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Classical Conditioning (Unconditioned Stimulus/Response, Conditioned Stimulus/Response)

Unconditioned Stimuli & Responses: An unconditionditioned stimulus (US)/Meat Powder natually elicits the target response, which is referred to as the unconditioned response (UR)/Salivation

Conditioned Stimulus & Response: A conditioned stimulus (CS)/Neutral stimulus that does not naturally elicit the target response, but after being paired w/the US many times, it produces a conditioned response (CR).

In Pavlov's original studies, the meat powder was the unconditioned stimulus and salivation was the unconditioned response. 

A tone was the conditioned stimulus; &, as a result of its pairing with meat powder, the tone eventually elicited a conditioned response of salivation.


Forward Conditioning

Classical conditioning is most effective when a forward conditioning procedure is used (Presentation of the CS preceded or is simultaneous w/presentation).

  1. Delay Conditioning: Most effective & involves presenting the CS so that it precedes & overlaps presentation of the US.
  2. Trace Conditioning: Involves presenting & terminating the CS before presenting the US.
  3. Simultaneous Conditioning: Involves presenting the CS & US at the same time (Least Effective).

Regardless of the number of pairings of the CS & US, the CR is ordinarily less in magnitude than the UR


Backward Conditioning

The US is presented prior to the CS


Classical Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery

  • Classical Extinction: is the elimination of a classically conditioned response by repeatedly presenting the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus.
    • Once a CR has been est., the CR eventually disappears when the CS is repeatedly presented w/out the US, extinction of the DR occurs.

Often, an extinguished conditioned response shows

  • Spontaneous Recovery: It recurs in response to the CS following extinction without additional pairing of the CS and US.
    • Following the apparent extinction of a CR, the CR returns when the CS is subsequently presented alone.
    • Suggests that extinction suppresses (rather than eliminates) a CR.


Stimulus Generalization

In operant & classical conditioning, stimulus generalization refers to responding w/a particular response to similar stimuli.

  • Classical conditioning, it refers to responding to stimuli similar to the CS also elicit a CR.
  • Operant conditioning, it refers to responding to the stimuli similar to the discriminative stimulus with the target behavior.


Stimulus Discrimination and Experimental Neurosis

(Classical conditioning)

  • Stimulus Discrimination: Training is used to reduce stimulus generalization by teaching the organism to respond w/a CR only in the presence of the original CS.

When discrimination are difficult, the organism may exhibit

  • Experimental Neurosis: It may perform unusual behaviors such as restlessness, aggressiveness, or fear.


Higher-Order Conditioning

Higher-Order Conditioning  involves 2 steps:

  1. First, is ordinary classical conditioning in which a CS (bell) is paired w/the US (Meat Powder) until a CR (Salivation) is established.
  2. Second, the original CS is treated like a US & is paired w/ a second neutral stimulus so that it also elicits a CR (Bell + Flashing Light, till flashing light prod. salivation)

occurs when the CR elicited by the 2nd CS is less in magnitude than the CR elicited by the original CS.




In classical conditioning, blocking occurs when an association has already been established between a CS and US and, as a result, the CS blocks an association between a second neutral stimulus and the US when the CS and the second neutral stimulus are presented together prior to the US.


Reciprocal Inhibition

Reciprocal inhibition is a form of counterconditioning developed by Wolpe to alleviate anxiety reactions by pairing a stimulus (CS) that produces anxiety with a stimulus (US) that produces relaxation or other response that is incompatible with anxiety.


Systematic Desensitization/Dismantling Strategy

  • Systematic Desensitization: was developed by Wolpe as an application of counterconditioning (reciprocal inhibition) for eliminating anxiety responses & involves pairing hierarchically arranged anxiety-evoking stimuli with relaxation to eliminate anxiety.
    • Begining w/the least anxiety-arousing situation, each situation is paired in imagination w/an unconditioned stimulus that elicits relaxation.
  • Dismanyling Strategy: suggests that extinction (rather than counterconditioning) is responsible for its effectiveness.


In Vivo Aversion Therapy/Covert Sensitization

In-Vivo Aversion Therapy (Overt Sensitization): utilizes counterconditioning to reduce the attractiveness to reduce a stimulus or behavior by repeatedly pairing that stimulus or behavior in "real life" (in vivo) w/a stimulus that produces an undesirable or unpleasant response.

  • Pairing alcohol consumption w/electric shock to reduce alcohol use is an example of in vivo aversive counterconditioning. In this situation, the alcohol is the CS, the electric shock is the US, and the fear or discomfort is the UR/CR.

Covert Sesbitization: is similar to in vivo aversion therapy except that the CS and US are presented in imagination.

  • Uses counterconditioning to eliminate undesireable self-reinforcing behavior
  • Research has shown that aversion therapy has good short-term effects but that relapse rates are high & is usually combined w/CBT techniques that focus on reducing relapse such as anxiety management, coping skills training or lifestyle modification.


In Vivo Exposure with Response Prevention/Flooding

In-Vivo Exposure with Response Prevention: is a classical extinction technique that involves exposing the individual in "real life" (in vivo) to anxiety-arousing stimuli (the CS) w/out the original US while preventing the individual from making his/her usual avoidance response.

  • Based on the assumption that an anxiety-arousing object or situation is a CS & that repeated exposure to the CS will result in extinction of the CR
  • Exposure must be for a sufficiently long period of time.

Flooding: is a type of exposure that involves exposing the individual to the most anxiety-arousing stimuli for an extended period.


Implosive Therapy

Based on the assumption that certain events are consistently avoided to reduce anxiety & that prolonged exposure to those events w/out the US will produce extinction of the anxiety response.

Conducted in imagination & involves presenting the feared stimulus vividly enough so as to arouse high levels of anxiety.

Believed that avoidance behavior is learned during childhood & represents conflictual rel. to sexual/aggresive impulses & images embellished w/psychodynamic themes.


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR was originally developed as an intervention for PTSD but has since been applied to other disorders. It combines rapid lateral eye movements with exposure and other techniques drawn from cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic approaches. Some research suggests that its effectiveness is not due to rapid eye movements but, instead, to exposure to the feared event (i.e., to extinction)


Law of Effect/Thorndike

Thorndike's Law of Effect proposes that, when behaviors are followed by "satisfying consequences," they are more likely to increase or occur again.

This theory was originally derived from studies in which hungry cats were placed in "puzzle boxes" & had to perform a particular behavior in order to escape from the box and obtain food.

Concluded that learning is due to connections that develop btwn behaviors & stimuli as the result of trial-and-error.


Operant Conditioning/Skinner (Reinforcement and Punishment)

According to Skinner, most complex behaviors are voluntarily emitted or not emitted as the result of the way they "operate" on the environment (i.e. as a result of the consequences that follow them). Skinner distinguished between 2 types of consequences:

  • Reinforcement: is a consequence that increases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated
  • Punishment: is a consequence that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will recur.

He also distinguished between positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, with

  • "positive" referring to the application of a stimulus (consequence) following a behavior and
  • "negative" referring to the withdrawal or termination of a stimulus (consequence) following a behavior.


Operant Extinction and Extinction Bursts

Operant Extinction: refers to the elimination of a previously reinforced response through the consistent withholding of reinforcement following that response.

Extinction Burst: Operant conditioning  is usually associated with a temporary increase in the response.


Continuous Schedule of Reinforcement 

Involves providing reinforcement following each performance of the target response. It is associated with the fastest acquisition of a response but assoc. w/a couple of disadvantages:

  • High susceptibility to satiation: Occurs when a reinforcer loses its reinforcing value.
  • Extinction: Results in extinction quickly once the reinforcer is no longer presented. 


Intermittent Schedules of Reinforcement

Skinner distinguished between 4 types of intermittent (partial) schedules of reinforcement. Where reinfircement is delivered after some (but not all) responses:

  1. Fixed interval (FI): (Scalloped; time) Schedule involves reinforcing the indiv. after a fixed period of time as long as behavior occurs at least once during the interval. 
  2. Variable interval (VI): (Time) Schedule involves providing reinforcement after a varying amount of time, as long as behavior occurs at least one (w/the average time interval being predetermined).
  3. Fixed ratio (FR): (# of responses) Schedule involves providing reinforcement after a predetermined number of responses;
  4. Variable ratio (VR): (# of responses) Schedule entails applying the reinforcer after a varying number of responses, w/the average number being predetermined.
    • The VR schedule is associated with high, stable rate of responding and the greatest resistance to extinction.

The best way to est. behavior begins w/continuous sechedule 7 switch to imtermittent sched. when behavior reached desired level.


Matching Law

When using concurrent schedules of reinforcement, there are two or more simultaneous and independent schedules of reinforcement, each for a different response. According to the matching law, in this situation, the organism will match its relative frequency of responding to the relative frequency of reinforcement for each response.


Stimulus Control

(Operant Conditioning) The process by which a behavior does or does not occur due to the presence of discriminative stimuli.

  • Positive discriminative stimuli signal that the behavior will be reinforced (Child approaches father when watching other types of TV; not football, she will be reinforced an get his attention) 
  • Negative discriminative stimuli (S-delta stimuli) signal that the behavior will not be reinforced (Child appraches her father while watching football he will ignore her and she will not be reinforced).

AKA "behavior under stimulus control"


Escape Conditioning

Occurs when a person's behavior is maintained bc it allows the person to escape an undesirable stimulus. 

Ex: Child throws a tantrum whenever his parents want him to eat food he doesn't like for dinner, his parents will then let him eat something else to stop the tantrum.

An application of negative reinforcement in which the target behavior is an escape behavior- i.e., the indiv. engages in the behavior in order to escape the negative reinforcer. 


Avoidance Conditioning

A cue (positive discriminative stimulus) signals that the undesirable stimulus (negative reinforcer) is about to begin.

The indiv. can avoid the stimulus (negative reinforcer) completely by performing the approp. (target behavior) as soon as s/he percieves the cue.

Combo of classical conditioning w/negative reinforcement.


Positive Reinforcement (Thinning, Satiation)

Positive reinforcement occurs when the application of a stimulus following a behavior increases the occurrence of the behavior.

The establishment of a new behavior is usually most rapid when positive reinforcement is applied on a continuous schedule, while maintenance of the behavior (resistance to extinction) is maximized when the behavior is reinforced on an intermittent schedule.

Consequently, the best procedure is to begin with a continuous schedule of reinforcement and to change to an intermittent schedule once the behavior well-established.

Thining: The process of reducing the proportion of reinforcements. Up to a point, the greater the amount of positive reinforcement, the greater its effectiveness.

Satiation: However, past that point, satiation may occur, which means that the reinforcer has lost its reinforcing value.



  • Prompts: Involves providing an indiv. w/verbal or physical cues that help facilitate the acquisition of a new desired behavior.
  • Fading: The gradual removal of a prompt is referred to as fading. (Ex: Teach a dog to sit)
    • (Note that the term fading is also used to describe the procedure that is used to eliminate an inappropriate stimulus-response connection by gradually replacing the inappropriate stimulus with appropriate stimuli so that the response becomes associated with the latter.)


Primary & Secondary Reinforcers

  • Primary (Unconditioned) Reinforcers are inherently/naturally reinforcing & do not depend on exp. to acquire their reinforcing value (Ex: food & water).
  • Secondary (Conditioned) Reinforcers acquire their reinforcing value thru their repeated assoc. w/1 or more primary reinforcers. (Ex: Money)
    • When a secondary reinforcer is assoc. w/multiple primary reinforcers, it's referred to as a generalized secondary reinforcer (Ex: Money & tokens in a token economy)



The process of gradually reducing the frequency of reinforcment (e.g, of switching from a continuous to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement).


Shaping vs. Chaining

(Operant Conditioning) Shaping and chaining are both used to establish complex voluntary behaviors.

  • Shaping: (Successive approximation training) Used to help an indiv. acquire a complex behavior & involves teaching a new behavior through prompting & reinforcing behaviors that come closer and closer to the target behavior; only the final behavior is of concern. (successive approximation)
    • Only final behavior is important
  • Chainning: Involves est. a sequence of responses, each response acts as a reinforcement for the previous response & as a discriminiative stimulus for the next response (a "behavior chain"); the entire sequence of responses is important.
    • Each response in the behavior chain is important


Premack Principle

An application of positive reinforcement that involves using a high-frequency behavior as a positive reinforcer for a low-frequency behavior.

The high-frequency behavior/activity may not be immediately avalible, which can reduce the effectivness of the intervention since positive reinforcement is most effective when the reinforcer can be delivered immediately following the target behavior. 

Grandma's Rule: You can go out an play w/your friends after you finish your HW.



Involves removing consequences/reinforcement from previously reinforced behavior to reduce or eliminate it. 

  • One prob. is that removal of reinforcement often prod. an Extinction Burts (A temp. increase in the target behavior before it decreases).
  • Another prob. is that it eliminates a behavior w/out fostering more desierable ones.

Extinction has been found to be an effective method for reducing a child's temper tantrums.