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classical conditioning

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According to the reference in our text book, we can easily conclude that "learning" means the change in organism' s behavior or thought as a result of experience, and it is constituded by two major part - classical conditioning and operant conditioning . During this article , I would like to focus on classical contioning and make a analysis about it .

The so-called classical conditioning is a form of learning in which animals come to respond to previously neutral stimulus that had been paried with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. During the process of classical conditioning, there are four main factors act to finish the whole works : unconditioned stimulus , unconditioned response, conditioned stimulus, conditioned response. Unconditioned stimulus refers to the stimulus that elicits an automatic response, which is the unconditioned response-- automatic response to a nonneutral stimulus that does not need to learn . And the conditioned stimulus means the initial neutral stimulus that comes to elicit a response due to assosiation with an uncondtioned stimulus , and the conditioned response states the response which previously assosiated with a nonneutral stimulus that is elicited by a neutral stimulus through conditioning. Well , I draw a picture to state the relationship among them so that we can understand better and clearlier.

In conclusion, the classical conditoning is a process of stimulus generation, which follows the law of continguity: behaivor change due to stimulus-stimulus continguity.

There are some links to give more evidences of classical conditioning.


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A relevant, real-life topic of discussion is the concept of heuristics and our tendency to sometimes ignore logic when answering questions/problem solving. Humans use heuristics (mental shortcuts) everyday, and for the most part they serve us well. We can flip through the t.v, and quickly identify what we are seeing, and decide if we want to watch it, all pretty quickly. Sometimes though, heuristics can lead us away from the truth by over simplifying and not using concrete logic. Here is an example:

There is a game show where there are three doors. One has a prize behind it and two don't. You have to choose a door, then the host will open another door to reveal a room with no prize. You must then decide whether or not you would like to choose the other door or stick with the one you already chose. Heuristics tell us that it doesn't matter which we do, we have a 50/50 chance of getting the prize. In reality you have a 66% chance of winning if you switch from your original answer. Here is a video that describes why.

Flashbulb Memories

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Something that really interested me was the topic of flashbulb memories. Flashbulb memories are emotional memories that a person can recall in vivid detail, usually for the rest of their lives. They can tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with, when a certain event occurred in their lives.

I believe flashbulb memories to be true, because there are certain events in my life that I can remember so vividly it's like they happened only days ago. One of the easiest to remember, as it is possibly the most traumatic event to happen in my life and never too far from my mind, is when I watched my grandfather die from lung cancer when I was eleven.

I'm twenty years old now, and I can still remember what I was doing when my mom came to get me from school to take my brother and myself out to Wisconsin, where my grandpa was in the hospital (I was watching the clock intently, and counting how much longer I would have to be stuck in class for. Not joking.) I still remember how it felt to go to my grandparent's large, empty house, what it felt like sitting in the hospital waiting room, what my grandpa looked like hooked up to machines, where I would hide away to get a moment away from my family, what I did the night before he was taken off life support.

It's not something I think I'll ever forget. I can't tell you what the date was that he died on, but I remember it was a Sunday, because a woman from my father's church joked early on that morning that my brother and I had "a good excuse to be late for Sunday school", and I've hated her ever since for saying that and for implying that we would show up for church that day at all. I remember that when we got home, I went downstairs and immediately started calling my friends to find someone to play with so I wouldn't have to sit there and think about it, but I don't remember what I did once I found someone to hang out with.

There isn't anything I wonder about when it comes to flashbulb memory. I think it's fairly self-explanatory. The events that happen during a person's life time that impacted their lives in a big way is going to stick with them, in detail, for the rest of their lives. Mostly, I just wanted to write about this because I thought it was interesting. That a person can remember so clearly what they were doing when a certain thing happened, but they can't remember what they did with the rest of their day, or what happened during the days proceeding or following said event is... kind of weird, for lack of a better word.

Animals and Human Language

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A concept that has interested me is animals and learning human language. Humans give animals less credit than they deserve for understanding and being able memorize certain things to be able to communicate with us.
Throughout history, scientists have tried to communicate with animals though voice. Specifically, they have tried this with our closest animal relatives, chimpanzees. It turns out that although they are very smart animals, they do not possess a vocal apparatus similar to ours. Chimpanzees' vocal apparatus does not permit them to create the vocal range and coordination that we can create with ours. Because of the differences in vocal apparatuses, scientists took a more realistic approach, which was using either sign language or lexigram boards. Lexigram boards allow them to point out certain shapes or symbols that stand for specific words.
Besides chimpanzees, Bonobo monkeys have shown to be able to memorize and understand the way that humans communicate. Kanzi, a male bonobo has exhibited advanced aptitude for language. As an infant, Kanzi was taught how to communicate though lexigrams. Learning each of the symbols, he was able to string them together to create conversation. According to one psychologist, Kanzi once touched the symbols for "marshmallow" and "fire", and once he was given these things, he snapped twigs for a fire and lit them with a match, then roasted the marshmallows on a stick. This shows that instead of just pointing to random symbols for just food or just for playing, Kanzi is able to string words together to carry out tasks.

I think this would be very cool if in the future we were able to communicate with animals more than we are now. We could see what other animals thought and felt, even past just scientific experiments.
Lilienfeld text

Conditioned Taste Aversions

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Discovered by psychologist Martin Seilgman, conditioned taste aversion shows that classical conditioning can cause us to develop an avoidance to the taste of food. Although this response to food is classically conditioned, it is different than other instances of classical conditioning. Conditioned taste aversions tend to only require one trial to develop, while most classically conditioned reactions requite multiple repeated trials. Conditioned taste aversions also tend to be very specific and show almost no evidence of stimulus generalization. These differences in classical conditioning are actually a good thing. If there were multiple trials, we would be experiencing events such as food poisoning multiple times.
I believe that this research finding is important to know because almost everyone has at some point experience food poisoning, and it is important to know what foods to stay away from. Knowing that it also creates problems for cancer patients going through chemotherapy is also important to realize why they experience nausea and vomiting.
When i was about 7 years old i went to a restaurant named Islands with my family for dinner one night. I clearly remember eating chicken tenders for that meal. A few hours later i was up out of bed with terrible food poisoning. From that day on I would not dare to touch chicken tenders not only from Islands, but from any other restaurant. Over time i have overcome this conditioned taste aversion, but I still have never forgotten it.

Modeling in Child Behaviors

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Modeling in children is a form of learning. It is learning by observation, then imitation of the adults around them. Modeling seems to be one of the most prominent ways of learning for babies and toddlers. For example, when a two year old sees her mother vacuuming the living room, she will likely find her toy vacuum and move it back and forth like she is vacuuming the living room as well. We all find this adorable. Now what if this same mother, instead of vacuuming, flipped off the mail man every time he dropped off the mail? The child may associate the mail with this and begin this behavior. Still just as adorable? Some might say well, "do as I say, not as I do." This just simply is not how it works.

Slate Magazine wrote an article titled, "I Spy Daddy Giving Someone the Bird." The emphasis this article is trying to convey, is that your children, or children in general, watch you more than you think. The things you do and say in front of them influence their development and their actions greatly. Understanding that modeling or imitation occurs should be used as a tool to influence children to do the "right" or even the "responsible" things. For example, saying please and thank you, holding the door for someone, or wearing your seat belt. Children are very impressionable, and your actions "rub-off" on them. Who knows, by paying more attention to how we act when children are around might teach us as adults to act in more polite and responsible ways.

Anterograde Amnesia

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When ever I think of short term memory I think of the movie 50 first dates. Drew Barrymore's character has Goldfield syndrome which is a made up form of anterograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is when a person loses the ability to form new memories after a traumatic event. They are usually still able to remember their memories from before the accident but are not able to create new long term memories because they cannot connect their past to their present. It is usually caused by a traumatic event that effects the hippocamus in the temporal lobe but less severe forms of this are sometimes caused by exteme alchohal consumption, sometimes called a "blackout." When someone blacks out they are unable to take short term memories and store them in long term memory. I didn't realize that "blacking out" was a form of amnesia. I find this really interesting and I think if more people thought of consuming too much alchohal and not remembering it as amnsia they maybe wouldn't drink as much. I think that it's interesting that anterograde amnesia can either be very short term or permenant.

Classical Conditioning

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Classical conditioning is a way organisms learn things by connecting Condition simuli and response with unconditioned stimuli and response. One of the most common examples is Pavlov's experiment with the german shepard. A conditioned stimulus-CS (a whistle) that is neutral and produces no response, is paired with an unconditioned stimulus-UCS (meat powder) to create a conditioned response. Whats happening is the meat powder, the UCS, automatically makes the dog salivate, this is known as the unconditioned response-UCR. By pairing a neutral stimuli to the UCS, over time the dog is conditioned to respond not only to the UCS but the CS alone. In the end you have a dog salivating to only the sound of a whistle.

If i where to apply this to my own life I could make the example of eating at a mcdonalds. Over the past few years I spend most of my time out and about driving and skateboarding wherever and whenever. Combine that with having little money and needing food to live I find myself at mcdonalds frequently. They have good (tasting) food at cheap prices. Over time just being in a mcdonalds made me happy. The CS was the atmosphere of a mcdonalds, the UCS was buying the food and eating it, the UCR was satisfaction and happiness, and the CR was happiness.

Why is classical conditioning important? Because it can bring light on to many daily situations such as my mcdonalds one, and explain why we behave in certain ways.

How Could I Make That Mistake.....?

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        Reading the chapter in the Lilienfeld textbook on how memory works has elucidated so many instances in my life for me that before I didn't understand at all! For example, why sometimes when I'm writing something quickly in English I'll accidentally conjugate a verb in French. Instead of writing "she dances" I would write "she danse". I would always quickly realize my mistake however, and rewrite the verb correctly in English but I'd be puzzled as to why this occurred. I figured as much that it had something to do with my learning of French intervening with my English. However, until I read the Lilienfeld textbook I didn't know that what happened to me had a real term, it's called Retroactive Interference. A simplified definition of it is that learning something new can potentially interfere with something you've already learned.
       Retroactive interference is an important concept and research finding. One reason it is important is because it helps in part to explain why we forget. Researchers have found that it is a major factor in forgetting. It explains why when read a list of items we have trouble remember the ones further to the end of the list. Also, Retroactive interference can apply to just about anything you learn not just languages!


I'm sure scientists don't know everything there is to know about retroactive interference and I still have some questions as well. Something I'm still wondering about is how it may possibly connect to bilingualism and language learning. I wonder if it and Proactive interference(the opposite of retroactive interference) play a part in why second languages are so hard to learn. Do young kids not have this problem since second languages are significantly easier for them to learn and with no effect to the language they learned first?

Here's a link to a video that can demonstrate visually the concepts of retroactive interference and proactive. <iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Framing Effect

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Framing Effect
Here is an interesting but confusing math problem: suppose you are a rational businessman who is facing two deals. The first deal is already fixed. You can earn 850 dollars for sure. Another deal you have 85% possibility to earn 1000 dollars, but leaving 15% possibility that you earn nothing. If you are a risk aversion type, you probably prefer to take the first deal. Actually most people will take the secured option when encounter the same situation because people like to choose "off the peg" good. By calculating the actual earnings of deal 2, we can learn that actual earning is the same as 850 (1000*0.85+0*0.15=850). Then let's focus on another situation: you are still the rational businessman but now facing another two different deals. The first deal is also very fixed: you are going to loss 850 dollar for sure. the second deal you have 85% possibility to loss 1000 dollar but leaving 15% possibility to loss nothing. Most people will choose the second deal cause when facing the "losing situation" people has a fluky psychology to avoiding losing. Although by calculating the actual losing of deal 2 we can learn it equals to the same result just like deal 1(-0.85*1000-0.15*0= -850).
According to the definition from "Lilienfeld text", "Framing" refers "the way a question is formulated which can influence the decisions people make". "Framing effect" is well applied to different areas: marketing, advertising, political election campaign and so on. People always are more sensitive to "losing" than "achieving". Based on this psychology, marketing strategy always connect the "buying our products" to "saving more or getting more". I felt very interested in this phenomenon because I am majoring in economics. There are many decision-making situations which applied the "framing effect". People are always ignoring the actual results hiding behind the delusive description. What we really need to do is just keep remind to ourselves "Being rational!"

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