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Principles of Conditioning

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Compare and contrast the main principles of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Provide an example of when classical conditioning may be useful. Provide an example when operant conditioning may be useful.

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This solution discusses the principles of classical and operant conditioning.

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A. Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which a neutral stimulus acquires the ability to produce a response that had originally been produced by a different stimulus. In other words, classical conditioning involves the pairing of some neutral (i.e., conditioned) stimulus (e.g. tone, sound) with an unconditioned stimulus (e.g. light) to naturally evoke a learning response (Bradizza, C.M., Stasiewkz, 2009). In addition, classical conditioning assists in identifying potential aversive situations. For example, in a food aversion, a neural stimulus is paired with in unpleasant response such as nausea or vomiting (Andrykowski, & Otis, 1990). Classical conditioning can be useful in treating phobias.

As an example, studies were presented in which a series of classical conditioning experiments were conducted with human subjects, in which they compared conditioning of clinical phobia to common phobic objects. For example, the investigators demonstrated that compared to electrodermal (changes in the electrical properties of the skin in response to stress and anxiety) and vasomotor responses (inflammation associated with blood flow in the tissues) that are conditioned to phobia-irrelevant stimuli such as slides of flowers and mushrooms; and ...

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