Applications of Classical Conditioning

Psychologists have applied the concepts of classical conditioning to many new situations in the last several decades. Here is a set of links to earlier parts of this textbook where classical conditioning is applied or put into action.

1. Chapter 2 mentioned Kagan and Snidman's (1991) speculation that shyness might be due to an overactive amygdala. Emotional reactions are generally classically conditioned reactions, as we will see in the coming section on CERs (conditional emotional responses).

What are some examples involving classical conditioning, from earlier chapters?

2. Chapter 3 described the repeated re-discovery of two modes of consciousness. The two can be doubly dissociated by brain injury. Bechara, Tranel, Damasio, Adolphs, Rockland, and Damasio (1995) used a fear conditioning classical conditioning task to show this.

3. Chapter 4 mentioned perception without awareness as a category of experiences that resemble ESP without actually involving unknown psychic powers. In fact, the "powers" involved are probably classical conditioning, in many cases, because classical conditioning does not necessarily involve conscious processes. To use the example from that chapter, a person could respond to a police car seen in peripheral vision or in the rear view mirror without realizing what the stimulus was or where it came from, leading to what seems like an uncanny coincidence.

And we could go on. Research using classical conditioning is booming in the 21st Century. However, this was not always the case. For most of the middle 20th Century, American psychologists paid classical conditioning little attention, except for teaching their introductory psychology students about Pavlov's dog. That situation started to change in the late 1960s with the discovery that individual nerve cells could be conditioned using Pavlov's methods.


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