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Classical conditioning is a basic type of learning, first demonstrated by the experiments of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov. In its most basic form, classical conditioning is the process by which an organism learns a new association between two paired stimuli -- a neutral stimulus and one that already evokes a reflexive response.Pavlov discovered what is now called classical conditioning while conducting a series of experiments on the digestive systems of dogs, which required him to collect the additional saliva produced as the dog ate. During the experiment, however, Pavlov noticed that the dogs would begin to salivate at the mere sight of food, or even at the sight of the food dish. In short, they had the same response to previously neutral stimuli -- food bowls -- as they did to the stimulus with the reflexive response, in this case, food.
Pavlov continued to build on this experiment by pairing a number of neutral stimuli, including metronomes and bells with the food stimulus, and he found that all the experiments worked just as well as any other neutral stimulus. This led him to the conclusion that classical conditioning is today founded on: namely, that any neutral stimulus the subject can perceive can be used to produce any response by the subject to a stimulus with a reflexive response, also known as an unconditioned stimulus.The whole learning process of classical conditioning begins with acquisition. During the acquisition stage, the subject is exposed to a conditioned stimulus, followed by an unconditioned stimulus. As this process is repeated, the subject forms an association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus and begins to react the same to both.There are several variations in classical conditioning as well, notably, stimulus generalization and discrimination. Generalization occurs when the subject becomes so conditioned that they respond not only to the conditioned stimulus, but to items similar to the stimulus as well. Discrimination is the opposite, occurring when the subject becomes able to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and other stimuli that have not been used. For example, if the stimulus were a telephone ringing, the subject would not respond to similar sounds, such as a doorbell.But the process works in reverse as well. As Dennis Coon, co-author of Introduction to Psychology describes it, "If the unconditioned stimulus never again follows the conditioned stimulus, conditioning will extinguish or fade away...this process is called extinction." That is to say, the longer a subject goes without the reinforcement of the association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus, the weaker his or her response will be, until it becomes extinct. Sometimes the subject will experience a spontaneous recovery, during which he or she will respond to the conditioning as before, but it is usually short-lived and extinction generally occurs soon afterwards.The concept of classical conditioning has become a fundamental part of the behaviorist school of psychology as it continues to influence psychological research today,
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behavior behaviorism classical conditioning conditioning exercises ivan pavlov operant conditioning pavlov pavlov's pavlov's dog psychology unconditioned stimulus
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