Behaviour - Short Description

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Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

Classical conditioning was discovered by a famous Russian physiologist named Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. After finishing his doctorate degree Ivan Pavlov traveled to Germany to study in Leipzig with Carl Lidwig in Breslau. While in Germany he studied the digestive tract of dogs using the exteriorized section of the stomach. He later fixed the problem with maintaining the external nerve supply and now the exteriorized section is known as the Pavlov pouch. He won the noble prize at the Institute of Experimental Medicine on the gastric functions of dogs and children. This was when he found out that the dogs actually began salivating before they ate the food. He called it the “psychic secretion” when he first found out about it. He began working with Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901 to figure out why the dogs began to salivate before the food was given to them. He began using a bell before the food was presented to them, they would then begin to salivate. It is widely believed that Ivan Pavlov only used a bell but he used many things such as,whistles tuning forks, and electric shocks to get the dogs to salivate. Later this work was known in the west with the help of John B. Watson.

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John Broadus Watson

John Broadus Watson was born in 1878 and was a famous Psychologist from America. John B. Watson. Watson is mostly known for his “Little Albert” experiment. Even though many believed that this experiment should never have been done because it caused harm to the little child, it was still a very important experiment to support the claims of Ivan Pavlov. This experiment was done to figure out if classical conditioned can be done to make a child scared whenever he saw a white rat. Watson would present the white rat to the baby and while the Little Albert was playing with the rat John. B Watson would slam to large iron rods behind him. Little Albert would then cry because the loud sound scared him. After many times of this Little Albert would begin to cry whenever he saw anything fluffy and white, not just a rat, and without the loud sound. This proved that classical conditioning also works with humans, not just dogs. Little Albert was never de-conditioned, which is what caused the biggest outrage. Recently it was discovered the mother that gave Little Albert was only paid 1$ for the experiment. The baby’s real name was Douglass and he died at the age of six because of hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a disease that occurs when there is a lot of fluid around the brain and the spinal cord which puts pressure on the brain, causing harm to the human, and in this case, death. Douglas did not receive Hydrocephalus from the experiment, he had it since birth, so the experiment was not what killed him. It is still unknown if he had the fear of fluffy white things when he died.

Watanabe H, Mizunami M.

The most recent experiment that was done to test classical conditioning was created by Watanabe H, Mizunami M. This experiment was done with American cockroaches, Periplaneta Americana, and instead of sound, scents were used. The cockroaches would receive drops of sugar syrup, and then a sound would play.

After many repetitions the cockroaches would begin to salivate when they simply hear the sound. This was a very important experiment because this proves that classical conditioning not only affects dogs and humans, but also cockroaches.

Classical Conditioning and My Behaviour

As we have come to learn, Classical conditioning influences our behavior, because our mind associates feelings, sense of smell, thoughts, memories in other words as mentioned, the conditioned stimulus is now fully tied in with the unconditioned stimulus, which creates a new conditioned response (CR). However, it can also treat phobias. The most common phobia in the world is arachnophobia, which is the fear of spiders. This phobia can actuallybe treated with counter-conditioning. Counter conditioning is based on the principles of classical conditioning that attempts to replace bad or unpleasant emotional responses to a stimulus with more pleasant, adaptive responses. That`s exactly what happened to me. As a small girl I use to cry and scream over the smallest spider, even though the spider was eventually went away, I would still cry for hours because just the sight of a spider made me so scared. It was an intense fear, that I had since I was 2 till I was 8 years old. Eventually my

mother felt she had to do something, because the slightest furry thing on the floor would scare me badly. She was advised by a child psychologist to show me a picture of a spider, and then give me a “relaxing stimuli” so that the next time that I actually saw a spider I will associate the spider with that relaxing stimuli. My mother was hesitating on this advice, but was assured that the “relaxing stimuli” could be something as simple as a cookie, a toy that I liked, or a song I enjoyed. Therefore, every third day my mom presented a photo of a spider, and sang the song “itzty bitzy spider” to make me remember that the spider was a little victim of the rain, not a scary little monster as I always saw them as. At first, I screamed and cried when my mom showed me the spider book, (even thought it was a cartoon spider!) this is expected when going through classical counter conditioning, the fear or phobias cannot be cured only by initiating classical counter conditioning once. It takes patience and determination for the person who is “conditioning” the new response, (CR conditioned response) cannot be achieve overnight. This can vary from hours to years. So, in order for classical counter conditioning to take place, time is essential. Therefore, it took me a good 3 months to associate the scary spiders, with poor “itzy bitzy spiders”. The new conditioned response (CR) of a spider got me thinking of the story of the itzy bitzy spider, which triggered compassion instead of fear, because I had been conditioned with the song for 3 months. Therefore, my brain associated spiders, with helpless victims being washed away by the rain (as the song goes). Furthermore, my compassion became the conditioned response in this matter. I did not react in fear as I use to every time I saw a spider afterwards, but with compassion in getting the spider out to its natural sunny environment. I still have the same compassionate reaction when I see spiders till this day. My changed behavior is a result of classical counter conditioning.

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