Pavlov Conditioning in My Case

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During recent psychology lectures, we have learned a very important concept: Pavlov (Classical) Conditioning. When thinking over this concept carefully, I have found that classical conditioning may provide much explanation for many experiences one has. For me, one notable example would be the strong test anxiety I used to experience during my last one and a half years in high school. It all began with a math exam I took one afternoon, during which time I grew more and more anxious because the exam was so hard and I seemed to be not able to fully concentrate (I felt that the person behind me kept making weak noises). Finally, there was this point where I found I could not focus at all and finish the exam as I usually did. Thus strong fear overwhelmed me as I might fail the exam. I spent the rest 30 minutes of the exam struggling against fear, anxiety and trying to focus but almost in vein. Not surprisingly, I ended up with an ugly score and since then I had suffered great anxiety both before and during exams. What I was anxious about was the relapse of the horrible psychological situation that might prevent me from focusing and solving test problems. In this case, the conditioned stimulus would be exams and conditioned response would be strong fear and anxiety. The unconditioned stimulus was the failure to concentrate in that particular exam and the resulted disappointing score.

This case, however, is a bit different from the general model implied by Pavlov Conditioning which stresses the repeatedness of the tied stimuli in order to induce conditioned response. In my case, the unconditioned stimulus seemed to have shown up only once, yet it led to strong conditioned response. The same thing can be said of the mental trauma among many caused by devastating catastrophes. And I wonder what implications Classical Conditioning could have for the treatment of these psychological problems.

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What a great real-life example! It reminded me of a friend of mine who absolutely hates apples. Really random, I know. But one day she was eating an apple and she got really sick. She wasn't sure if it was from the apple or something else, but ever since then she couldn't eat apples. Whenever she tried, she would start to experience that same sick feeling. She also only experience the unconditioned stimulus once, but the conditioned response stuck with her.

It is true that conditioning can occur with only one occurrence, especially when events are particularly traumatic. For example, food sickness, or getting bit by a dog...

I love that you brought the concepts of psychology into a real life experience. I too have suffered from test anxiety and, like you, I wonder how this and more could be caused and treated with classical conditioning. This also makes me wonder how many other things we could have in our lives that are a product of some sort of classical or even operant conditioning. Wouldn't most of our basic fears be? Interesting to think about.

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This page contains a single entry by peng0233 published on February 26, 2012 2:37 PM.

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