Society has conditioned us all
Society has conditioned us all The word ‘conditioned’ has a technical meaning in psychology. There are two types of conditioning referred to in the psychological literature. The first sort is known as Pavlovian or Classical Conditioning. It is used far more in studies of animal behaviour than in experiments involving human beings. The essential point about it is that the behaviour which is conditioned is reflex behaviour, behaviour that the subject in the experiment cannot help but carry out. In Pavlov’s well-known experiment with dogs, the first stage was to turn on a light in the dog’s presence and note that the dog did not salivate at that point, salivation being the behaviour which the conditioning was designed to produce eventually. In stage two of the experiment food was presented to the dog and the dog, hungry as he was, salivated. In stage three, the light was put on just before the food was presented, so that the two events, ‘light on’ and ‘food-being-presented’ became associated. In stage four of the experiment, as a result of the association, the dog was found to salivate when the light was put on, even though food was not presented. The dog in this experiment could not help but salivate on seeing the light, once the association had been formed. In other experiments animals have been conditioned to raise a leg to the sound of a buzzer in order to avoid a painful stimulus in the form of, for example, a slight electric shock. The best-known example of classical conditioning in humans is found in ‘eye-blinking’. Humans can be conditioned to blink after hearing a loud noise when this is associated with a puff of air to the eye which produces the reflex action of blinking.