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Can classical conditioning occur in the classroom?

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Quick Answer

Classical conditioning can certainly occur in the classroom, and at school in general, which makes it important for teachers to encourage and reinforce positive experiences while children are learning. It can be possible for negative and positive experiences to condition behavior for many years after school, even extending into adult life in some cases.

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Classical conditioning in action

Classical conditioning is a process that encourages learning through association. It operates in essence by linking two forms of stimuli in order to generate the required, often new, response in behavior from an animal or person. There are three stages to classical conditioning:

  1. Pre-conditioning stage
  2. No new behavior is learned at this stage; instead, an unconditioned stimulus produces an unconditioned response. This means that the response is entirely natural as a result of an environmental stimulus. The neutral stimulus is also present in this stage, but has no effect on the subject.

  3. During conditioning
  4. The unconditioned stimulus now becomes the conditioned stimulus through association with the neutral stimulus. For this to be achieved, the unconditioned stimulus may be required to be associated with the conditioned stimulus through a number of trials.

  5. Post conditioning
  6. The unconditioned stimulus, once combined with the conditioned stimulus, forms the new conditioned response, meaning that an unconditioned response caused by natural or unconditioned stimulus can now be caused by unrelated or artificial methods.

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