LEARNING AND CLASSICAL CONDITIONING 1

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1 1 Learning and Classical Conditioning Jenna Leah Smith The University of Texas at Brownsville

2 2 Synopsis Even though we may not be cognizant of it, the concept of classical conditioning is present in our everyday lives. Acts of classical conditioning are actually based on learned behaviors that we have picked up, sometimes unconsciously, throughout our lifetimes. The intention of this article critique is to provide an overview of Classical Conditioning and describe how it relates to the article written by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman titled Teaching Kids to Kill. Theory and Analysis Classical conditioning is the behavioral learning theory that was founded by Ivan Pavlov who was a Russian physiologist. His research is famously known for utilizing the behaviors of a canine in his experimentation and research. Initially, Pavlov and his assistant recorded the behaviors of the canine s salivating when food was introduced to it. In doing this, the dog would unconsciously associate that it was being presented with food from Pavlov and his assistant. At this point Pavlov and his assistant served as the stimuli that caused the behavioral reactions. Also, the canine learned the taste and the smell of the food during this initial part of the research. As Pavlov continued observing, researching, and recording his findings, he concluded that the dog would have the same reaction at just the sight of the white lab coats that he and his assistant would wear. At this point, Pavlov concluded that the canine associated the white lab coats to the action of being fed food and the stimulus was now the lab coats. Finally, Pavlov introduced

3 3 the sound of a ringing bell upon feeding time of the canine. After repetitive experimentation, Pavlov once again, found that the canine learned to associate the sound to the action of being fed and produced the same salivating behaviors. Pavlov then learned that the stimulus was the ringing of the bell which produced the consistent salivating behaviors. Throughout all of his experimentation and research with introducing different stimuli to the canine, the canine displayed the same behaviors and essentially learned (unconsciously) to associate the introduced stimuli to food. In comparing this theory to the article reviewed, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman makes very logical and valid points in his writing. The main idea that he is presenting is that people (children and young people in particular) are being classically conditioned to believe that killing and acts of violence are acceptable through the use of video games and media violence. He refers to this epidemic as the virus of violence (Grossman, 2000). Throughout the article, he provides example of how individuals have learned and develop skills of violence simply by playing video games which simulate the behavior of killing in such a realistic manner. Grossman couldn t have said it better when he points out, It begins at the age of 18 months, when a child can begin to understand and mimic what is on television. But up until they're six or seven years old they are developmentally, psychologically, physically unable to discern the difference between fantasy and reality. Thus, when a young child sees somebody on TV being shot, stabbed, raped, brutalized, degraded, or murdered, to them it is real, and some of them embrace violence and accept it as a normal and essential survival skill in a brutal

4 4 new world (Grossman & DeGaetano, 1999). Although the two examples given are very different they both have the same conclusion which is that people (or animals) have the ability to learn behaviors based on stimuli present in the ever day world. The behaviors displayed are triggered unconsciously. Evaluation In conclusion of this article critique, I agree with Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman s thoughts that he voiced in his article which suggests that technology (video games) and media violence has a desensitizing effect on those who have repeated exposure it. I believe that classical conditioning can be utilized for a variety of positive and productive means such as in training search and rescue animals and in the field of education, but also believe that society as a whole must be cautioned that it can also be utilized for evil and destructive intentions too.

5 5 References Cherry, K. (2011.) Palvol s Dogs: How Ivan Pavlov Discovered Classical Conditioning. About.com, a New York Times Company. Retrieved from Grossman, D. (2000). Teaching Kids to Kill. Killology Research Group: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill. Phi Kappa Phi National Forum, Warrior Science Group. Retrieved from

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