What Factors Affect Classical Conditioning?
A look at the factors that can affect classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is arguably an over-simplified explanation of behaviour and as a result can't be used to explain complex human development, personalities and why people often don't associate things with each other.
Factors Affecting Conditioning
- Discrimination - Pavlov tested to see if animals could discriminate between seemingly similar stimuli by presenting animals initially with a tone, followed by a reward of food. The dogs learnt to associate this tone with the sound. Pavlov then used different tones, which generated a limited amount of salivation, but over time the animals learnt to discriminate between the real, original stimulus and the variations that produced no food.
- Extinction - If a person or animal isn't presented with the reward when the stimulus is given, after a few occasions they will learn to disassociate the relationship between the two. However, it has been found that the association does not disappear completely, as when the expected reward is presented again, the association is re-evoked with what is known as spontaneous recovery.
- Generalisation - This is an important issue in conditioning: When presented with different tones, Pavlov's dogs still responded most to the first tone, but reacted also to a lesser extent to the other sounds. Could this explain behaviour outside of Pavlov's experiments? Nervous household pets often fear humans and will seek to either avoid them or meet them with a degree of aggression. Classical conditioning theory would suggest that the animals' previous bad experience with an unkind human has taught them to generalise their fear to other people.