Operant and Classical Conditioning

Essay by marmitebagelCollege, Undergraduate May 2004

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Classical conditioning was identified by Thorndike (pictured left), he experimented on a number of animals and generalised the results to humans. Classical conditioning is where a conditioned response leads to a conditioned response which has risen from unconditioned response caused by an unconditioned stimulus.

Thorndike's Law of Exercise is the theory that when the stimulus and response are connected several times, then the connection is stronger. The more is repeated, the more likely it will be learnt and become automatic.

There are different types of conditioning which have been identified these are forward, backward, higher order and simultaneous conditioning. Forward conditioning is when the conditioned stimulus is presented before the unconditioned stimulus. Backward conditioning is the opposite to forward; the conditioned stimulus is presented after the unconditioned stimulus. Higher order conditioning is when there are two conditioned stimulus's present, one is responded to more than the other. Simultaneous conditioning is when the unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus are presented at the same time.

Principles of classical conditioning are generalisation, extinction and spontaneous recovery. Generalisation is when the original association to a stimulus is extended to include similar stimuli. Whereas extinction is when the unconditioned stimulus is removed and the association between the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response are no longer associated. Spontaneous recovery is when the association between the conditioned response and stimulus has been extinguished, but sometimes there is a occasional recovery of the association.

Watson and Rayner carried out an experiment on an 11 month old baby to prove that classical conditioning can cause phobias. The results supported Watson and Rayner's theory, the participant also showed signs of stimulus generalisation.

A strength of classical conditioning is that many study's such as Pavlov's Dogs, Thorndike's puzzle box and Watson and Rayner's "Little Albert" support the theory. However there...