Behaviorism is a school of thought acquainted to psychology, which is in root to the assumption that learning takes place on interaction with the environment. One of the significant aspects in learning theory is the classical conditioning. Classical conditioning entails placing a neutral signal before the occurrence of natural reflex. Considerably, it involves mental states such as feelings, thoughts and emotions in order to explain behavior. Therefore, this paper is to elaborate on the major principles in classical conditioning and how it works.

The unconditioned stimulus (UCS) automatically and naturally triggers a response that in the case. For instance, if an individual smells one of somebody’s favorite foods, he (she) may immediately feel hungry. In the example, smell of food is referred to as unconditioned stimulus. Unconditioned stimulus should naturally trigger response without the use of any other artificial means. The classical conditioning description for a reflexive response displayed by a stimulus without learning is the unconditioned stimulus (Nevid, 2012, pg. 197).

Unconditioned response (UCR) is a term for reflexive response elicited by a stimulus in the absence of learning. Unconditioned response refers to the unlearned response, which takes place naturally with regard to the unconditioned stimulus. From the example above, the feeling of hunger with response to the smell of food is called unconditioned response. The response is triggered from smell obtained from the food and is unconditioned. Therefore, unconditional response is a term that denotes reflexive response indicated by a stimulus without learning.

Conditioned stimulus (CS) is a formerly neutral stimulus that after becoming associated with a conditioned stimulus eventually triggers a conditioned response. For instance, suppose an individual smells his (her) favorite food and then a bell is rung. If smell of the food is consecutively kept with respect to the ringing of the bell, then it eventually triggers a conditioned response. It is evident that whenever the bell is rung, an individual is reminded of the smell of his favorite food. This may happen even when there is no smell of food (Nevid, 2012, pg. 192). Therefore, the conditioned stimulus refers to an initially neutral stimulus, which elicits a conditioned response after its association with an unconditioned stimulus.

Conditioned response (CR) refers to the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus. For instance, the conditioned response in the case above would be hunger when an individual has heard the sound of the bell. However, in classical conditioning it is significant to note that an organism learns to associate a stimulus to the other. If it were for a dog, as represented by Pavlov, the food is an unconditioned stimulus (UNS) and salvation of the dog when the bell rang is the unconditioned response (UCR). Therefore, conditioned response refers to a response brought out by a conditioned stimulus. It takes place after the conditioned stimulus is involved in an unconditioned stimulus. Neutral stimulus (NS) refers to the object or bell in the case that a person has not learnt to associate it with the outcome. Therefore, the bell is neutral stimulus until the dog is able to associate it with food. Neutral stimulus thus becomes the bell (Woodruff-Pak and Steinmetz, 2000, pg. 143).

Acquisition phase in classical conditioning incorporates the consistence of pairing the conditioned stimulus (bell). It also includes the unconditioned stimulus (food) to produce a conditioned response (hunger). Acquisition is the beginning stage of learning during a response establishment at first. In addition, it gradually strengthens as the process of conditioning takes place each time. For instance, imagine the process of conditioning a dog to salivate towards ringing of a bell with presentation of food. If the dog soon acquires the behavior of salivating towards the bell tone, then the obtaining of response is met. Moreover, once the response is obtained gradually reinforcement to the salvation response can be made to ensure that the behavior is well learned.

Extinction is another principle of classical conditioning. It refers to decrease or disappearance of occurrences of a conditioned response. Considerably, in classical conditioning it occurs when a conditioned stimulus losses pairing with the unconditioned stimulus. For instance, the smell of food, which is an unconditioned stimulus, had been paired with the ringing of bell (conditioned stimulus). If the unconditioned response (smell of food) is later not paired with sound of bell (conditioned stimulus), then there is extinction. Therefore, the conditioned response, which is hunger, would disappear (Coon and Mitterer, 2010, pg. 259).

Stimulus generalization refers to the tendency to which the conditioned stimulus evokes similar responses after conditioning the response. For example, if a small kid is conditioned to fear a dog, it is likely to fear objects similar to dog (conditioned stimulus). It occurs when there are slight differences in the presented stimulus and the initial conditioned stimulus. Another good example is that if a dog in the Pavlov`s experiment hears a similar sound from a different bell, it will salivate.

Discrimination is the opposite of generalization. It occurs when a conditioned response fails to take place. This is when there are dissimilar traits between the stimulus presented and the initial discriminated stimulus (Nevid, 2012, pg. 207). For example, if the dog in the Pavlov`s experiment heard a bell with a unique tone and then awarded food (unconditioned stimulus), the dog would learn to salivate to the second tone.

In conclusion, classical conditioning involves placing neutral signal before a naturally existing reflex. Through this, behavior is controlled and nurtured in an individual, for instance, in students. Therefore, classical conditioning is exceedingly crucial in learning as the students are to be conditioned. This helps them relive anxiety or fear and stay calm and relaxed through teachers creating a positive classroom environment.

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