Classical Conditioning Question

Could you please go over classical conditioning? ex: UCS, UC, CR, UCR? I’m having a lot of trouble understanding it.

Jasmine, these can be complicated for many folks as the terms are relatively new for most. To start, conditioning is essentially learning. In Classical Conditioning, one is learning by association (relating different things as if they are one). The basic premise is that one takes two things seemingly unrelated and eventually is conditioned to react as if they are one. For example, when the bell rings at school, students automatically get up and leave the classroom. They would never do this at home because a random bell would not be associated with time to leave.

To appreciate where the UCS, UCR, etc fit in, one needs to appreciate that a Stimulus (s) is a cause and a Response ® is the reaction to that cause. So the bell (s) causes the students to leave ®. When something is unconditioned (UCS), it means no learning/associations were necessary. I stub my toe (UCS), I automatically grab my foot (UCR). Pavlov’s dog sees food (UCS) and drools (UCR). The time on the classroom clock (UCS) moves me to leave the classroom (UCR).

When something is neutral it means things are not causing a reaction. A car in neutral on a flat surface will not be caused to move anywhere. So a Neutral Stimulus (NS) would not cause any response ®. In the classroom, before any schooling the bell meant nothing to kids. It was just a sound. Until the teacher started saying, it’s time to leave when the bell rings. After a couple of days in school, we figured out that the once neutral bell (NS), when associated with the time (UCS) means time to leave (UCR). This is where CS and CR become apparent.

Conditioned Stimulus (CS) essentially means “under these conditions” a response will occur. A Conditioned Response (CR) is simply the response “under those conditions.” So in class, the student is now conditioned to leave (CR) to the once-neutral bell (CS). Note: the NS will always become the CS. The bell was neutral and now it brings a conditioned response (CR). Pavlov’s dog, the bell was neutral (NS), until the dog realized that the bell always brought food (UCR) until the bell became the Conditioned Stimulus (CS).

In a nutshell: UCS, UCR, NS are before learning/conditioning takes place. CS and CR are after the NS is continually associated with the UCS.

Last example: “Eat Fresh” is associated with Subway sandwiches by most people. This is how this came about:

UCS: Subway Restaurants
UCR: think of their sub sandwiches
NS: the jingle “Eat Fresh”
CS: “Eat Fresh”
CR: Think of Subway sandwiches

Sorry for the long explanation. Please let me know if you need anything else.

Bob Gawlitta

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