Many of you may have heard the term “classical conditioning” in passing conversation but know very little about it and the power it has to transform your life. A Russian scientist named Ivan Pavlov first discovered the phenomenon during his research into human behavior. Since then, countless other psychologists and psychiatrists have added more to Pavlov’s initial fundamentals.
To put it simply, classic conditioning is the process of automatic learning by stimulating unconditioned stimuli in our subconscious and unconscious mind. The process works in such a way that the subject will naturally respond to the conditioned responses after the conditioning. And the best part is, you can use this to your advantage and create condition stimuli that you decide on. But first, you need to understand how it works.
1. Before Conditioning
The first stage of classical conditioning is before conditioning or pre-conditioning. This is the phase when the subject is untrained in a neural response as it hasn’t been taught yet. This is the phase most people start out with when they undergo behavioral changes.
Since no new behavior is learned, an unconditioned stimulus results in an unconditioned response, this stage is known as acquisition.
Don’t fret too much if you’re in the preconditioning stage; most people are. Even untrained athletes will suffer from muscle pulls and cramps until their body naturally adapts to the muscle stimulation during a sport or exercise. Neutral responses are also a big part of preconditioning. Many people go through behavioral conditioning to improve their neutral responses.
For starters, getting hungry when you smell food is an unconditioned stimulus ingrained into us from childhood. But if you’re on a diet, these unconditioned stimuli will distract you from breaking your diet goals. But once you’re done with behavioral conditioning, this should no longer be a problem.
2. During Conditioning
The second phase of conditioning, also known as during conditioning, is the part where the transformation begins. During this stage, a stimulus that produces no response becomes a conditioned stimulus through repeated mental training. This also applies to medical conditions as well – if you’re not suited to a particular type of medicine, then doctors try to condition it into you.
Conditioning is achieved by repeatedly combining a neutral response with an unconditional response to achieve the needed result. Take training a dog, for example; when it’s a pup, it will bark loudly whenever it’s hungry – but training it to bring its bowl to you instead of barking – by providing it with extra pats and treats; conditions the dog to a new action to a previously untrained neural response.
The conditioned stimulus should be applied for maximum effect before or after the subject has displayed an unconditioned response. This is the best time for the subject to subconsciously realize that their responses and the conditioned stimuli are connected.
3. After Conditioning
Once the conditioning process has been completed, the final stage of enforcing and actualizing the conditioned stimuli into a new conditioned response comes. This stage of conditioning is called extinction.
Classical conditioning has been proven successful in many instances when it comes to substance addiction. A lot of addicts don’t take substances because their body craves them but rather because they need them to cope with certain personal or social situations.
For example, suppose you experience anxiety and panic attacks in crowded malls (example). In that case, you may feel triggered to use substances any time you’re in a mall as it creates a powerful craving which can lead to repeating such behaviors. During this time, the right approach to treatment is critical to their recovery. In such cases, consider seeking out an established facility and seek services through benzodiazepine treatment in Boston.
Some of the most well-proven cases of research into classical conditioning include the father of classical conditioning’s original experiment, Pavlov’s Dog, in which Ivan Pavlov trained his dog to drool when he rang a certain bell. But its first human application was implemented by Watson & Rayner in 1920, specializing in the fear response.
Have the Right Mindset
While classical conditioning has been a proven method in curing or recovering many unconditioned responses, many medical professionals believe it’s still very reductive in certain instances.
But nonetheless, it’s also been effective in substance abuse rehabilitation and many behavioral disorders time and time again. So even if it’s reductive, it’s still effective nonetheless in many instances.