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Classical Conditioning

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"According to Passer and Smith (2001), Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who won a noble prize for his research on digestion and discovered classical conditioning somewhere around the 1860s." Classical Conditioning is defined as "A procedure in which a formerly neutral stimulus (the conditioned stimulus) come to elicit a conditioned response by virture of being paired with an unconditioned stimulus that naturally elicits a similar reponse (the unconditioned response) (Passer & Smith, 2001, Ch. 1)." In short, classical conditioning has to do with involuntary behavior. For example, you become really sick and start throwing up from drinking too much alcohol at a party you went to. The following day, you smell a hint of whatever alcohol you drank the night before and you start to feel nauseated and it makes you want to throw up. The conditioned stimulus (CS) is the smell of the alcohol and the conditioned response (CR) is wanting to throw up. This CS elicits a conditioned response because it's a cause effect. When too much alcohol is consumed, it makes you vomit. So every time you smell alcohol, it will make you want to throw up. The unconditional stimulus (US) would be nausea and the unconditional response (UR) would be throwing up. So basically when you pair up the CS with the US, the smell of alcohol will make you feel nauseous.

Aviophobia is the fear of flying and can be acquired through classical conditioning. For example, this fear of flying can form when someone has a panic attack while the plane is still flying in the air. Because of that panic attack, every time that person thinks about flying in an airplane or even just the thought of an airplane, they get nervous or become very fearful of airplanes. Ever since that person experienced that panic attack, that person is afraid of flying in an airplane even though they have not ridden in an airplane since then. This automatic response of fear that this person feel is what makes this phobia acquired through classical conditioning. This person now feels fear (CR) every time they think of an airplane (CS) because of the panic attacks they experience. The unconditional stimulus (US) would be the panic attack that person has during the flight. The unconditional response (UR) is the automatic response of fear that person experiences. The conditioned stimulus (CS) would be the airplane itself and the conditional response would be fear.

This response of fear never goes away because this person never goes through the process of extinction. Extinction is basically when you face your fears straight up without the unconditional stimulus which in this case is the panic attack. This person would need to be exposed to the conditioned stimulus, which is airplanes, without the unconditioned stimulus, which is the panic attacks, and go through numerous trials to get rid of the conditioned response of fear.



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