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Free Classical and Operant Conditioning Essay Sample

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Most of the animals in the homestead can be trained to carry out some specific tasks. Animals like dogs, cats, fowls, cows, and even rats can be trained to learn new behaviors by using various approaches. Learning is defined as a comparatively permanent modification of behavior or knowledge which is attained due to experience or training. Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are found effective to enable animals learn new behaviors (Sonderegger 60).  

Classical Conditioning can be defined as the type of learning that is used by Pavlov's experiments involving dogs. A dog can be trained to associate food with the sound of a ringing bell. In this case the dog will come to take into account sound of the bell whenever it is rung. A neutral stimulus which is also referred to as a CONDITIONED STIMULUS (CS) is presented to a dog for example sound of a bell along with a stimulus of some importance which in this case can be powdered meat. 


When powdered meat is presented to dog, it naturally salivates and this is an UNCONDITIONED RESPONSE (UCR). Just before the powdered meat is presented the bell is rung. So that the dog can be able to associate the powdered meat which is UNCONDITIONED STIMULUS (UCS) with the sound of the bell which is a CS, simultaneous presentation of both powdered meat and sound of the bell should be done for a repeated number of times. With time the dog will produce saliva which is a CONDITIONED RESPONSE (CR) when the bell is rung even when there is no CS is presented.  As far as their immediate physiological responses were concerned, the sound of the bell corresponded with the presentation of the food.                       

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Trainers employ classical conditioning to condition or train autonomic responses, for instance producing adrenaline, or drooling without using the relevant stimuli that would create the response naturally and therefore creating a relationship between a CS and the UCS. The UCS consists of pain, food, as well as other instinctive stimuli.           

Operant conditioning is another type of learning in which a person or an animal develops an association between a particular behavior and its consequence. In operant conditioning, reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are the three core tools. This can also be referred to as response-stimulus conditioning since behavior and consequence in this case are a response and the stimulus that follows respectively. It is advisable that the consequences have to be linked to the behavior immediately and clearly so that association can take place.      

In the case of classical conditioning and operant conditioning, reinforcers are used to elicit and increase the occurrence of elicited behavior. Thus a reinforcer can be defined as anything that increases a behavior for instance makes it stronger, makes it have more chances to occur, or makes it occur more repeatedly. Positive reinforcers are mostly applied by trainers because they are the easiest and most effectual outcome for a trainer to manage. Positive reinforcement of adding something the person or an animal concerned enjoys. The reinforcement is classified into primary and secondary reinforcement (Coon and John 226)

A primary positive reinforcer is natural and the animal doesn't have to learn so that to enjoy something that the animal does not have to learn to like. For instance the salivation of the dog is reinforced by the powdered meat which is a primary positive reinforcer in this case. A secondary positive reinforcer is something which the person or animal must learn to like. Learning in this case can be achieved by classical conditioning or by some other method. The animal trainers usually create a special secondary reinforcer called a bridge which is a stimulus that has been linked with a primary reinforcer by classical conditioning.

So that to train an animal such as a dog to effectively overcome phobia for example those associated with fire, one has to employ the systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization can be defined as a form of behavioral therapy that finds its use within the field of psychology to enable an animal or person to efficaciously defeat phobias as well as other disorders related to anxiety. In more specific terms, it is a kind of classical conditioning therapy that is produced by Joseph Wolpe who is a South African psychiatrist. By this way a given animal or specifically a dog will have learnt a new behavior (Sonderegger 60).

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