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Classical Conditioning

Also known as Pavlovian, or respondent conditioning.

There are three stages to classical conditioning:

1. Before conditioning, an unconditioned stimulus produces an unconditioned response.  For example, a dog salivates when food is put in front of it.

2. During conditioning, a neutral stimulus – something that does not usually elicit any behavior at all in the dog – is presented before the unconditioned stimulus. For example, a bell is rung immediately before food is put in front of the dog.  This is done many times, so that they dog comes to be able to use the neutral stimulus to predict the arrival of the unconditioned stimulus.

3. After conditioning, the dog has learned that the neutral stimulus predicts the unconditioned stimulus.  He will start to salivate when he hears the bell because he anticipates the arrival of food.   The bell is now a conditioned stimulus, because it makes the dog respond in the same way he would to the unconditioned stimulus.

The key difference between classical and operant conditioning is that in classical conditioning, the dog does not have to do anything on purpose, only to react to the stimulus in the way it normally would.

Classical Conditioning can be positive or negative, building a pleasant or unpleasant emotional association.