Why Pavlovian Conditioning is not a Simple Form of Learning

Posted on: 14th May 2023


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7.   Explain why Pavlovian conditioning is not really a simple form of learning.

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Why Pavlovian Conditioning is not a Simple Form of Learning

Learning exists through association, consequences, and observation. All these three forms of learning are known for behavior change through experience. Continuous reinforcement causes the learning to occur rapidly at a scheduled interval. Pavlovian conditioning is learning through an association between unconditional and neutral stimuli (Mertens, Krypotos, & Engerlhard, 2020). Pavlovian conditioning creates a conditioned response through interaction between unconditioned and neutral stimuli. The learning process will be complex when a natural response interacts with an unconditional stimulus (Villaruel, Martins, & Chaudhri, 2022). Therefore, Pavlovian conditioning is not a simple form of learning. It is procedural, involves interaction with a particular environment, and involves the construction of association between stimuli to get a response.

Pavlovian conditioning involves three major stages, including before, during, and after conditioning stages. Before the conditioning stage can be illustrated with the example of a dog's reflex response towards a certain stimulus, the dog will only salivate when it sees the food (Mertens, et al., 2020). During conditioning feeding, the dog is scheduled for a specific time of the day. The dog will get used to that time such that it will start salivating when it is time. Constant response to the feeding time creates a conditioned response for the dog (Hadamitzky, et al., 2020). After conditioning is when the food fails to come, yet the dog is used to specific timing. The dog will develop a conditioned response such that even when the food is not there, it will start salivating. Therefore, the three Pavlovian conditioning procedure creates a reflex response in a dog that results from creating an association between different stimuli.

Pavlovian conditioning, also known as classical conditioning, is mainly affected by experience with the environment. People's behaviors get shaped by the environment they live in for a long time (Lewis, 2018). Pavlovian is not a simple form of learning since an individual must undergo various assimilation processes. For example, an immigrant to North America might be a Chinese-speaking person. After living in North America for over one decade, they start embracing the American culture (Baharuddin & Suyadi, 2020). However, it is not automatic that they embrace their culture and lifestyle when someone migrates to North America. There are complexities involved in learning and adapting to American culture. Therefore, the environment plays a significant role in Pavlovian conditioning that complicate

s the learning process.

 Learning cannot take place without an association between neutral and unconditioned stimuli. An existing natural stimulus should interact with a previously existing natural stimulus. Watson's experiment with Little Albert can describe another example of Pavlovian conditioning. The experiment investigated how Little Albert reacts to fear. A white rat was shown to the child, but there was no fear (Mertens, et al., 2020). A white rat, in this case, is a neutral stimulus. When the white rat was presented with a scary loud sound, the child would cry. The scary sound was the unconditioned stimulus that made the child cry, and the cry was the conditioned response created (Villaruel et al., 2022). Anytime the white rat has presented, the child cries because fear was conditioned on the child through the scary sounds. The repetition of pairing the rat with a scary sound resulted in fear which implies a complicated way of learning.

In conclusion, Pavlovian conditioning is not a simple form of learning because it involves complex processes. In this form of learning, there must be an association between two stimuli to create a conditioned response. The learning process also involves interaction with the environment that affects the stimulus's outcome. Generally, Pavlovian conditioning is not a simple form of learning because there must be an association between a neutrally existing stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus to create a conditioned response.



Baharuddin, B., & Suyadi, S. (2020). Implementation of The Classical Conditioning in PAI Learning. IJECA (International Journal of Education and Curriculum Application), 3(1), 7-13. http://journal.ummat.ac.id/index.php/IJECA/article/view/2024

Hadamitzky, M., Lückemann, L., Pacheco-López, G., & Schedlowski, M. (2020). Pavlovian conditioning of immunological and neuroendocrine functions. Physiological reviews, 100(1), 357-405. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00033.2018

Lewis, M. (2018). Brain change in addiction as learning, not disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 379(16), 1551-1560. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1602872

Margetts‐Smith, G., Macnaghten, A. I., Brebner, L. S., Ziminski, J. J., Sieburg, M. C., Grimm, J. W., ... & Koya, E. (2021). Acute, but not longer‐term, exposure to environmental enrichment attenuates Pavlovian cue‐evoked conditioned approach and Fos expression in the prefrontal cortex in mice. European Journal of Neuroscience, 53(8), 2580-2591. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.15146

Mertens, G., Krypotos, A. M., & Engelhard, I. M. (2020). A review on mental imagery in fear conditioning research 100 years since the ‘Little Albert’study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 126, 103556. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2020.103556

Villaruel, F. R., Martins, M., & Chaudhri, N. (2022). Corticostriatal suppression of appetitive Pavlovian conditioned responding. Journal of Neuroscience, 42(5), 834-849. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1664-21.2021

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