3. Classical Conditioning

And here you were thinking that you like FCUK because they make quality
A simple form of learning, which occurs through
repeated association of two (or more) different
Sometimes called “respondent conditioning”
Learning is said to have occurred when a
particular stimulus consistently produces a
response that it did not previously elicit.
Learn to associate two events, stimuli,
eventually, one stands for the other in our
How does your dog know its time for a walk?
Why do certain songs have meaning to different
Why do people have phobias?
Why cant I ever, ever, ever eat that again?
Why do we buy ‘brand name’ products?
ALL of these things are learned through classical
Advertisers are conditioning you to buy their
The discovery of CC was an accident
Pavlov (1899) wanted to study digestion and the
role of saliva
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology
and Medicine in 1904 for his work.
Flow of saliva occurred naturally when food
(meat powder) was placed in the dog’s mouth
(salivation is an involuntary reflex response)
Rerouted saliva ducts to a test tube via a fistula (narrow
opening in tissue) so measurements of saliva could be
Dog was restrained in a harness to hold it in desired
position and minimise influence of extraneous or potential
confounding variables.
Food placed in dog’s bowl and dog was observed by a
series of mirrors so it could not see or be distracted by the
Early tests measured amount of saliva, later ones the rate
(speed) of saliva flow also.
Research ran into trouble when the dogs
began to fill their cheek tubes before the food
was presented
The dogs were learning to anticipate food at
the sight or sound of the lab tech guy who
had been preparing their food. (e.g. Rattling
of spoon against container as food was
Clear evidence of a type of learning that was
based on the repeated association of 2
different stimuli.
A stimulus is any event that elicits (produces)
a response from an organism.
A response is a reaction by an organism to a
In Pavlov’s experiment:
Stimulus of food
Response of salivation
But eventually:
Stimulus became sight/ sound of lab tech
Response produced was salivation
Salivation response is controlled by autonomic
division of PNS – it occurs involuntarily.
Learning results by CC from linking the stimulus
(that would not normally produce the response),
over a number of trials, with a stimulus that
normally produces the response automatically.
Later experiments, Pavlov varied the stimulus
and found the salivation response could be
induced after repeated associations with a range
of stimuli (e.g. Tug on hind leg, a bell, a light, or
the sight of a circle)
The Neutral Stimulus (NS) - the name given to the conditioned stimulus
before it becomes conditioned. In Pavlov's experiment NS = Bell or Lab
technician etc…
The Conditioned Stimulus (CS) - the stimulus which is neutral at the start of
conditioning. It wouldn't normally produce the Unconditioned response
(UCR), but does so eventually because of its association with the
Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS). CS = Bell or Lab technician etc…
The Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) - Any stimulus that consistently produces
a particular response. In Pavlov's Exp. UCS = food.
The Unconditioned Response (UCR) - A response which occurs automatically
when the Unconditioned Stimulus is presented. In Pavlov's experiment. UCR =
The Continued Response (CR) - the behaviours which is identical to the UCR
but is caused by the CS after conditioning. In Pavlov's expt. CR = Salivation in
response to the Bell (CS).
Association refers to the pairing or linking of one
stimulus with another stimulus.
E.g. Newborn infant can learn to associate
appearance of mother’s breast, smell of
mother’s breast of sight of a feeding bottle (CS)
with the placement of nipple in infant’s mouth
(UCS). After association is made between the
stimulus and the pleasurable experience of
feeding, the infant begins sucking (CR) in
anticipation of the unlearned UCS.
UCS – Walking
UCR – Excitement
UCS – Good times with friends
UCR – Positive mood
NS – Lead
CS – Lead
CR – Excitement
NS – Song
CS – Song
CR – Positive mood
The dog has learned to
associate the dog lead
with being taken for a
We learn to associate the song
with the good times we had
UCS – Good looking people, fun, sexy, cool, happiness
UCR – Feeling good / desire to be like this
NS – Coke
CS – Coke
CR – Feeling Good about coke / desire to buy coke
We learn to associate coke with positive images. Coke
becomes meaningful and we are more likely to
purchase it over other drinks
UCS –Images of attractive, fit, cool, famous,
successful, tough people
 UCR – Desire to achieve status of modes
NS – Nike
CS – Nike
CR – Desire to achieve status of models /purchase
We learn to associate Nike with being fit, cool, fun,
high status, successful thus we are more likely to
purchase Nike over Big W brand because we do not
associate Big W with any of these ideas
UCS – rebellion, alternative, cool, counter
UCR – feeling unique and hip
CR – FCUK making us feel unique and hip
We learn to associate FCUK with the image of
rebellious cool, we are thus more likely to
purchase FCUK over Target clothing.
Because we are conditioned to see tangible
value that is not there!
Physically the products are often made from
the same materials, sometimes even in the
same factory (footwear and clothing
The value we perceive is emotional!
Advertising adds emotional value to a
Coles-Myer executive quoted in response to an
official enquiry – “non-branded footwear often
incorporates the same or similar methods of
construction, technology and
components/materials. Moreover it is often
sourced from the same factory as branded
footwear. The commercial reality is that
without a brand the consumer perceives no
value that warrants a premium price.”
Advertising executive – “If you think about what
Pavlov did, he actually took a neutral object
and, by associating it with a meaningful object,
made it a symbol of something else, he imbued
it with imagery, he gave it added value, and
isn’t that what we try and do in modern
On average people in western countries are
exposed to 9000 advertising messages a day
When subjects drank un branded cola only the
taste sensing parts of the brain become active
When subjects could see coke labelling the
hippocampus (memory) and parts of the frontal
lobe (emotions etc) also became active
Recognition and positive reaction to Coke has
been hard wired into the brain
Nearly half of the worlds 8 – 12 year olds say that
the clothes and brands they wear describe who
they are!
Advertising to children aims to create hard wired
‘brand loyalty’
If they get you young enough they can ensure
that your brain becomes wired to prefer their
You then continue to purchase their product out
of habit
Acquisition is the overall process during which an
organism learns to associate two events (CS and the
During acquisition the CS and UCS occur close
together in time and always in the same sequence.
Duration of acquisition is usually measured by the
number of trials it takes for the CR to be acquired
(Each paired presentation of the CS with the UCS is
referred to as a trial)
Timing of CS and UCS is extremely important in the
acquisition process.
Pavlov found that a very short time between
presentations of the two stimuli was most effective.
Other studies show about ½ second is ideal with many
different species.
Acquisition is often more rapid when CS occurs and
remains present until UCS is presented.
End of acquisition is said to occur when the CS alone
produces the CR. Conditioning is said to have taken place.
A conditioned stimulus-response association
is not necessarily permanent.
Strength of the association may fade over
time or disappear altogether.
Extinction is the gradual decrease in the
strength or rate of a CR that occurs when the
UCS is no longer presented.
Extinction has occurred when the UCS is no longer
presented along with the CS
Eventually the CS becomes meaningless
CR stops
Extinction has occurred when a CR no longer occurs
following presentation of the CS.
e.g. Pavlov’s dogs ceased salivating (CR) in response
to bell (CS) presented alone after a number of trials in
which the food (UCS) did NOT follow the sound of the
Extinction rates vary between individuals
(people or animals) of the same conditioned
There is also variation between rates at which
different responses will be extinguished.
Simple behaviours (tapping pen and blinking)
can be extinguished more quickly than more
complex behaviour patterns (intense fear of
bathrooms due to association with cyclones).
Extinction has occurred but is not always permanent.
A rest period takes place.
Spontaneous recovery is the reappearance of a CR
when the CS is presented, following a rest period
(when no CS is presented) after the CR appears to
have been extinguished
e.g. Eye blink could occur to sound of tapping alone
without a puff of air
CR is weaker than when first conditioned
Spontaneous recovery does not always occur.
When it does occur it is often short-lived.
If extinction procedure is repeated several
times, eventually the CR will disappear
altogether and spontaneous recovery will not
The organism will respond by producing a CR to stimuli
that are similar to the CS, but usually at a reduced level.
Eg. Dogs in Pavlovs experiment would salivate to other
noises that sounded like a bell (a chime, front door bell)
Stimulus generalisation is the tendency for another
stimulus (one similar to the original CS) to produce a
response that is similar (but not necessarily identical) to
the CR.
Eg. A child who was bitten by a dog now fears all dogs not
just pit bull terriers
The greater the similarity between stimuli, the greater
the possibility that a generalisation will occur.
Evident in everyday life – e.g. Flinch at many forms of
loud noise, many foods can make us salivate even if
we’ve never eaten it before.
Stimulus generalisation is rarely an intentional or even
a conscious process but has a valuable adaptive role.
e.g. Child burnt by lit match may generalise pain to
other naked flames such as lit gas stove, fireplace etc.
Stimulus generalisation can be detrimental or even
E.g. Dog instinctively snaps at annoying flies may also
snap at a wasp with painful consequences.
E.g. Girl pecked by family’s pet duck may develop a
bird phobia (intense, irrational fear) as an adult.
This helps us understand why some fear responses can
be triggered by non-threatening stimuli.
Stimulus discrimination occurs when a person or
animal responds to the CS only, but not to any
other stimulus that is similar.
Eg. Your dog gets excited when you put your
Nike runners on, not any other white shoes
 Eg. Consumers only by coke, not any cola in red
and white packaging
 EG. You only buy billabong, not the rip off
surfalong brand
 E.g. Bite from a particular type of dog doesn’t
cause fear for other breeds of dog.
Ethical? Not really….
Classical conditioning is a systematic procedure
through which associations between stimuli, or events
in the environment, are learned, resulting in a
conditioned response.
It is a relatively simple type of learning.
Behaviours that have been classically conditioned
may occur so automatically that they appear to be
Pavlov used the term conditioned reflex to describe
what is now known as the conditioned response.
Classically conditioned responses are acquired
through associative learning.
(e.g. Brake lights on vehicle in front we learn is a signal
the vehicle is slowing down and we put our foot on the
brake as soon as we see the brake lights).
Responses such as this involve anticipatory behaviour
(same as Pavlov’s dogs salivating at sight of lab tech.
in anticipation of food)
Learning through classical conditioning may be
involuntary and relatively simple but the responses
are not as “thoughtless” or “mechanistic” as Pavlov
Pack your books at sound of bell
Answer the phone when it rings
Leave umbrella at home when there is a blue sky
Flash of lightning signals impending thunder
Specific tone indicates text message received
Can also account for more complex behaviours
such as fears and phobias.
(e.g. Cringing at sound of dentist’s drill is a
conditioned response based on previous
experience/association with drill and potential
A conditioned emotional response is an emotional
reaction that usually occurs when the autonomic
nervous system produces a response to a stimulus
that did not previously trigger that response.
Drilling of tooth is the UCS
Drill becomes the CS
Conditioned emotional response is fear
Some phobias are beneficial to your survival (e.g.
Poisonous spiders) but others can be psychologically
harmful (e.g. Fear of soft, furry animals or cuddles).
Higher order conditioning has another level
of associative process in classical
conditioning, involving the introduction of
another (or several) conditioned stimulus.
(CS2) which is presented immediately after
the first conditioned stimulus (CS1) until it
alone produces the response.
Before conditioning
UCS (walk) leads to UCR (excitement)
During conditioning (acquisition)
UCS (walk) leads to CR (excitement) associated with CS1
Higher order conditioning
CS1 (leash) leads to CR (excitement) associated with CS2
(small change rattled)
The dog will eventually respond to the small change
rattle alone (one CS is replaced with another).
Can fears be learned?
1920 U.S. Psychologist John B. Watson and graduate
student Rosalie Rayner.
Test the elief that fears can be acquired through classical
Albert B (“Little Albert”) 11 month old son of woman who
worked at same clinic as Watson.
Albert was selected as he “practically never cried”, was
stable and “on the whole stolid and unemotional”.
The experiments on Albert were held irregularly over a 17
day period.
UCS – Loud noise (banging steel bar)
UCR – Fear
NS – White Rat
CS – White Rat
CR – Fear
Through repeated association (paring) of the
loud noise and the white rat, little Albert learns
to fear the white rat.
 The Rat becomes a signifier for the fear
producing loud noise
Watsons research would never be allowed today
Beneficence – benefits outweigh the risks?
Informed Consent – Albert’s mum didn’t know
Debriefing – never happened as Albert’s mum left her job at the
clinic and left the town (Baltimore) where the experiments were
Withdrawal rights – Albert subjected to severe anxiety and stress
but no attempt was made by the experimenters to end the
experiment and attend to his distress in an appropriate way.
No ethical guidelines or standards for professional conduct of
researchers had been fully established at the time.
Intense, irrational and persistent fears of specific
objects of situations
Phobias are complex instances of conditioned
emotional responses (CC)
UCS – 9/11 attack on World Trade Center
UCR – fear
NS – low flying planes
CS – low flying planes
CR – Fear / anxiety to low flying planes
The trauma of witnessing the 9/11 attack has become
associated with low flying planes now this alone
causes fear.
Research shows that damage to the amygdala
impairs both the acquisition and expression of a
conditioned fear response
Amygdala involved in regulation of the fear
Amygdala involved in learning the emotional
significance of an event / memory
Can effect the consolidation of memory –
stimulation better recall, retardation poorer
In most cases, a CR acquired through classical
conditioning will extinguish if the UCS is not paired
with the CS at least occasionally.
But sometimes, the association is so strong that it
persists over time and intervention is needed to
extinguish the association, particularly if the CR
interferes with “normal” functioning in everyday life.
(e.g. Fears)
Psychologists have applied classical conditioning
processes to develop therapies for treating phobias
and other mental health problems where fear and/or
anxiety play a prominent part.
Exposure therapy is a therapeutic technique
used to treat phobias and fears.
One type of exposure therapy is graduated
exposure which involves presenting successive
approximations of the CS until the CS itself does
not produce the CR.
The client is gradually in a progressive way
exposed to increasingly similar stimuli that
produce the CR requiring extinction and
ultimately to the CS itself.
The client is gradually “desensitised” to the fear or anxiety
producing object/event.
Used to address fear of flying, fear of heights, public
speaking anxiety, paruresis (shy bladder syndrome).
 1. Therapist and client work to “break down” then organise the
anxiety/fear into a hierarchy of increasingly difficult encounters.
 2. Step by step exposure to each fear producing situation,
starting with the least frightening. Done at client’s own pace
with support from therapist. It may involve imagining each
situation using visual imagery (imaginal exposure), real-life
exposure (in vivo exposure) or use of virtual reality technology.
Best results appear to occur with real-life graduated
E.g. Fear of flying – therapist might sit on the plane
with the client, then may take their first flight
together while therapist helps person remain calm
and engage in muscle relaxation. The therapist might
arrange for the client to meet with the pilot for
By confronting their fears with support, the client
learns to tolerate the fearful situations or stimuli and
the fear (of flying in the above example) is eventually
Attempts to replace fear
response with relaxation
patient taught relaxation
gradually introduced to
fear inducing stimulus
while practicing relaxation.
Paruresis is an anxiety disorder that involves difficulty or inability
to urinate when another person (or people) are around.
No difficulty urinating at home alone, but may experience
hesitancy or difficulty when visitors are in their home. Public
facilities cause most difficulty.
It is a type of “social phobia” involving performance anxiety not
unlike “stage fright”.
It causes distress during everyday activities and interferes
significantly with a person’s ability to conduct everyday activities.
It is a common type of social phobia, ranking second only to fear
of public speaking. Up to 7% of population (1.5 million Australians)
may experience a mild, moderate or severe form of paruresis.
Flooding is another type of exposure
therapy, that involves bringing the
client into direct contact with the
anxiety or fear producing stimulus
then keeping them in contact with it
until the CR is extinguished.
Expose the patient to their fear
straight away
They will panic at first
Contact may take up to 2 hours or
more and can be in vivo, imagined or
using virtual reality devices.
Soon realise that nothing bad has
Aversion is a complete dislike for something. Aversion therapy is a form
of behaviour therapy that applies classical conditioning principles to
inhibit (“block”) or discourage undesirable behaviour by associating it
with unpleasant stimulus (e.g. feeling of disgust, nausea or pain).
The aim is to weaken or suppress the undesirable behaviour.
E.g. nail biting and foul tasting substance
Sometimes used to treat alcohol abuse or smoking
UCS – Drug
UCR – Nausea
NS – Alcohol
CS – Alcohol
CR – nausea
The alcoholic learns to associate alcohol with the drug induced nausea
Wiens and Menustick (1983) treated 685
participants with aversion therapy for alcohol
addiction with a nausea-inducing drug.
 1 year later – 2/3 not had an alcoholic drink
 3 years later – 1/3 not had an alcoholic drink
 Baker (1981) suggested that drugs which cause
intestinal distress are more effective in
establishing aversion than external sources such
as electric shocks.
Using aversion therapy to quit smoking, a
client might smoke a cigarette from a device
that also holds a second cigarette containing
a nausea-inducing chemical.
Short term results may only occur though, as
the client may learn that the nausea is only
experienced when they smoke two cigarettes
in this type of apparatus, not when they
smoke a regular, single cigarette.
Conflicting results:
Forrest (1985) used a drug called Antabuse
(causes severe flushing dizziness, nausea and
headaches) shortly after alcohol consumption in
aversion therapy research.
Longitudinal studies (long term) indicate that
chronic alcoholics tend to avoid alcohol while on
Antabuse but tend to return to drinking alcoholo
after stopping taking the drug.
The learned aversion often fails to generalise
to situations other than those under which
the learning took place.
This may be due to the conditioning being
dependent on cues that indicate the aversive
stimulus will follow.
First used in the 1930’s to treat alcoholism –
individuals with alcohol addiction given an
aversive stimulus (painful electric shocks)
whenever they could see, smell or taste
Today, instead of electric shocks, nauseainducing drugs are paired with alcohol
consumption to make the individual feel ill.
Alex is a violent criminal who
undergoes aversion therapy as
part of his sentence for murder
UCS – Drug
UCR – Nausea
NS – Violence
CS – Violence
CR – Nausea
Alex learns to associate
violence with the drug induced
nausea thus making him
aversive to violence
Using PET and fMRI studies have founds that classical conditioning
activates areas of the cerebral cortex and lower brain structures including
the cerebellum, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and
Tone (NS) paired with shock to write (UCS) showed on PET scans specific
areas of the frontal lobe in the right hemisphere were activated.
Neutral words (no conditioning) presented with threat related words
(conditioning) showed in fMRI that threat words activated a different
part of the cerebral cortex than neutral words.
Studies on eye-blink conditioning show the cerebellum is activated (as it
plays a vital role in maintaining co-ordinated movement and balance).
Fear studies show that the amygdala is activated indicated on fMRI when
fearful faces shown rather than neutral faces. So was an area of the
frontal lobe involved in interpreting emotions.
Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again!
A taste aversion is a conditioned response that results
from a person or animal establishing an association
between a particular food and being or feeling ill after
having consumed it at some time in the past.
The association is usually the result of a single experience
and the particular food will be avoided in the future.
Taste aversion arises from a learning experience that is
similar to classical conditioning (association between a CS
(smell/taste of food) and UCS (nausea producing
Difference is it tends to happen after just one “trial”.
Same mechanism as CC
Takes only one pairing
Resistant to extinction
Not often generalised
Most common examples are aversions to
One trial learning is a type of learning involving a relatively
permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of one
experience only.
It is like but IS NOT a type of classical conditioning.
CC takes several trials and responses can extinguish relatively
One trial learning occurs after one trial only and is considerably
resistant to extinction (due to very powerful response – feeling or
being ill).
Classical conditioning associations between CS and UCS occur
closer together whereas one trial learning the CR can occur as late
as a day or so after the CS is consumed but is mentally associated.
The ability to generalise the CS to other similar
stimuli occurs in classical conditioning but not in
one trial learning.
In taste aversion acquired through one trial
learning, other stimuli do not substitute for food
as the CS.
Conditioning of a taste aversion is sometimes
known as the “Garcia effect” after US
psychologist John Garcia who pioneered it’s
Garcia suggests that animals tend to associate
aversive stimuli in certain ways that foster their
survival, but do not associate aversive stimuli if
these do not threaten their survival.
Learned taste aversions based on just one
experience can be very adaptive – animals that
learn quickly what not to eat/drink will probably
live longer and produce more offspring.
Garcia and Koelling (1966) used 20 thirsty 90 day old male
2 experimental groups – both groups offered saccharine
flavoured water to drink from a tube and when rats in both
groups licked the tube they heard an unfamiliar clicking
noise and a bright light flashed. One group though had
this paired with receiving a painful shock to their feet and
the other group paired this with a dose of illness-inducing
radiation via X-rays.
All rats refused the saccharine flavoured water when
offered on a subsequent occasion. They had seemed to
develop a taste aversion to saccharine flavoured water.
Next, Garcia and Koelling tested same rats under a different
Rats were given either saccharine flavoured water NOT paired
with light or noise OR unflavoured water that WAS paired with
same light and noise as previously used.
Rats who had originally received electric shock refused water
when given with light and noise but had no objection to saccharine
 Rats who had become ill from radiation avoided the saccharine
flavour but were content to drink water accompanied by light and
Results indicated that the UCS influenced what the rats had
Suggests that rats may tend to associated stimuli in particular
ways that foster survival.

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