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Pavlovian Conditioning

Most every student of psychology has been introduced to Pavlovian conditioning, also known as classical conditioning. Based on research by a Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov and his famous dogs, classical conditioning is a type of learning in which the following elements are present:

  • A conditioned stimulus (CS)
  • Paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US)
  • The goal is for the subject to produce a conditioned response (CR)

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Pavlovian Conditioning

Pavlovian Conditioning and Training

Although he worked with other sounds, the general story is told of how Pavlov would ring a bell (CS) when food (US) was presented to his dogs. The dogs would salivate (CS) and would the associate the ringing of the bell with food, so that they would salivate when the bell was rung without food (CR). Pavlov also discovered that the shorter time interval between the ringing of the bell and the appearance of food strengthened learning.

Pavlov's Nobel Prize

Pavlov stated that conditioning does not produce new behaviors, but responding in old ways to a new stimulus, and that the CR was a substitution for the UR. This is the stimulus-substitution theory. However, critics have pointed out that the conditioned response and the unconditioned response are not always the same. Pavlov earned the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work. Conditioning became the basis for the school of behaviorism, best exemplified by B.F. Skinner.

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