Classical condition is a familiar topic to me, having scratched its surface in 7th grade biology. Unfortunately, I longer have the book to recall what was covered. Still, I can remember that we did not discuss the subject in as much detail as in AP Psychology now. All I learned, as far as I can remember, was that organisms from the Animalia Kingdom could learn to respond to a new stimulus as they would do to an old one. I learned from TV that spiders can eventually learn, i.e. after eight trials, to ignore scientists’ tapping on their webs, which had a specific pattern. I thus tend to believe other animals take time to learn as well.

I have been able to come up with a mathematical analogy of classical conditioning. However, for convenience, I shall state it here verbally. Let A lead to B. Thus, if A is congruent to C, then C leads to B. In this analogy, A and B are the unconditioned stimulus and response, respectively and C is the conditioned stimulus. When paired with C, however, B becomes the conditioned response. Being mathematically inclined, I find this simple analogy very helpful.

Mr. Marshall recommended that we give three examples of two concepts classical condition – acquisition and extinction – in our own lives but here I will only bring up two because I have already discussed one (on acquisition) on the previous blog post. Dog theft is currently a problem in Vietnam (guess what! Animal protection laws are virtually non-existent and many, most of them North Vietnamese, like to eat dogs). What happens is that the thieves give the house dog an apparently delicious bait, which either stuns or disables the dog. The thieves are then free to steal the dog and sell it to a dog food restaurant (in the case of a burglar, he/she has successfully overcome the house’s first line of defense). In order to prevent this, a method has been introduced. Dogs should be trained to eat from their owners only and preferably in a specific container. To do so, feed the dog in a container other than the one designated for that purpose. Add unpleasant tastes to the food, e.g that of chillies. After a few trials, the dog will shrink from food provided outside that specific container.

Another example of acquisition in classical conditioning from my personal experience is similar to Pavlov’s studies on dogs. This one, however, is accidental. We fed our dog with manufactured dog food, as well as rice. The container of the dog food, or dog snack, made a rather special noise when moved. My dog eventually acquired the association between this sound and a meal. Unfortunately, that meant she mistook the sound of human snack, such as peanuts, for her meal.


2 responses »

  1. Mr. M. says:

    When I was in elementary school, we had a German shepherd police dog that was trained to only eat from her owners. We used to have fun showing off to friends. The process you’ve described is taste aversion. We’ll get to that eventually.

  2. […] On Classical Conditioning (Week 10) ( […]

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