Classical and operant conditioning are behavioral learning theory, applicable and used in modern societies; according to behavioral learning theories, interactions with the environment have an effect on internal mental states like thoughts which in turn reinforces or discourages a certain behavior (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). This paper discusses classical and operant conditioning, it will use real-life examples to elaborate on the theories.
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Classical conditioning example
On September 11, 2001, I was 100 meters away from the World trade center; I heard the plane bang the building and the explosion thereafter. I also got a chance to see casualties and was among the rescue team. What resulted thereafter is I feared plane; every time I heard a plane passing, I was filled with fear that there might be an explosion I feared planes passing.
Analysis of the conditioning
When I got the experience and had a chance to see the effects of the explosion, I acquired conditioning.
Today over nine years after the explosion, I have been able to overcome the fear, I can now hold passing planes and not think that an explosion will occur, the conditioning has been extinct by time.
After visiting New York nowadays, and happen to be near the attacked building, a passing plane creates some fear in me. This happens despite the occurrence of having been erased from my memory.
When the feeling and the conditioning was fresh, a bang and a strong engine sound could cause fear in me.
When the conditioning was fresh, I could well differentiate the sound of a passing plane (jumbo planes), war jets, and vehicles.
Unconditioned stimulate (US)
The sound of the passing plane was the unconditioned stimulus.
Conditioned stimulus (CR)
The fear that I got was the conditioned stimulus.
Conditioned response (CR)
The association of the sound of the plane with the terror attack was a conditioned response.
Unconditioned response (UR)
The sound of the plane is the unconditioned response (Ludwig, 2010).
In Michigan, I had an experience where a sniffer dog was used to detect narcotic drugs from a passenger. What the dog did, after smelling the drugs, sat next to the bag that contained them; and then a security officer gave the animal some dog food that the dog seemed to enjoy.
The food that the dog was given is used to reinforce a certain behavior in the dog (sitting down when it gets the smell of narcotics in passengers).
The unconditioned stimulus was the smell of narcotics that created a certain reaction in the animal. In the above example, it portrays an example of a positive reinforcement where the behavior conditioned in the animal is used to detect drug traffickers. In the dog’s minds, it is aware that after the detention of the smell, then it will be rewarded by food and that is why it is alert to have the smell detected.
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When the dog was sniffing passengers’ luggage, the security officer was whistling; the dog waived its tail as a sign of recognition of the security officer. The more the officer whistled, the more aggressive the dog became. The reaction and the conditioning was fixed-ration conditioning; since the animal was made aware of the smell it was looking for and after getting the smell, it was expected to sit next to the luggage with the smell waiting for food reward from the security officer (Feud & Strachey, 1976).
Feud, S. and Strachey, J. (1976).The complete psychological work of Sigmund freud. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Ludwig, E. (2010). Classical Conditioning. Web.
Olson, M. & Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009). An Introduction to Theories of Learning. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.