Examples of Classical Conditioning (A Complete Guide)

A learning process discovered by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, that occurs between a naturally occuring stimulus and environmental stimulus through association is known as classical conditioning.

This type of learning has its own major influence and impact on the school of thoughts in psychology.

In this article, we will discuss classical conditioning and examples of classical conditioning. 

How Does Classical Conditioning Work?

The basic concept of classical conditioning is to get a learned response because of the forming of an association between two stimuli reactions.

This conditioning process can be further divided into three phases.

First we will discuss phases of  classical conditioning and examples of classical conditioning. 

Phase 1: Before Conditioning

The first part of the classical conditioning process requires a naturally occurring stimulus that will automatically elicit a response.

Drooling in response to either the look of the food or its aromatic smell is a very good example of a naturally occuring stimulus. 

During this phase of the processes, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) results in an unconditioned response (UCR).

For example, if you present a food in front of someone (the UCS) especially when they are hungry it will automatically trigger a salivation response  (the UCR).

There is a neutral stimulus present which normally does not invoke any response or have any effect unless it is paired with one of the UCS which as a result end up in a learned response.

Classical conditioning involves two critical components to happen, one of them is the unconditioned stimulus that triggers a response naturally without any condition.

For example, when you see or smell a food delicately prepared or your favorite one you either immediately feel hungry or start drooling over it, here the smell or the delicate look of the food is the unconditioned stimulus.

Whereas, the second part is the response that occurs naturally because of this unconditioned stimulus also known as the unconditioned response, in the example stated above the feeling of hunger is the unconditioned response that occured because of the unconditioned stimulus that is the smell of the food. We will discuss examples of Classical Conditioning below.

Phase 2: During Conditioning

The second phase of the classical conditioning occurs when the neutral stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus repeatedly.

As there are multiple occasions for the same pairing to happen, it ends up forming an association between the unconditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response making the neutral stimulus as the conditioned stimulus (CS).

After this association is formed, the person or the subject is now conditioned to respond to such association.

Phase 3: After Conditioning

The third phase in the conditioning phase is after the association is formed between the CS and UCS, which will result in evoking a response every time the conditioned stimulus is present without the need for unconditioned stimulus.

Now here the resulting response that occured because of the conditioned stimulus is known as the conditioned response.

We will discuss examples of Classical Conditioning now.

Examples of Classical Conditioning

Below are the classical conditioning and examples of classical conditioning from our daily routine. 

  1. Classical Conditioning of a Fear Response

The most famous example for instilling a classical conditioning on a subject is that of an experiment taken out by John B. Watson, who conditioned a fear response on a little boy known as Albert.

The child when came in contact with a white rat, showed no fear of the rat but once the rat was paired up with scary loud sounds, the child started feeling fear and would cry in the presence of the rat.

This feeling of fear was not limited to only rats and was also further generalized over other fuzzy white objects.

  1. Classical Conditioning of Taste Aversions

One of the other examples of classical conditioning can also be seen in the development of taste aversions.

These phenomena were first observed by researchers Bob Koelling and John Garcia when they noticed that the rats which were exposed to nausea=causing traditions have developed an aversion to flavoured water rather than normal water and tend to go towards it even when both water are present in front of them.

In the example stated above, nausea is the unconditioned response that is developed because of the unconditioned stimulus that is the radiation.

After these two are paired, it resulted in the conditioned stimulus that is the flavoured water.

Researches carried out later also proved that such kinds of aversions related to classical conditioning can be produced by pairing of a single unconditioned stimulus with a conditioned stimulus.

Some researches also found out that these aversions can even develop in such cases where the conditioned stimulus is present way before the conditioned stimulus, in some cases several hours. 

One of the research questions is why such associations develop over so quickly ?

The obvious answer is the instinct to survive as these associations can have survival benefits.

For example, if an animal eats something and falls ill, it needs to avoid the same thing in future otherwise there is a greater chance of his death or illness with continuous use, this is a great example of biological preparedness and some of these associations develop at a rapid pace because of these survival instincts. 

4. . Smartphone Tones and Vibes

One of the other examples of classical conditioning. One of the examples of classical conditioning is the smartphone tone and vibes.

Even if you are in a public area or a crowded one and you hear a specific familiar tone, you at once go for your phone with certainty that it is your ring, which might not be the case and the ring might be from someone else’s phone. 

In this case, the tone or chime of the mobile phone notification is a neutral stimulus.

Through the process of classical conditioning you have associated it with the positive feeling of attending a call or reading a message and reach for your phone whenever you hear such a tone, even if it is not such a case. 

5. Celebrities in Advertising

One of another examples of classical conditioning is the celebrity endorsements.

The advertisers in this case are taking advantage of our association with these celebrities in order to compel us to buy more stuff or services from them.

In reality, the celebrity does not have to do anything with the product but if a celebrity is advertised with the product, the potential customers start to have the same positive feeling about the product as they have about the celebrity. 

6. Restaurant Aromas

One of another examples of classical conditioning included conditioning with restaurant aromas.

One of the real world examples is the aroma coming out of different restaurants when you visit them.

One of them can be seen in Pavlov’s original experiment where as soon as you enter the shop you can smell the aromatic smell of fresh pizza coming right out of the oven and you start salivating even before you have ordered or bitten anything. 

7. Fear of Dogs

One of the other unconditioned stimuli is the fear of dogs for a child.

It can be seen that while a child is walking towards its school, he came across a house with a dog having sharp teeths barking at him which might instill fear in the child’s mind.

As the child becomes older this fear of dogs will be present there and even dogs become a neutral stimulus if the child comes across any house with a sign of “Beware of dog” and a dog with sharp teeths.

The person can get unnerved and start to tremble. 

8. A Good Report Card

Report card is nothing more than a piece of paper but the reaction evoked by what’s written on it can also be considered as a part of classical conditioning and can also motivate one to do better.

Let’s assume every time you bring in a good report card your family takes you out for dinner so it becomes a conditioned stimulus.

So next time when you have a good report card, you automatically become happy with the thought of going out for eating as you are already anticipating it. 

9. Experiences in Food Poisoning

There are both positive and negative experiences in life that can result from the classical conditioning in everyday life.

One such example is if you ordered a dish or a type of food which you have never eaten before and ends up getting food poisoned, you will always try or avoid to eat that type of food or dish or anything related to it.

Even the sight of such dishes later on can make you feel sick in the stomach. 

10. Excited for Recess

One of the other happy experiences that everyone feels in their childhood is playing outside with their friends or the recess period in school.

The bell to the recess period is always full of joy and children are waiting for it to happen with happiness in their eyes.

In start this bell is neutral as it is loud but as children learn to make friends and play during their recess they kind of start waiting for it with positive emotions and anticipating good memories. 

11. Exam Anxiety

Other examples of classical conditioning included exam anxiety.

The pencil, the printed sheets of paper, the desk, the chalkboard, and all the other inanimate objects that surround writing a test or exam in school are all neutral stimuli in and of themselves.

This happens because students have associated themselves later on along with the nervous ticking clock wall and stress to writing a test which generates a negative response in most cases.

An often overlooked aspect of SAT practice is gaining a comfort level with exam conditions.

If you can try to replicate those conditions and provide positive associations, you won’t feel as nervous or stressed when you’re writing the actual test.

12. Routine Immunizations

Other examples of classical conditioning included fear from Routine Immunizations.

When a child goes in for a routine immunization, they may not know exactly what to expect.

After they feel the slight pain of the shot, they may start to cry and get upset at just the sight of the needle on subsequent visits.

If there is a lineup of children, the kids further back in the line can start to get upset when they see other children crying after receiving their immunizations.

13. Holiday Music

The hope for many retail stores is that you have positive associations with Christmas music.

That’s why they play the holiday classics over the speakers. This “festive spirit,” they hope, will lead you to purchase more items.

This is somewhat similar to how advertisements pair celebrities or depictions of positive experiences with their products.

FAQ about examples of Classical Conditioning 

What is classical conditioning in learning?

Classical conditioning was identified by Pavlov and yet has become the basics of associative learning. 

Classical conditioning is basically a learning outcome that happens when a neutral stimulus comes in association with another stimulus generating a naturally occurring response. 

What is the difference between operant and classical conditioning?

Both operant conditioning and classical conditioning are the processes whose end result is learning.

While operant conditioning works with voluntary behaviours, classical conditioning works up with the responses that are involuntary.

What are the 3 stages of classical conditioning?

The three stages of classical conditioning include: Before Conditioning, During Conditioning, and After Conditioning.





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