Essay on Classical or Operant Conditioning

Essay on Classical or Operant Conditioning

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Classical conditioning developed from the findings of Ivan Pavlov, laying the foundations for behaviourism. From this J.B Watson and other behaviourists argued psychology should be indicative of predicting and controlling overt behaviour using the conditional reflex. (Watson, 1994). This essay will describe the important features of classical conditioning, consider their use in explaining pathological behaviour and will be answered using empirical evidence. The earlier part of the essay will focus on the development of the classical conditioning paradigm and cover the following topics: the findings of Ivan Pavlov and the conditional reflex and the components of classical conditioning. The latter part of the essay will cover: the fear response, how phobias and addictions can be attributed to conditional reflex paradigm. Additionally, will briefly describe therapeutic work in extinction of pathological behaviours and pose an argument for a more heterogeneous explanation of acquisition.
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 referred only 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 of the two key processes of learning, the other being operant conditioning. In classical conditioning the pairing of a conditioned stimulus creates a conditioned response. (Clark, 2004) describes the process and components. The unconditioned stimuli (US) produced an unconditioned response (UR). Pavlov did...


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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
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