Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a form of associative learning according to which a neutral stimulus acquires the ability to produce a specific reaction because of its systematic association with another independent-unconditional stimulus that triggers the same or similar reaction. The standard procedure for establishing classical conditioning includes presentations of a neutral stimulus along with a significant stimulus. A stimulus is neutral when it doesn’t cause an apparent behavior-response and it is called conditioned. An unconditioned stimulus is a significant stimulus that necessarily leads to a natural reflective response. A new reflection is created. The way of interconnection (allusion) between two stimuli is called conditional reflex and is achieved through the process of classical conditioning and occurs a significant change in behavior. The continuous repetition of the sequence “stimulus-response” creates a connection that results in an automatically certain reaction.
Ivan Pavlov was the first one to introduce classical conditioning as a combination of stimuli which accompanied an action and their repetition would be followed by that action (association of an operation with specific desired results and then the repeat of the act looking forward to the same results) by performing an experiment using dogs (when he was giving food to the dogs they were salivating as normal and he started ringing a bell every time he was giving them food so they associated the sound of the bell with food and every time the dogs heard the bell they salivated). According to behaviorists in classical conditioning conditional reactions (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) are effects that arise through learning initially automatic reflexes and then the actual acquired conditional reflexes. The mechanism of conditioning is that all behaviors are responses to stimuli. There is a biological tendency for conditioning in which some stimuli are more likely to combine than others. (The emotion’s involvement reinforces classical conditioning).
Classical conditioning has been demonstrated in several species using different methodologies. It is used to a great extend in animal training, clinical psychology (behavioral therapy), education, design, advertising and other media.  Its usage can be direct and indirect (through stereotypes and archetypes since their creation is based on learning by classical conditioning).


Advertising is mostly based in classical conditioning (besides all human beings are classical conditioned). The idea behind its use in advertising is simple. Companies want to make ads that bring forth a severe response in the viewer or reader exposed to the ad. This makes the advertised ‘product’ the Conditioned Stimulus. The ultimate goal of the ad is to make viewers associate the feeling they had with the ‘product’ when they come across with it in real life. This means that the feeling is now the Conditioned Response.
Here are some examples of advertisements that work this way. The 'product' is paired with other stimuli-emotions (positive or negative).

coca cola

The product (coca-cola) is paired with desire that can be seen in woman's face or even the desire that the woman can cause. Desire is what the viewer is going to feel next time he sees a coca-cola.


This ad associates smoking with death so the viewer will have to think a lot before smoking again!


When the viewer of this ad comes across 'clorets' will probably feel a sock in his mouth!


As I mentioned above classical conditioning is used in education and especially in young grades. Thereforε it doesn't just apply in my job as a kindergarten teacher but it constitutes a basic learning process that can be combined effectively with operant conditioning (the theory that a behavior can be modified by reinforcing desired behaviors and daunting undesired) and other behavioral theories in teaching. It is a part of most of the pedagogical methods used in class, since one of the basic duties of educators is to try to create associations between students’ stimuli and positive emotions. Learning is an issue of creating links between stimuli and responses. Children are born with very few reflexes and develop their personalities through continuous conditionings. Human behavior can be taught. According to behaviorists our mind is like a computer for which no one has the instructions how to use it. If we don’t learn how to program our mind there will be others who would happily do it for us (such as advertisers I’ve mentioned above or teachers) through conditionings and especially classical conditioning. This is what makes it a very powerful form of teaching and learning. School phobia and anxiety are based on classical conditioning. It is responsible for students’ positive or negative feelings for teachers, subject material and education in general. An important thing a teacher can do through classical conditioning is to create an unstressed positive learning environment.

Applying classical conditioning through digital media could be very effective in teaching. What’s easier than making students have a positive response in class by using attractive pictures and pleasant sounds? Teachers could also create and use educational software in which characters, pictures, sounds are associated with students’ pleasure and fun (such as comic heroes, movie characters etc.). Educators could also help students transcend phobias they might have through classical conditioning. The association between a stimulus and a response is stronger when the response is accompanied with a positive emotion. In order to preserve classical conditioning, teachers should reinforce the substitute stimulus with the presentation of natural stimulus, avoiding any depreciation.





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