joh09273: October 2011 Archives

Classical Conditioning

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The concept I chose to talk about is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning was first recognized in an experiment performed by Ivan Pavlov. In his famous experiment, he originally was researching digestion in dogs and was observing their salivary responses to the presence of meat powder. However, he also discovered that the dogs would start to salivate even before the meat was in front of them. Previous stimuli, such as footsteps of the assistant as he approached the dogs, caused the dogs to start salivating as well.

After accidentally stumbling upon this discovery, he took on a different experiment that was based specifically on classical conditioning. Once again, he used a dog but this time he had a metronome going off which he referred to as the neutral stimulus. Then he presented the meat powder to the dog and the dog would start to salivate. He repeated this process several times until finally the dog would start salivating to the sound of the metronome. This is the case because the dog was so used to receiving the meat powder at the sound of the metronome that he associated them with each other and therefore salivated without even having to see the meat powder.

I think that this concept is important because it shows how humans and animals become so used to a pattern that at some points they can hear or see or do one thing and then expect a certain thing to happen right after it because that's what they're used to. An example of how this is used is shown in an episode of the show, "The office". In this episode, Jim reboots his computer and after doing so asks Dwight if he wants an altoid. He repeats this process many times and finally one day doesn't offer him the altoid but Dwight sticks out his hand for one without even realizing. Here is a clip of the scene which does a great job of showing how classical conditioning works.

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