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A type of learning in which a neutral stimulus, when paired with an unconditioned stimulus, starts generating the same response as that generated naturally by an unconditioned stimulus and becomes conditioned is called classical conditioning.
The stages or principles of classical conditioning are acquisition, extinction, Spontaneous recovery, stimulus generalization and Stimulus discrimination explained in detail in article Classical Conditioning and its principles.
1 a) Experiment:
Ivan Pavlov performed an experiment to explain the phenomenon of classical conditioning. He attached a tube with the salivary gland of a dog to measure the amount of saliva. He used to ring a bell (neutral stimulus) and then give food (unconditioned stimulus) to the dog under observation. In the initial days, the dog salivated at food only. But when the experiment was repeated for multiple days, he observed that the dog salivated (conditioned response) at the ring only. In other words, we can say that neutral stimulus (ringing bell) has become a conditioned stimulus.
APPLICATIONS OF CLASSICAL CONDITIONING
Classical conditioning explains many aspects of human behavior. It plays an important role in generating emotional responses, advertising, addiction, psychotherapy, hunger etc. Classical conditioning also finds its application at school, post traumatic disorders or associating something with the past. These are explained as follows:
1. Emotional Responses:
Classical Conditioning plays an important role in generating negative and positive emotional responses.
1.1. Negative Responses:
Emotions such as fear, phobias etc are strengthened by associating these emotions with animals, weather, or some other place or things. People often fear reptiles, dark places and insect phobias. Some people often associate fear with stormy weather.
1.2. Positive Responses:
Classical conditioning is also responsible for generating feelings of happiness, feelings of relaxation e.g. thinking of going on a trip makes one feels happy, for relaxation one might choose his friend’s house ,reaching home after a long time makes one happy and relax as well.
Advertising is a field where classical conditioning is used the most. Companies’ use various models for this purpose e.g. cartoon characters are used in commercials of those products which are associated with kids. In the same way, female models are used in those ads in which products are associated with females or housework. Similarly sports personalities for products associated with men.
People addicted with caffeine and nicotine found in tea, coffee or in the form of smoking material feels relaxation even before its intake.
Classical conditioning also finds its application in psychotherapy. It is often used in systematic desensitization to treat phobias or fears. Aversive therapy is also one of the applications of classical conditioning. In this therapy, behavior is modified by combining a nausiatic substance with the unwanted behavior or habit (smoking/ alcoholism) which causes vomiting or makes you feel bad. In this way, the unwanted behavior is vanished slowly.
Some people feel extremely hungry only on the sight of restaurant or some other place where food is provided. This is due to the association of restaurant or hotel with food.
6. Post-Traumatic Disorders:
Sometimes people, who has experienced a war or some other battle, often feel a rush of fear and anxiety when they see a small fight or are stuck in a situation similar to the one experienced during days of war.
7. Association of something with the past:
Sometimes people associate an object or place with a past. E.g. one might associate a song with the great times he or she spent with his/her friends or some other pleasant event can be associated with a place visited in the past.
8. Classical conditioning at school:
If the environment at school is very strict, children might associate fear with school or might give birth to school phobia. In the same way, if the environment of school is very friendly and pleasant, a feeling of attraction or comfort can be developed with the school by the children.
9. Conditional Drug Response:
Sometimes the bad taste or result of taking the drug could also make you feel bad. In extreme cases, the mere sound of that drug could make you feel bad e.g. children often start vomiting only at the name of cough syrup or some other drug.
Though there are a lot of other fields as well where classical conditioning has found its applications, but the above explained applications are the most commonly observed.