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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.

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Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • ISSN: 1352-4658
  • EISSN: 1469-1833
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