learning theories: the
Conditioning in psychology is a term that refers to a behavioral process where a response becomes more predictable or frequent when subjected to a given stimulus for a particular environment. For instance, the prominent Russian psychologist, Ian Pavlov provided a traditional framework for which the conditioning theory can be studied. In his experiment, Pavlov placed a dog in a harness within a sound-shielded room. On each sound of a bell, it is accompanied by food powder that is blowninto the mouth of the dog. The bell’s sound, in this case, is a conditional stimulus. A conditional stimulus refers to a previously neutral stimulus that once associated with an unconditional stimulus triggers a response known as a conditional response. In the Pavlov experiment, the conditional response was the salivating of the dog once it heard the bell being rung (Bouton, 2007). However, the dog’s first response of salivation that resulted from the introduction of food towards its mouth is known as the unconditional response. An unconditional response thus refers to something that causes a natural or automatic response. The unconditional response is derived from the unconditional stimulus which in our case is food that was given to the dog.
Rescorla-Wegner model explains circumstances in which Pavlov conditioning occurs (Bouton, 2007). It describes the changes in associative strength between signals that are commonly referred to as Conditional Stimulus (CS) and the corresponding stimulus called the Unconditional Stimulus (US).The role of the US in conditioning is to trigger aresponse that is natural and automatic. For instance, you one smells their favorite food they might become hungry. The smell of the food, in this case, is the unconditional stimulus that triggers an unconditional response. On the other hand, a CS is created when individuals learn to associate with something. For instance, in the case of Pavlov’s experiment. These two types of conditioning form the framework for classical conditioning that Rescorla-Wegner model tries to expound.
An interstimulus interval (ISI) is simply a time elapse between the conditional stimulus and unconditional stimulus. In other words, it is the duration between the offset of a stimulus to the onset of another and is usually temporary.For instance, in Pavlov’s experiment the duration between the ringing of the bell(conditional stimulus) and food delivery to the dog(unconditional response) illustrates the concept.Basing on the Rescolar-Wegener model, the US can be perfectly predicted on a conditioning trial that is not surprising where no learning occurs in such trials. Moreover, exciters are the CS that exhibit positive strength during conditioning while inhibitors are the CS that will acquire negative strengths during the conditioning trials (Bouton, 2007). On the other hand, the SOP theory argues that the Unconditional stimuli have both sensory and emotive nodes that evoke different response during the conditioning trial. Additionally, the emotive nodes once activated take more time to decay as compared to sensory nodes and controls the emotional responses.
The AESOP model that is a recent extension of the SOP model explains the emotive and sensory responses to a conditioning activity. The differences in latencies between the two would lead to one conditional stimulus eliciting an emotive CR and another triggering a sensory CR. Additionally, two unconditional stimuli would activate the same emotive responses but different sensory activities (Bouton, 2007). It explains the similarities and differences that separate the UCS conditions. For instance, considering the case Tait and Saladin (1986) rabbits experiment, it was argued that the conditional stimulus occurs before the emotive response but after the sensory response. Moreover, further research on the model by Wagner et.al, in 1996 for the same experiment but with different tests showed that the emotive aspects of the unconditional stimuli do not change with the location. The model remains a crucial tool for accounting for many aspects of the Pavlovian conditioning. However, the model faces a few weaknesses just like other models in psychology.For instance, critiques argue that positive events might arise from other mechanisms and complexities as explained in affective forecasting. Additionally, other opponents argue that adverse events elicited by emotive responses might become automatic after some time (Bargh & Williams, 2007).
The AESOP model has wide applications in the real world. For example, in organizations managers might introduce incentives to evoke positive responses but opponent processes may prevail leading to an accompaniment of negative feelings. Additionally, the theory also is related to other learning theories such as the SOP model, set point and disposition theories. The conditioning theories are thus vital in explaining behavioral responses in humans or animals. They assist in expounding the behavioral characteristics exhibited in different situations by an analyzing the stimulus elicited by the set processes. The emotive and opponent processes evoke different stimuli that elicit the responses in human behavior. These set of processes can be divided into primary and secondary component according to Wagner. The SOP, AESOP, and Rescolar -Wegner models are thus vital in expounding on the conditioning theory of Ian Pavlov.
Bargh, J. A., & Williams, L. E. (2007). The nonconscious regulation of emotion.In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of Emotion Regulation (pp. 429-445). New York: Guildford.
Bouton, M. E. (2007). Learning and behavior: A contemporary synthesis. Sinauer Associates.
Diener, E., & Emmons, R. A. (1985). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1105-1117.