Description of Classical conditioning and operant conditioning
Classical and operant conditioning are two learning theories extensively studied in psychology. Classical conditioning involves a response to a certain stimulus. Reflexive responses are brought under control of stimulus actions that usually herald the response (Klein & Mowrer, 2009). A certain event provokes a response.
A once neutral stimulus is matched with an unconditioned stimulus. In classical conditioning, learning occurs through interactions with the environment and the environment shapes behavior thus feelings, thoughts, and emotions are assumed irrelevant in explaining a particular behavior. On the other hand, operant conditioning is learning that occurs when an occurrence of spontaneous behavior is discouraged by punishment or encouraged through rewarding (Klein & Mowrer, 2009). In operant conditioning, punishment or reinforcement is used to decrease or increase a certain behavior. Voluntary responses are often controlled by their consequences.
However, although classical conditioning depends more on the relationship between stimuli and responses, operant conditioning relies on reinforcement. Additionally, operant conditioning involves voluntary behavior while classical conditioning is majorly based on automatic reflex behavior.
Conditioned taste aversion happens when an organism links the taste of a definite food with signs caused by poisonous, toxic, or spoiled substances. When an organism ingests a certain food that causes sickness, nausea or vomiting, they will develop a taste aversion.
In a lab experiment, John Garcia offered sweetened water to three groups of rats. The water was followed by either strong radiation, mild radiation, or no radiation. He subsequently brought in regular tap water and offered the rats the chance to drink any of the waters (Lilienfeld, 2011). After observing their behavior, he realized that rats who had been exposed to radiation drank less of the sweetened water than those who had not. Rats avoided the sweetened water since they associated it with pain.
The rats expressed a repugnance towards the sweetened water through mouth gaping. John Garcia concluded that the sweetened water became viewed negatively because the rats associated it with radiation that induced sickness. The rats might want to enjoy the sweetened water, but the body handles it reflexively (Klein & Mowrer, 2009). The sweetened water provokes a response. The aptitude to develop a taste aversion is considered a survival mechanism or adaptive trait that train the rats to avoid poisonous substances before it causes harm to them. This is meant to avoid the consumption of venomous substances or something that flavors alike in the future. The aversion of the sweetened water is similar to what happens in human beings who circumvent certain drugs that associate with nausea, vomit, or other undesirable feeling. The rats have associated the conditioned stimulus (CS) (sweetened water) with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (sickness) and a conditioned response (CR) (aversion) is produced (Klein & Mowrer, 2009).
Phobia is an irrational fear. It is dread that is out of proportion to the impending danger. In the Watson and Rayner experiment, a monkey, a rabbit, a white rat, and several masks were presented to "Little Albert," an infant of 9 months, to taste his reactions to different stimuli. Apparently, Albert was indifferent and unemotional. He did not fear any of the stimuli. However, when the hammer was struck against a steel bar behind Albert’s head, he became startled and busted into tears. The loud noise was unappealing to him. When Albert was about 11 months old, a white rat was presented and the steel bar struck respectively. This was done once in a week for 7 weeks. Each time the white rat was presented and the steel bar struck, "Little Albert" would uncontrollably burst into tears. By 12months, Albert showed every sign of fear by the mere sight of a white rat (Klein & Mowrer, 2009).
Whether or not the steel bar was struck, Albert would cry and attempt to crawl away. After a while, the fear of the white rat started declining. It eventually ended after a month. The experiment indicated that classical conditioning can be used to create a phobia. Before the conditioning, the white rate was a neutral stimulus and the loud noise (unconditioned stimulus) created a fear response. Continuous pairing of a white rat with the unconditioned stimulus came to arouse the fear response (conditioned response). The loud noise was frightening and "Little Albert" ended up fearing the rat as well as the noise (Lilienfeld, 2011).
How to help the client stop biting her fingernails
Contingency contracting is a principle of operant conditioning that can help an individual to stop the habit of biting fingernails. In this principle, the client requires to agree with a close friend or family member on a procedure of setting out rewards and consequences of either abstaining from or not biting nails (Lilienfeld, 2011). A simple approach to stop the habit is to give a close friend a significant amount of money. In every day the client will go without biting her fingernails, she receives a certain portion of money and this provides an avenue of positive reinforcement to quit fingernails biting. In a scenario that the client bites her fingernails, the close friend either fails to give back the money or receives the part of the money. In such instances, the negative punishment for biting fingernails is restored.
Self-punishment aims at weakening a particular behavior. To the client, immediate punishment will serve effective purposes in the process. The client is advised to put a rubber band at her wrist always. In case she finds herself biting the fingernails, she will be expected to snap the rubber band painfully against her wrist. The pain incurred is a form of positive punishment reduces the behavior and it removes an unpleasant stimulus wherever the behavior occurs (Klein & Mowrer, 2009). The unpleasant consequence to biting nails and inducing pain will make the practice reduce. For negative punishment, the client must deprive herself of something that she enjoys while biting her fingernails. For example, if the client loves eating chocolates while watching a movie, she can avoid what she loves for a whole day in case she bites her fingernails.
How to help the client exercise
Reinforcement aims at strengthening a behavior, and thus, increasing the likelihood for the behavior to happen again. The lazy client will benefit from positive reinforcement in many ways. The client can be subjected to a positive stimulus, a trend that will motivate him in a way she will comfortably undertake the physical exercises in the comfort. For example, the client should visit the best joints to treat herself the best by spending time hanging out with best friends. On the other hand, negative reinforcement will also help the client to improve (Wilcox et.al, 2001). The client may eliminate her behavior by inducing a negative stimulus that will make the behavior of exercising stronger. For instance, the lazy client can refuse to take meals whenever she misses exercising. Such a negative stimulus will direct her to pay attention to the exercise schedule to avoid the punishment of undergoing hunger. In the process, the client will improve on taking the thirty minutes exercise aimed in the specified period.
Importance of operant conditioning and Classical conditioning principles in everyday life
Operant conditioning plays a major role in behavior modification, in everyday life. Individuals who experience problems in life can apply operant conditioning techniques to improve on their way of life. The problems that can be solved by operant conditioning include obesity, alcoholism, smoking, aggression and delinquency (Lilienfeld, 2011). For instance, the people who suffer from anorexia nervosa eating disorders are helped in a way that they gain weight, and primates are also taught to feed and care for the physically challenged people. The principles of operant conditioning are applied in schools systems and mental institutions to eliminate the high prevalence of mental disorders and help to bring up children in the right manner.
Classical conditioning is significant to develop behavior in everyday life. For instance, it helps in generating emotional responses, addiction, advertising, hunger, psychotherapy and many others. It is also useful to eliminate post-traumatic disorders and helps people to relate with their past (Wilcox et.al, 2001). Its application has been used in schools to help students to improve their performance. Individuals generate feelings of happiness and relaxation through classical conditioning. The principles are used in the field of advertising. In post-traumatic disorders, a person who has experienced a war will always feel afraid and anxious and in a similar situation, they will rush to escape the wrath of violence. Briefly, classical conditioning is crucial to our everyday life and it helps individual in various ways.
Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). Psychology: From inquiry to understanding. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Wilcox, S., Dymmel, S., Hockenbury, D. H., Coastline Community College District, Worth Publishers, & Insight Media (Firm) (2001). Classical and operant conditioning. New York, NY: Insight Media
Klein, S. B., & Mowrer, R. R. (2009). Contemporary learning theories. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.