Introduction to Studies and Terminology

Introduction to Studies and Terminology

Learning occurs when we absorb new information which changes the way we think or behave in the future.

Pavlov was an influential scientist who set up experiments which explored learning through association. An example of this may be found in the trials he did with a dog. He found that the dog had learnt to associate feeding time with the bell that accompanied it. He knew this because every time the bell was rung the dog would salivate. This is called classical conditioning.

Extinction: Pavlov then stopped ringing the bell at feeding time and the dog quickly learnt that the two were no longer connected. Pavlov called this extinction.

Spontaneous recovery: Despite the dog having learnt that the sound and the food were no longer connected, Pavlov discovered that if he suddenly rang the bell some time after extinction had occurred the dog would start salivating again. This he termed spontaneous recovery.

Generalisation: In different trials Pavlov used a bell with a different tone and the dog still salivated. He called this generalisation because the dog was broadening its response to a general stimulus, in this case a bell sound.

Discrimination: Pavlov then used a variety of bell sounds but would only give the dog food when a specific bell sound was produced. In time the dog learnt to discriminate between the bell sounds and only salivated when the appropriate bell sound was heard.

Terminology: It is important to understand the various terms when examining Pavlov’s work. And unconditioned response (UCR) is the response someone has, often of a reflex nature, which occurs without it having been conditioned or learnt. In this case it is the dog salivating when it is given food. The food is therefore the unconditioned stimulus (UCS). The conditioned stimulus (CS) is the stimulus deliberately used to provoke the response. In our case it is the ringing bell. When the dog has learnt to respond to the bell by salivating, this is known as the conditioned response (CR).

Practical Applications Advertisers are happy to use classical conditioning to encourage people to buy their product. They may do this by advertising products on television alongside images of beautiful women, famous people, great music or desirable locations. They hope that by doing so you will learn to associate their product with the positive feeling their advertisement inspires. At teacher training college teachers are trained to give engaging, lively lessons so that students associate the subject with the experience they have in the classroom.