Classical (Pavlovian) Conditioning

What is Learning?

- Any relatively permanent change in the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of an organism that results from experience

- Reflexive response

- Adaptive for survival

- Experience as the key to learning

- Forming associations

- Simple animals can learn simple associations

- More complex animals can learn more complex associations

- It is important to survival to associate the past with the immediate future

Types of Learning

- Classical (Pavlovian) conditioning

o Learning an association between two stimuli

- Operant conditioning.

o Learning to associate a response and its consequences


- Ivan Pavlov

- “Psychic reflexes”

- Experimental subjects were dogs restrained by harnesses in an experimental chamber

- Saliva collected

- Pavlov noticed that the dog would begin salivating at stimuli associated with food

- His research suggested that one stimuli or event could come to be associated with a subsequent event


Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)

· The stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response without previous conditioning

Unconditioned Response (UCR)

· The unlearned reaction to an unconditioned stimulus that occurs without previous conditioning

Conditioned Stimulus (CS)

· A previously neutral stimulus that has, through conditioning, acquired the capacity to evoke a conditioned response

Conditioned Response (CR)

· A learned reaction to a conditioned stimulus that occurs because of previous conditioning

o The unconditioned response and the conditioned response are virtually the same behavior
o The difference is in terms of what elicits the response


· The presentation of any stimulus or pair of stimuli

· Psychologists are interested in how many trials are required to establish a particular conditioned bond

Temporal Contiguity

- The interval between the CS and the US

- Defines the degree of association of the stimuli


- The predictability of the occurrence of one stimulus from the presence of another

- Learning to predict an event based on cue

- The more predictable the association, the stronger the conditioned response
- Conditioning works best when the CS and UCS have just the sort of relationship that would lead a scientist to conclude that the CS causes the UCS

Basic Processes

· Occurs in most types of animals

· Operates under the same principles across most species

· Results generalizable

- Rats and pigeons


· The formation of a newly acquired conditioned response

· An association between two events or two types of stimuli

·  Potential to become CS


· The gradually weakening and disappearance of a conditioned response tendency

· Occurs as a result of the continued presentation of the CS without the UCS

· Extinction occurs slowly for a strongly established bond

Spontaneous Recovery

· The reappearance of an extinguished response after a period of non-exposure to the CS

o Renewal effect
o Extinguished response suppressed

Stimulus Generalization

· Occurs when an organism has learned a response to a specific stimulus responds in the same way to new stimuli that are like the original stimuli

Examples of Conditioned Responses

Positive Responses

- Pleasant associations

- Fetishes

Negative Responses



- An irrational fear
- Focuses anxiety on some specific object, activity or situation
- Mary Cover Jones (1924)


- Experimental neurosis
– What at first seems like a clear choice becomes less and less clear, leading to conflict on the part of the learner

Facilitated Learning

- Basic belief of Behaviorism

- Basic laws of learning essentially similar in all animals

- Any natural response could be conditioned to any neutral stimulus

- An animals capacity for conditioning is constrained by its biology

Rats and Sparkle Water

- John Garcia

o Testing hypothesis

· Sweetened water – radiation poisoning
· Sparkle water – radiation poisoning
· Sweetened water – shock
· Sparkle water – shock

o Results

·  Sugar water
Paired with nausea
Paired with shock
·  Sparkle water
Paired with nausea
Paired with shock

o Conclusions

·  Animals are biologically predisposed to learn associations which would aid in their survival

Taste Aversion

- Humans appear biologically predisposed to develop taste aversions


- Humans appear biologically prepared to fear dangers faced by our ancestors

- Most phobias focus on objects that present occasional threats

- It is easy to condition and hard to extinguish fears of such stimuli

Operant Conditioning

Classical conditioning

-  Reflexive responses

-  Stimuli precede response

Operant conditioning

-  Voluntary responses

-  Controlled by consequences following response


-  B.F. Skinner

-  Promoted return to a strict stimulus-response approach

-  Mental events not proper domain of psychology

-  Emphasized how environmental factors mold behavior

-  Research directed at discovering principles governing human behavior

-  Fundamental principle of operant conditioning


-  Specific requirements

-  Skinner box

-  Two types

-  Rats
-  Pigeons

-  Design

Study of Behavior

-  Focus

-  Contingencies of reinforcement

-  Setting

-  Stimulus discrimination
-  Stimulus generalization

-  Response

-  Respondents
-  A response that is unconditionally elicited by some particular stimulus
-  Classically conditioned
-  Operants
-  A response that occurs for no observable reason
-  Emitted not elicited
-  Shaping
-  Law of effect
-  An animal is more likely to perform actions for which it has just been rewarded
-  Gradual molding of diffuse behavior into a specific, well-defined operant

-  Reinforcer

-  Any event that increases the probability of the operant upon which it is contingent
-  Positive reinforcement
-  Reward
-  Increases frequency of response
-  Negative reinforcement
-  Increases frequency of response
-  Involves the removal of a (typically) noxious stimulus
-  Spanish Inquisition Analogy
-  Reinforcement versus Punishment
-  Punishment
-  Decreases frequency of a response
-  Generally ineffective
-  Suppresses behavior
-  Can create unwanted emotional side effects
-  Effective punishment
-  Alternative responses
-  Compliment with positive reinforcement
-  State reason for punishment
-  Immediate punishment
-  Intensity appropriate
-  Inescapable
-  Penalties (removal of pleasant stimuli) rather than physical or emotional pain
-  Used in situations in which the desired alternative behavior involves escape

Schedules of Reinforcement

-  Rate at which a response is reinforced

-  Affects behavior

-  Fixed ratio

-  Reinforces behavior after a fixed number of responses

-  After reinforcement

-  Typically a pause in responding

-  Variable ratio

-  Responses are rewarded an average number of times

-  Unpredictable

-  Produces high, steady rates of responding

-  Resistant to extinction

-  Fixed interval

-  Reinforces first appropriate response after a fixed amount of time

-  Few responses made until time draws near when reinforcement is expected

-  Behavior increases rapidly

-  Variable interval

-  Response is reinforced after a variable amount of time has elapsed

-  Behavior slow and consistent

Cognition in Learning

-  Biological predisposition

-  Constrain capacity for operant conditioning

-  “Instinctive drift”

-  Cognitive Maps

-  Tolman

-  Believed organisms selectively take in information from the environment
-  Cognitive map
-  Experiment
-  Condition 1
-  Condition 2
-  Condition 3
-  11th Day
-  Condition 1
-  Condtion 2
-  Condition 3
-  Results
-  Latent learning
-  Learning that becomes apparent only when there is some incentive to demonstrate it
-  Condition 1
-  Condition 2
-  Condition 3

Observational Learning

-  Vicarious learning
-  Learning that occurs when we observe the consequences of other people’s behavior
-  Involves both cognition and conditioning
-  Direct Observation
-  Children at drawing task
-  Adult working on Tinkertoys
-  Adult attacks a Bobo doll
-  Child taken to a room with a lot of great toys
-  Experimenter interrupts child’s play
-  Takes frustrated child into another room containing a Bobo doll
-  Results
-  Indirect Observation
-  Can learn by watching behaviors on television
-  14 month old boy in a lab
-  Imitating behavior he has seen on TV
-  Children as well as adults are just as likely to imitate positive as negative acts