Classical conditioning, also called Pavlovian or respondent conditioning, is a procedure where a biologically potent stimulus like food is paired with a stimulus that used to be neutral. It also refers to the learning process resulting from this pairing, by means of which the neutral stimulus provokes a response that is generally similar to the one shown by the potent stimulus.
Classical conditioning is different from operant conditioning, the latter being the strength of a voluntary behavior modified by reinforcement or punishment. However, classical conditioning might affect operant conditioning in a lot of different ways. Stimuli that have been classically conditioned need to reinforce operant responses.
Classical conditioning was first studied by Ivan Pavlov in detail, who carried out all the experiments with dogs and published the findings all the way back in 1897. It is a basic behavioral mechanism and is now beginning to be understood neurologically. Even though it is hard to tell the difference between classical conditioning and other forms of associative learning, a lot of observations differentiate them, especially the contingencies that arise in the learning processes. Combined with operant conditioning, classical conditioning turned out to be the foundation of behaviorism, a new school of psychology that was dominant in the mid-20th century and is still an important influence on the practice of psychological therapy and the study of animal behavior. It has been applied in other areas of the subject as well, like the body’s response to psychoactive drugs, research on the neural basis of learning and memory, regulation of hunger, the false consensus effect, and so on.
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