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Outline the theoretical framework of Classical Conditioning and consider whether humans can be classically conditioned

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Outline the theoretical framework of Classical Conditioning and consider whether humans can be classically conditioned Learning is a fundamental part of life as we are learning ever day and without being able to learn we could not survive. In Psychology learning is generally about the different ways in which people learn and how the information is remembered rather than what is learned. Also people tend to believe that learning is deliberate. The way psychologists look at it is that learning isn't necessarily deliberate and can be learnt by observing the environment around us. The definition of learning is the gain of knowledge or a skill by study. Learning cannot be observed as it is a hypothetical construct but it can be observed by a person's behaviour. This however isn't very reliable as there is a range of different things that can affect a person's behaviour such as drugs, fatigue and hunger. Learning is thought to be permanent but even permanent behaviour can be influenced by other things such as brain damage or puberty. A change in behaviour, due to learning, is also thought to be linked to a past experience. Therefore learning is defined by psychologists as 'a relatively permanent change in behaviour due to past experience' (Coon, 1983) ...read more.


The first stage is before the learning where an unconditioned stimulus (UCS), which in Pavlov's experiment was the smell of the food, gives us an unconditioned response (UCR), which was the salivation. The second stage is during the learning and this is where the conditioned stimulus (CS), which was the bell, is added. This is added to the UCS, the smell of the food, to give the same UCR, salivation. This is the part where the dogs learn to associate the sound of the bell to food and therefore salivates. The final stage is when the CS, the bell, is used on it's own without the UCS and it produces a conditioned response (CR) now, which is still the salivation. This is after the learning and it is this behaviour that shows us that the dogs have learnt to associate the sound of the bell with food. Whilst Pavlov was doing this experiment he also found that he could replace the CS with something else that had never been shown or heard with the food and the dogs would still salivate over it. For example, if a certain shape was shown to the dogs just before the sound of the bell every time they were fed then after a while the dogs would start to salivate at the shape. ...read more.


This is called reductionism. Finally in animal orientated experiments there is extrapolation, which is basically not being able to relate it to humans as the experiments are done with animals. This is why a psychologist called Watson from the USA decided to try and Classically Condition humans. Watson did several different experiments with children in particular by doing things like producing fears of various different things by associating them with things that the child was genuinely afraid. There have been several different experiments with humans since Watson to see the different ways in which humans can be classically conditioned. Some examples of these are curing fear and phobias, getting a baby to turn its head and breastfeed from the sound of its mother's voice and also things like curing alcoholism and drug addiction. Classical Conditioning is also used in modern society in things like advertising to try and get people to buy a product. Classical conditioning obviously works in humans as the UCR is always a reflex action that cannot be controlled and the range of different CRs is all controlled by the nervous system. Although it would be difficult to experiment, to level that Pavlov did, with humans as it can lead to neurosis and humans can't probably get a very high order of conditioning after first order conditioning. Apart from this I believe that humans can be Classically Conditioned. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is an excellently well-informed and succinct essay. The candidate shows evidence of external research to fortify their answer, and it allows them to naturally encourage a greater use of analytical and descriptive tools and their disposal. There is profound ...

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Response to the question

This is an excellently well-informed and succinct essay. The candidate shows evidence of external research to fortify their answer, and it allows them to naturally encourage a greater use of analytical and descriptive tools and their disposal. There is profound knowledge shown here, both of psychology and classical conditioning in particular. The best part of this answer is that it does not feel regimented like an exam essay answer might. However, because the question asks for two things - an outline of "the theoretical framework of classical conditioning" and to "consider whether humans can be classically conditioned", I would expect to see more written about the second objective, as only one (admittedly very large) paragraph is dedicated to it. This is by no means a bad thing, and it does not detriment the extensiveness of the analysis of the first objective (which is critically perfect), but I would advise the candidate learn to write more about the second objective to ensure that their answer covers everything the mark scheme demands.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is very good. Though not marked in great deal here (many more marks are awarded for description), where the analysis is, it is executed well. There is a good understanding of how to evaluate psychological theory and psychological practice, concerning both practical and physical issues that come from highly controlled experiments that may be considered reductionist or deterministic. One of the biggest criticisms of classical conditioning are the deterministic tendencies that may lead to the dehumanisation and mechanisation of complex human processes, and the candidate would've done better to mention this in their analysis, but as this is not a heavily-weighted part of the essay in terms of marks, there is nothing stopping the candidate still achieving a high mark (round about a high B).

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is fairly good. There are many frequent, minor errors in grammar, such as the addition/omission of "s" on words that don't/do require them, meaning sometimes sentences read wrongly. It does not however, compromise the clarity of the sentences or confuse the reader about what the candidate has to say, but they are too frequent not to mention. As a recommendation, I would ask candidates to ensure they re-read and spell-check all their work as they write it. Laborious and as superfluous as the idea may seem, even the most proficient writer will make errors without realising.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 02/08/2012

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