Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Of "Classical" conditioning

Graduate school gives students like me to revisit concepts that were covered during those undergraduate years, but are somehow important. Classical conditioning is one such concept as it covers major areas in graduate school. This cant stressed enough as it covers areas starting basic learning, to forming attitudes, to treatment models. They all bring in this oldie, the classical conditioning paradigm to an important status.

Before I get lost in my own thoughts, classical conditioning is a theory of learning that explains how by repeatedly associating an neutral-event with a naturally occurring event pair, will result in the association of the neutral-event with the naturally occurring event. For example, Lets say each time you click on my blog address you get excited (clicking on my blog and getting excited are the naturally occurring pair) and each time you do this, someone rings a bell (this is the neutral-event). Now, classical conditioning will predict that with repeated pairing of these 3 events (click blog – excitement – bell), you will start to associating the bell with the excitement that was elicited by you reading my blog! What this means is that later on, when the bell is rung, even though there may be no astrorat-blog, you will feel excited!

Isent that cool? My great-great-grand mom who told my great-grand-mom who told my grand mom who told my mom who eventually told me that hanging out with “bad company” will get me associated with the qualities of the bad people, even though I might not be bad my self. She (great-great-grand mom) obviously knew something about classical conditioning even though she dident have an education! I am not sure if credit goes to Aristotle who talked about the law of contiguity long before Pavlov rang a bell when his dog salivated, or to my great-great-grand-mom who saw her husband get into trouble for hanging out with the wrong company.

However, even though the origins of the theory remains debatable, one thing that I cant seem to answer or find any reasonably logical answer to is what’s so “classical” about classical conditioning? As if there exists another form of “conditioning” that was developed from “classical” conditioning: a “neo-classical” conditioning of sorts.

But, a search for a neo-classical conditioning framework, and/or theory proved futile. I asked the learnard professors, lecturers, and esteemed doctors of my university and they gave me the look, as if to say “don’t you have assignments to work on?”. But, my search continued and I would have nothing to do with their threatening looks. I thought to my self that “I will get to the bottom of this”.

And I did (I think). The only satisfactory answer seemed to come from a 2nd year undergraduate student who I quote: “its called classical cause some old-fella wrote it leeh”.

Coming to think of it, that really was not satisfactory as I had first thought. It was a cyclic answer where the said student simply restated the meaning of “classical” as being written by someone in the past. I guess, there’s wisdom in remaining quit, as did my lecturers, when they were asked the same question.

The question still remains and I still do not know why text books, lecture notes, research papers, presentations, and professors refer to a “classical conditioning” framework when in fact they are referring to a “conditioning” framework. Where or what is “neo” classical conditioning?

The truth, I am told by some prominent actors, is somewhere out there.


tkj said...

Well, maybe it's just classical in the sense of it's simplicity (e.g., with respect to operant, or other forms of conditioning)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

What a fun post!!!!

Steph said...

"Classical conditioning was the first type of learning to be discovered and studied within the behaviorist tradition (hence the name classical)."

took from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/behsys/classcnd.html

I thought this was interesting so I went google on it and found this.

Le Roi said...

nice post man....and sexy design....
cud u just tell me how u added that animated new on certain posts???

faiz dwells in nothingness said...

cool blog.

i see where you're coming from.

i believe the term 'classical' refers to the school of thought of the Greeks and Renaissance Rome. so aristotle kinda fits into this. or maybe it just simply means something that is timeless.

i know little about psychology and classical conditioning besides what you have written.... but in any case i don't think the use of the word is justified.

perhaps everyone is, for a long long time, conditioned to refer it as such?

astrorat said...

Dear tkj and Steph,

That’s a good possibility: as if referring to the pioneer of conditioning. I am not convinced though that another name would have been more appropriate.

Steph, That’s a useful link! Thanks for that. Your thoughts are similar to tkj’s, in that “classical” because it was the predecessor for other forms. I wonder then, what Pavlov named it? Did he call it classical conditioning? Seems no isent it? For classical to be “classical”, the name should have been coined during contemporary times rite?

Dear Dr. D,

Glad you enjoyed ;)

Dear Le Roi,

Thanks. You need to talk to my tech consultant :)

Dear Faiz,

You certainly have that right. Classical to me (just like in music) refers to something in the Renaissance period (or somewhere there). I completely agree with you that there could be a better label than “classical”. I also see what proponents for the name say: that classical refers to the fact that this theory is the root of all other theories.

The conclusion is pretty interesting: has every one simply accepted the label cause of conditioning! That’s like conditioning naming itself though conditioning! Hah!

New lurker! said...

Oooh! Finally something I can answer!

Pavlov simply referred to it as the study of conditioned reflexes. It wasn't until Skinner came along and noticed the differences between what Pavlov had done and what he was doing that the distinction was made between classical (aka Pavlovian, respondent) and operant conditioning. So classical conditioning really is called classical conditioning because it was the first recognized type.

P.S. I got here through tkj's.

Steph said...

*taps finger*



astrorat said...

Dear New lurker,

Thanks for visiting :) What you said makes sense :) So its called classical cause its the father of all learning theories.

Dear step,

tapping fingers may be a sing of a tic-disorder ;) now share with me, what goes on inside you when you tap? ;) hehe