Skip to main content

Classical Conditioning: Still Going Strong

  • Marcel van den Hout (a1) and Harald Merckelbach (a1)

This paper summarizes developments in the field of classical conditioning. Attention is paid to four common misconceptions of what is classical conditioning. First, classical conditioning does not ensue as a simple result of temporal pairing of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. Rather, conditioned reacting occurs if and to the degree that the subject is able to predict the occurrence of one stimulus from the presence of another one. Second, what is learned during classical conditioning is not necessarily a response to a cue, but rather a probabilistic relationship between various stimuli. Third, classical conditioning is not only manifested in responses mediated by the autonomic nervous system, but also in immunological parameters, in motoric behaviour and in evaluative judgments. Fourth, the nature of the conditioned and the unconditioned stimulus is (often) not a matter of indifference: particular combinations of CS and US produce more powerful conditioning effects than do other combinations. In the second part of the paper, the potential relevance of these developments is illustrated. Discussions are included about anxiety, addictions and food aversions/conditioned nausea.

Hide All
Ader, R. (1985). CNS immune systems interactions: conditioning phenomena. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 9, 760763.
Ader, R. and Cohen, N. (1982). Behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression and murine systemic Lupus erythematosus. Science 215, 15341536.
Bauer, R. M. (1984). Autonomic recognition of names and faces in prosopagnosia. Neuropsychologia 22, 457469.
Bayens, F., Crombez, G., Bergh, O. Van Den and Eelen, P. (1988). Once in contact always in contact: evaluative conditioning is resistant to extinction. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy 10, 179199.
Bergh, O. Van Den, Huyk, C. Van, Eelen, P. and Bayens, F. (1989). Geconditioneerde misselijkheid en braken bij kankerpatienten ten gevolge van chemotherapie. Gedrag en Gezondheid 16, 149158.
Bernstein, I. L. and Borson, S. (1986). Learned food aversions: a component of anorexia syndromes. Psychological Review.
Bernstein, I. L. and Webster, W. M. (1980). Learned taste aversion in humans. Physiology and Behaviour 25, 363366.
Bernstein, I. L., Webster, W. M. and Bernstein, I. D. (1982). Food aversions in children receiving chemotherapy for cancer. Cancer 50, 29612963.
Burish, T. G. and Carey, M. P. (1986). Conditioned aversive responses in chemotherapy patients: theoretical and developmental analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinican Psychology 5, 593600.
Cook, M. and Mineka, S. (1989). Observational conditioning of fear to fear-relevant versus fear-irrelevant stimuli in Rhesus monkeys. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 98, 448459.
Davey, G. C. L. (1987). An integration of human and animal models of Pavlovian conditioning: associations, cognitions, and attributions. In Davey, G. C. L. (Ed). Cognitive Processes and Pavlovian Conditioning in Humans. Chichester: Wiley, pp. 83115.
Davey, G. C. L. (1988). Cognitive Processes and Pavlovian Conditioning in Humans. Chichester: Wiley.
Davey, G. C. L. (1989a). Dental phobias and anxieties: evidence for conditioning processes in the acquisition and modulation of a learned fear. Behaviour Research and Therapy 27, 5158.
Davey, G. C. L. (1989b). UCS revaluation and conditioning models of acquired fears. Behaviour Research and Therapy 27, 521528.
Davies, P. (1987). Conditioning and perception. In Davey, G. C. L. (Ed). Cognitive Processes and Pavlovian Conditioning in Humans. Chichester: Wiley, pp. 183210.
Dawson, M. E. and Schell, A. M. (1987). Human autonomic and skeletal classical conditioning: The role of conscious cognitive factors. In Davey, G. C. L. (Ed). Cognitive Processes and Pavlovian Conditioning in Humans. Chichester: Wiley, pp. 2756.
De Silva, P. (1988). The modification of human food aversion: a preliminary study. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 19, 217220.
Eikelboom, R. and Stewart, J. (1982). Conditioning of drug-induced physiological responses. Psychological Review 89, 507528.
Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (1982). Phobic and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: Theory, Research and Practice. New York: Plenum Press.
Furedy, J. J., Riley, D. M. and Fredrikson, M. (1983). Pavlovian extinction, phobias, and the limits of the cognitive paradigm. Pavlovian Journal of Biological Science 18, 126133.
Garcia, J. and Koelling, R. (1972). Relation of cue to consequence in avoidance learning. In Seligman, M. E. P. and Hager, J. L. (Eds). Biological Boundaries of Learning. New York: Appleton.
Garcia, J., McGowan, B. K. and Green, K. F. (1973). Biological constraints on conditioning. In Seligman, M. E. P. and Hager, J. L. (Eds). Biological Boundaries of Learning. New York: Appleton.
Greene, P. G. and Seime, R. J. (1987). Stimulus control of anticipatory nausea in cancer chemotherapy. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 18, 6164.
Hawton, K., Salkovskis, P. M., Kirk, J. and Clark, D. M. (Eds) (1989). Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Psychiatric Problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kamin, L. J. (1969). Predictability, surprise, attention and conditioning. In Campbell, B. A. and Church, R. M. (Eds). Punishment and Aversive Behaviors. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, pp. 279296.
Kamin, L. J. (1972). Attention-like processes in classical conditioning. In Jones, M. R. (Ed). Miami Symposium on the Prediction of Behavior: Aversive Stimuli. Coral Gables, Fl: University of Miami Press, pp. 932.
Laberg, J. C. and Ellertsen, B. (1987). Psychophysiological indicators of craving in alcoholics: effects of cu-exposure. British Journal of Addiction 82, 13411348.
Logue, A. W. (1979). Taste aversion and the generality of the laws of learning. Psychological Bulletin 86, 276296.
Logue, A. W., Logue, K. R. and Strauss, K. E. (1983). The acquisition of taste aversions in humans with eating and drinking disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy 21, 275289.
Lubow, R. E. (1973). Latent inhibition. Psychological Bulletin 79, 398407.
Mackintosh, N. J. (1983). Conditioning and Associated Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Macrae, J. R., Scoles, M. T. and Siegel, S. (1987). The contribution of Pavlovian conditioning to drug tolerance and dependance. British Journal of Addiction 82, 371380.
Malloy, P. and Levis, D. J. (1988). A laboratory demonstration of persistent human avoidance. Behavior Therapy 19, 229241.
Mannsfield, J. G. and Cunningham, C. L. (1980). Conditioning and extinction of tolerance to the hypothermic effects of ethanol in rats. Journal of Comparative Physiological Psychology 94, 962969.
Marks, I. M. (1978). Exposure treatments: conceptual issues and clinical applications. In Agras, W. S. (Ed). Behaviour Modification Principles and Clinical Applications. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Marks, I. M. (1987). Fears, Phobias and Rituals. Panic, Anxiety and their Disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.
Martin, I., Levey, A. (1988). Learning what will happen next: cognition, evaluation and cognitive processes. In Davey, G. (Ed). Cognitive Processes and Pavlovian Conditioning in Humans. New York: Wiley.
Merckelbach, H., Hout, M. A. Van Den and Molen, G. M. Van Der (1989). The phylogenetic origin of phobias: a review of the evidence. In Emmelkamp, P. M. G. et al. (Eds). Fresh Perspectives on Anxiety Disorders. Amsterdam: Swets, pp. 8799.
McLellan, A. T., Childress, A. R., Ehrman, R. W. and O'Brian, C. P. (1986). Extinguishing conditioned responses during treatment for opiate dependence: turning laboratory findings into clinical procedures. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 3, 3340.
McNally, R. J. (1987). Preparedness and phobias: a review. Psychological Bulletin 101, 283303.
McSweeney, F. K. and Bierley, C. (1984). Recent developments in classical conditioning. Journal of Consumer Research 12, 619630.
Newlin, D. B. (1986). Conditioned compensatory response to alcohol placebo's in humans. Psychopharmacology 88, 247251.
Öhman, A. (1986). Face the beast and fear the face: animal and social fears as prototypes for evolutionary analyses of emotion. Psychophysiology 23, 123145.
Öst, L. G. and Hugdahl, K. (1981). Acquisition of phobias and anxiety response patterns in clinical patients. Behaviour Research and Therapy 19, 439447.
Rankin, J., Hodgson, R. and Stockwell, T. (1983). Cue exposure and response prevention with alcoholics: a controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy 21, 435446.
Rescorla, R. A. (1988). Pavlovian conditioning. It's not what you think it is. American Psychologist 43, 151160.
Rescorla, R. A. and Wagner, R. A. (1972). A theory of Pavlovian conditioning: variations in the effectiveness of reinforcement and nonreinforcement. In Black, A. H. and Prokasy, W. F. (Eds). Classical Conditioning II: Current Research and Theory. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, pp. 6499.
Seligman, M. E. P. (1970). On the generality of the laws of learning. Psychological Review 77, 406418.
Siegel, S. (1983). Classical conditioning, drug tolerance and drug dependence. In Israel, Y. and Smart, F. B. (Eds). Research Advances in Alcohol and Drug Problems, pp. 207246.
Siegel, S. (1984). Pavlovian conditioning and heroin overdose. Reports by overdose victims. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 22, 428430.
Siegel, S., Hinson, R. E. and Mitchell, D. (1981). Morphine induces attenuation of morphine tolerance. Science 212, 1533.
Siegel, S., Hinson, R. E., Krank, M. D. and McCully, J. (1982). Heroine “Overdose” death: the contribution of drug associated environmental cues. Science 216, 436437.
Siegel, S., Sherman, J. E. and Mitchell, D. (1980). Extinction of morphine analgesic tolerance. Learning and Motivation 11, 289301.
Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behavior of Organisms. New York: Appleton.
Smith, M. C., Coleman, S. R. and Gormezano, I. (1969). Classical conditioning of the rabbit's nictitating membrane response at backward, simultaneous, and forward CS–UCS intervals. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 69, 226231.
Subkov, A. A. and Zilov, G. N. (1937). The role of conditioned reflex adaptation in the origin of hyperergic reactions. Bulletin de Biologie et de Medecine Experimentale 4, 294296.
Thyer, B. A., Baum, M. and Reid, L. D. (1988). Exposure techniques in the reduction of fear: a comparative review of the procedure in animals and humans. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy 10, 105127.
Turkann, J. S. (1989). Classical conditioning: the new hegemony. Behavioral and Brain Science 12, 121137.
White, K. and Davey, G. C. L. (1989). Sensory preconditioning and UCS inflation in human “fear” conditioning. Behaviour Research and Therapy 27, 161166.
Williams, D. R. and Williams, H. (1969). Auto-maintenance in the pigeon: sustained pecking despite contingent non-reinforcement. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 12, 511520.
Wolpe, J. (1973). The Practice of Behavior Therapy. New York: Pergamon Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • ISSN: 1352-4658
  • EISSN: 1469-1833
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-and-cognitive-psychotherapy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 8 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 174 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.