Classical Conditioning Essay

Classical Conditioning Essay

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Classical conditioning developed from the findings of Ivan Pavlov laying the foundations for behaviourism which was the dominant approach in psychology from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Behaviourism studied the nature of relationships between the environment and the fact of observable behaviour. This essay will describe the important features of classical conditioning, consider their use in explaining pathological behaviour and will be answered using a variety of empirical evidence from academic texts, journal papers focussing on the following topics: the findings of Ivan Pavlov and the conditional reflex, the components of classical conditioning, acquisition, extinction, spontaneous recovery and stimulus generalisation, the work of Watson and Rayner with little Albert and conditioned fear response and finally, how phobias and addictions can be explained by classical conditioning.
The work of J.B Watson and other behaviourists argued psychology should be indicative of predicting and controlling overt behaviour using the conditional reflex. (J. B. Watson, 1994) In 1938 Watson published his paper outlining the behaviourist’s interpretation, discussing this as a new psychological, scientific and objective experimental approach in examining observable behaviour. (J. B. Watson, 1994) Classical conditioning as discussed by (Clark, 2004) was realised through the work of Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov for his findings in the areas of physiology and digestion. Nevertheless, in his acceptance speech he only referred to the phenomenon of conditional reflexes. Pavlov used dogs in his experiments where the amount of saliva secreted was measured when the dog was presented with meat powder. The paradigm as defined by (Colman, 2009) is one...


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Colman, A. (2009). Oxford dictionary of psychology (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dhir, R. N. (2007). Educational psychology. India: Global Media.
Field, A. P. (2006). Is conditioning a useful framework for understanding the development and treatment of phobias? Clinical Psychology Review, 27(7), 857-875. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.05.010
Gleitman, H., Fridlund, A. J., & Reisberg, D. (1999). Psychology (5th ed.) W W Norton.
Wanigaratne, S. (2006). Psychology of addiction. Psychiatry, 5(12), 455-460. doi:10.1053/j.mppsy.2006.09.007
Watson, J. B. (1994). Psychology as the behaviourist views it. The Centennial Issue of the Psychological Review, Vol 101((2)), 248-253. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.101.2.248
Watson,J.B. & Rayner,R,. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55(3), 313-317. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.3.313

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