CLASSICAL Conditioning and INSTRUMENTAL Conditioning

>> Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CLASSICAL Conditioning and INSTRUMENTAL Conditioning

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning involves the association of an unconditioned and a conditioned stimulus in such a way that the conditioned stimulus elicits unconditioned response. There is the formation or strengthening of an association between a conditioned stimulus in a controlled relationship with an unconditioned stimulus that originally elicits that response.  Classical conditioning has revealed facts concerning conditions of acquisition, extinction, generalization and discrimination. Once a conditioned response is established to a stimulus of a certain kind, the response will also occur to stimuli which are similar to the original stimulus. This is stimulus generalization. No learning occurs unless there is generalization. No two stimuli or stimulus situations are exactly alike. They must be treated as if they were exactly alike in order to elicit the same response.

Discrimination refers to eliciting different responses to two different stimuli. A dog, trained to withdraw a paw from an electric grid at the sound of a tone, will learn in time that he need not move his paw at the sound of a tone very slightly different in pitch. The dog will learn this discrimination if one tone is consistently reinforced while another is not.

Responses that are no longer reinforced tend to disappear from the organism’s repertoire of behavior. This is called extinction. Pavlov’s dog will not salivate at all times at the sound of a buzzer. If the buzzer is presented time after time without being paired with meat, extinction will occur.

Spontaneous recovery refers to the return of a conditioned response, following experimental extinction, after periods of no reinforcements. If the buzzer is sounded many times without presenting any food, the dog will reach a situation wherein it will ignore the buzzer. Although there will be times when the dog would salivate again at the sound of the buzzer. Studies have shown that once a conditioned response is established, it never completely disappears from the behavioral repertoire of an organism. After periods of rest or disuse, a conditioned response often reappears. If there is no reinforcement, it will extinguish again. Classical conditioning requires the association of two stimuli, with one of them gradually acquiring a significance it did not possess before.

Instrumental Conditioning

Instrumental conditioning involves the selection of a response from among a series of responses. It needs the strengthening of a stimulus-response association by following the response with a reinforcing stimulus.

Instrumental conditioning (Operant Conditioning) is another kind of simple learning. It involves a selection from many responses of the one that habitually will be given in a stimulus situation. Instrumentally conditioned response states that the behavior of the animal in the learning situation is the basis of reinforcement. The organism gets nothing until he emits the desired response. Instrumental conditioning was first tried by EDWARD L. THORNDIKE (1898) using a puzzle box served as the instrument that elicited the reinforced behavior of the cat.

There are four (4) kinds of instrumental conditioning. They are all similar in that the learned response is instrumental in getting the organism biologically ahead. The simplest kind is called primary reward conditioning where the learned response is instrumental in obtaining a biologically significant reward, such as a pellet of food or an amount of water. Escape conditioning is one where the organism learns a response that is instrumental in getting out of a place one prefers not to be in. Avoidance conditioning is a kind of learning where a response to a cue is instrumental in avoiding a painful experience. Secondary reward conditioning is where there is instrumental behavior to get a stimulus which has no biological utility itself but which has in the past been associated with a biologically significant stimulus.

In recent years, device known as SKINNER box, named after B. F Skinner, has been widely used in laboratory studies. A fully equipped Skinner box is a device containing a bar to press, string to pull, a button to peck or some other stimulus which, if appropriately dealt with, automatically supplies the animal with a measured amount of food.


Two Theories of Thinking

>> Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thinking is a type of behavior that uses symbols as “inner representations” of objects and events. Symbolic references are remembered, absent or imagined things and events, including those that are currently impinging on the sensory system. It reflects and elaborates on what is present in perception and movement. Most thinking occurs in the process of active exploration of the environment. Because of the circuits and networks described above, human thinking goes on and on, day in and day out.

There are two theories that suggest differing functions of the brain. The peripheralists hold that all thinking goes on in the muscular movement. The centralists hold that thinking goes on inside the brain and nervous system, and muscular movements merely accompany the central process. There are also two ways of thinking. Directed thinking has an aim, goal or endpoint. It includes the kind of critical thinking when making judgments on propositions. Creative thinking is an attempt to discover new solutions to problems, invent new methods or devices and produce new artistic forms.


Learning may be defined as a process that brings about a change in the individual’s way of responding as a result of practice or other experiences. Learning may also be defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior. Behavior changes with experience. New patterns of behavior take place when the organism senses its world, interprets it, responds to it, and then responds to the consequences of its own responses. Once the organism has passed through this cycle, it is never the same again. It thereby learns.

Learning is pervasive especially in human beings. Our knowledge and skills accumulate throughout our lives. Learning is developmental and interactive. It comes about through active interchange with the environment. Simple responses, motor habits, perceptual responses, motives, attitudes, emotional responses, problem solving, language and personality are learned.

There are old and new theories that explain learning. Here are some.

Classical Conditioning

The simplest form of learning is classical conditioning. Ivan PAVLOV (1849-1936), a Russian physiologist and Nobel Prize awardees was the first to conduct systematic studies on conditioned responses.

The basic phenomenon he studied is represented in this way:

             A                    1                               2
CS ------> UCS ------> UCR ------> CS ------>CR
Buzzer    meat               salivation         buzzer         salivation

As shown in the diagram, a buzzer is sounded and after a brief interval, meat is presented to the dog. The dog responds to the food in the usual manner: it salivates, chews, and swallows. The arrow 1 signifies that the food elicits a response that is automatic, that is unconditioned. The dotted arrow a represents the fact that the sound of the buzzer is present when the meat, the unconditioned stimulus, is presented. While the unconditioned response is taking place, the dog associated the buzzer with the meat and its reaction to the meat. After repeated pairings of the CS (the buzzer) with the UCS (the meat), the dog salivates at the sound of the buzzer alone. The buzzer now elicits a response formerly elicited by the meat. A conditioned response, which was a part of the original unconditioned response, is now established.

An unconditioned stimulus is a stimulus which is adequate at the outset of training to produce the response in question. The response to such a stimulus is called unconditioned response. In Pavlov’s experiment, the sight or taste of food was an unconditioned stimulus for the unconditioned response of salivating.

A conditioned stimulus is one which is initially inadequate to evoke the response in question but will do so if paired with the unconditioned stimulus. The learned process is called conditioned response. In Pavlov’s experiment, the buzzer was the conditioned stimulus for the conditioned response of salivating.



Stress Management

>> Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When we are under stress, our initial reaction is to feel emotional about the situation. We then develop a feeling of either apathy or aggression or depression. For a start we feel so alarmed and then as we get into it, we get the exhaustion period and then finally we can go over it. However, we can only achieve positive learning when indeed we have reached the final stage where we have learned how to cope, we have confronted the situation well and that we were able to attain our goal, we have won relationship and we were able to go above the situation through courageous effort of solving the problem thereby adjusting to the situation.

Controls of Emotions

Very often, we are accused of acting childishly or failing to control our emotions. We judge people as being emotionally mature or immature by the way they react to situations. We expect older people to attain emotional maturity as they grow in years. How then does one control his emotions?

Outward Manifestations

It is believed that in our effort to control our emotions, we learn to suppress or modify our overt responses. For example, we avoid gritting our teeth, clenching our fist, scowling, or frowning when we are angry. We scold children when they show such signs of anger. We dislike people who are temperamental. We discourage shouting or boisterous laughing and we teach children to control their laughter. From childhood, we teach children to follow conventions, especially those that refer to behavior. People’s actions are governed by social sanctions and taboos.

Emotional Situations

Since most situations trigger emotional responses, we try to avoid or change the situation which would give rise to an undesirable response. For example, when we know that a certain situation will make someone angry, we try to avoid or change the situation. We also learn from experience that a certain situation may provoke extreme anger, so we try to remove ourselves from such occasions to prevent the undesirable response. The educated individual learns to distinguish between an intelligent answer and an emotional one. In a debate for instance, emotional arguments do not score as high as intelligent ones. The educated individual studies a situation carefully before responding to it emotionally.


Some people are more emotional and temperament than others. Such people expend a lot of useless energy because they are highly strung and impatient about things. Their hostility towards others is more manifested than those of emotionally stable individuals. They are impulsive and they tend to make rush decisions. They are less sociable and tend to become frustrated over the reactions of other people. These people are often touchy and easily offended. They are defensive in their reactions and often have a cynical attitude towards others. Obviously, this description of temperamental persons will show that such individuals have very poor control of their emotional behavior. Fortunately, the behavior that is opposite to the one described above is attainable. Emotional control can be attained through patient and persistent effort to overcome the bad habit. One can begin with self-analysis and a genuine desire to improve emotional responses.

Emotional Suppression

Suppressing emotions has both positive and negative effects. Suppressing our anger especially while engaged in an argument may be good, but suppressing anger on all occasions can be disastrous. Psychologists and psychoanalysts hold that repressed feelings are not lost, they merely sink into the subconscious. A person who suppresses all his emotions will not find joy and excitement in life. There are some people who are afraid to release their emotions. In so doing, they get detached from the others and often keep up to themselves. On the other hand, some people may get so involved in their jobs that they feel frustrated when some emotional situations disrupt their entrenchment in their jobs. A healthy balance between emotional release and suppression may sometimes prevent a person from certain undesirable actions as in the case of a spinster who remains single all her life, because she does not want to risk being unhappy in married life. Emotional control can incur calculated risks, but the emotionally healthy individuals should learn to live with such limitations.

Teaching Emotional Control

In teaching children their emotions, two things should be emphasized. First, that they must learn to face reality, and secondly, that emotional problems need time for a solution. When a child feels frustrated, making him cries out his frustrations may help prevent future tantrums, but he may feel he is abandoned in his problems. On the other, when the mother takes her baby in her arms and tries to calm her down, the child feels secure and he will be receptive to explanations later on. Gradually, the child that rules and regulations enforced kindly and consistently can help him with his emotional problems.

Emotional control also calls for awareness of reality. The person who loses a parent should realize that there are some things beyond control. It will be then alright for him to grieve over the loss, but he must not go on brooding. He has to learn to accept reality and the fact that sooner or later he has to adjust to the new situation. This will need time, of course, because emotional control cannot be achieved overnight.

Emotional control may involve choice between alternatives that may not altogether be satisfactory. In some cases, it may involve choice of the less evil. One should learn that in life, we cannot always success. We have to learn to face failures, and we may realize that sometimes, failure can be the stepping stone to success.

Expecting Emotional Situations

As we grow older, we learn to develop emotional responses that are sanctioned by the society. For proper emotional adjustment, we experience these expected emotional situations. For example, we go to a basketball game expecting our team to win, but we are also aware of the fact that our team may lose, so we are prepared for both situations. Culturally, there are emotional expressions expected of them. Part of the emotional control involves a general awareness of the types of emotional problems on has to encounter and what emotional reactions are expected to the individual meeting the problem.

Previous Articles:

Frustrations and Conflicts
Responses to Frustration

Tags: psychology, stress management, emotional situations, handling emotions. 


Responses to Frustration

>> Monday, April 16, 2012

Responses to frustration vary in character. They depend partly on the obstacles, and more on the make-up and past experiences of the organism thwarted. These are in three f’s: fight, flight or freeze.

The first thing the individual does when an operating motive is blocked is to develop emotionality about the situation. The emotions arising from frustrations are the angry variety. These emotional responses may serve to strengthen the motives and to redouble the efforts to get ahead with the blocked activity.

Individuals who keep the emotional responses under control and succeed in investing increased energy in the rational pursuit of the goal are said to have high frustration tolerance. A frustrated individual will demonstrate a variety of responses in a frustrating situation. Instead of using the old habits, one can reduce the trial and error approach to an old problem. The student who is frustrated by a low grade may revise his study habits and try a new approach to his goal. The scientific investigator, whose first idea did not work out, conducts a series of experiments that will shed light on the problem. Frustration can promote learning and lead to a highly successful detour behavior.

The tension produced by frustration or conflict is more severe if there is ego-involvement. Each individual has a concept of self. One tries very hard to maintain a satisfying and favorable concept of oneself; and whenever a frustration or conflict threatens the image of one’s self, tension becomes greater. An ego-involved situation can produce severe tension. There is a painful failure for the student who, perhaps because of the parent’s misplaced ambitions for the student, aspires to a medical course while lacking the aptitude to pass medical subjects. Personal frustration frequently builds up feelings of inferiority, which in turn, serve to increase the frustration.

In an effort to adjust to ego-involving frustrations, an individual may use defense mechanisms. These defense reactions may not resolve the conflict or satisfy frustrated motives but they defend the psychological system, to direct it into creative behavior. Defense mechanisms to frustration can be roughly classified into three of adjustive behavior: (1) aggressive reactions (2) flight or withdrawal reactions (3) substitute activities or compromise reactions.

Aggressive Reactions

Aggression, as an overt expression of frustration, can be directed at the source of frustration or can be displaced. The strength of the aggressive response to frustration depends on its previous reinforcement and punishments, the strength of the habit and drive being blocked, the intensity of the frustration, the number of immediately preceding frustrations, and the availability of a target for aggressive behavior.

Sometimes, the source of frustration is vague and intangible. The frustrated individual does not know what to attack; yet he feels angry and looks for something to attack. At other times, the person responsible for the frustration is so strong or powerful that to attack it would be dangerous. When circumstances block direct attack on the cause of frustration and the aggressive action is made against an innocent person or object instead, the act is called displaced aggression.

The practice if “scapegoating” is an example or displaced aggression. An innocent victim may be blamed for one’s trouble and becomes the object of aggression. Sometimes people use inanimate or fictitious objects as scapegoats. Another form of displaced aggression is “free-floating” anger. When a person develops a chronic reaction pattern of anger, the hostility becomes generalized or “free-floating” and even neutral situations are viewed in a hostile way. Severe and prolonged frustrations may lead to a spell of blind rage as when a person runs “amuck” and may even kill anyone who happened to nearby.

Withdrawal Reactions

One type of defensive reaction is withdrawal from the frustrating situation. Withdrawal may be in the form of physical flight retreating within a “shell” of psychological defenses.

Fantasy. When a person’s desires are frustrated by reality, the person may retreat into a fantasy world where the thwarted wishes can be satisfied. Daydreams can help overcome obstacles. They have been called the “nursery of accomplishment.” Daydreams mirror the change in motives that come with age. Themes dominating daydreams of children are the acquisition of desired toys and the enjoyment of amusements. As they grow older, their dreams become more socially oriented. They dream of becoming heroes and of receiving praises. For adolescent, daydreams are winning the affection of the opposite sex and achieving social position and wealth. Adults daydream of success in work, wealth and power and other goals society taught them to strive for.

“Beatnik” Reaction. The eccentric behavior of the “beat” generation may be regarded as a withdrawal reaction from the frustration of modern life. The “beatnik” stands apart from the society and avoids responsibilities. Special outfits and slang, certain rituals and the use of drugs can be the “beatnik” expression of rebellion.

Repression. Repression is the process of excluding from the consciousness a thought or feeling that causes pain, shame or guilt. When there is excessive psychological pain associated with a particular experience, the individual’s conscious memory of the event may be blocked entirely for a time. However, a deliberate effort to forget by turning to other activities, called suppression, lessens the pain and is therefore entertained.

Apathy. One response to a frustrating situation is the opposite of active aggression. Instead of being destructive and hostile, the individual may show apathy, indifference or inactivity. When one person reacts with aggression while another with apathy to the same frustrating situation, it shows that reactions to frustration can be learned in much the same become detached instead of feeling angry, especially when resistance seems futile and when frustrating situations are of long duration and there is no hope of escape.

Fixation. Another consequence of frustration is the tendency to become repetitive or perform stereotyped behavior. Persistent behavior, such as thumb sucking of stuttering, may become more firmly fixed because of punishment and repeated frustration and in an effort to get rid of them, have intensified the undesirable responses.

Identification. Similar to fantasy in nature, identification reduces anxiety through an escape into a dream world. One takes on the characteristics of another person and thereby enhances his self-esteem.

Regression. When a frustrated individual unconsciously seeks to return to an earlier, more secure period of his/her life, his response is called regression. The individual reverts to old habits of adjustments to flee from the painful situations and the realities of the present time. He/she way weep, run home or display emotional tantrums to solve adult problems. Regression can occur at any age level.

Compromise Reactions

In many life situation, frustrations cannot reduced by either aggressive or withdrawal reactions but only by compromise. Without relinquishing the blocked goals, an individual partially gives in to the threats that the frustrations imply. There is the lowering of ambitions of acceptance of symbolic and substitute goals. For instance, a student who is refused admission to a medical school may decide that his best adjustment is to become a veterinarian. Although some forms of compromise are healthy and adjustive, others are not.

Reaction Formation. People may disguise their motivation and conflict by believing that their motive is exactly the opposite of their real motive. This mechanism helps the individual guard against unacceptable impulses. For example, a daughter who unconsciously hates her mother may be over-solicitous of her mother’s health and comfort. Social crusaders who campaign vigorously against vices and loose public morals may be trying to battle their own unconscious desires.

Projection. Another common disguise that protects a person against anxiety-producing impulses is projection. When one finds their feelings and thoughts intolerable, they not only repress them but also convince themselves that other people have these thoughts and feelings toward them. The individual directs these aggressive feelings towards others rather than toward himself/herself. The unfaithful husband who accuses his wife of infidelity is an example.

Projections also enable a person to blame other people for failures that are essentially their own, as in a student who failed in a course and claimed that the teacher disliked him; or a driver who met an accident and blamed the policeman directing the traffic.

Sublimation. There are some needs where direct satisfaction is often impossible. In such cases, an individual may resort to indirect means of obtaining gratification. Although indirect goals never provide exactly the same satisfaction as the original goals, they provide an outlet for the expression of frustrated desires. The indirect expression of a need may be in the form of sublimation.

In sublimation, the drive is redirected towards socially acceptable forms of expression. This provides partial satisfaction that is free of guilt feelings. Intense aggression can be directed to acceptable modes of behavior through participation in competitive sports. Artistic activities may also be a result of sublimation.

Compensation. An attempt to disguise or cover up felt deficiencies or undesirable traits by emphasizing a desirable type of behavior is called compensation. A frustrated athlete may shift interests from sports to writing, where he finds relief and excellence. A homely girl may compensate for her simplicity by excessively studying in order to gain the attention and recognition in the classroom.

A peculiar form of compensation, known as over-compensation, is an attempt to deny a weakness by trying to excel where one is weakest. The weakness thus acts as a goal or motive towards superior performance. Over-compensation is an energetic and effective way of meeting weaknesses.

Rationalization. Another way to compromise with problems is to intellectualize them by rationalization. Rationalization is a process of interpreting our behavior in ways more acceptable to the self by using reasoning or ‘alibis’ to substitute for the causes. Rationalization may take many forms. There is the “sour-graping” attitude, where there is denial of the true motive. Just like the fox that tried in vain to reach a bunch of grapes and then decided they were too sour anyway; a frustrated lover may suddenly contend that his former girl is not the kind he intends to marry. And there is the “sweet-lemon” philosophy where the frustration is considered as a blessing-in-disguise. The individual makes believe or rationalizes that the thwarting of the motive was for the best.

Tags: psychology, article, frustrations, response, human behavior, attitude, sour grape


Frustrations and Conflicts

>> Saturday, April 14, 2012

Frustrations and Conflicts

A frustration occurs when a goal achievement is blocked; a conflict is created when incompatible response tendencies are aroused. When a conflict comes from competing habits under one and the same drive, it is called habit conflict or habit competition. When it stems from competing motivation it is called motivational conflict.

Frustration and conflict are related because each can be the consequences of the other. For instance, a student fails in a subject that is required in his/her course, should he/she take it again or give up the course? What at first is a frustration develops into a conflict. The reverse occurs when a student entertains the conflicting alternative of whether to study for an examination or go to the movies. If the student opts to watch a movie, the desire to do well in the examination will be frustrated. A conflict of this kind can produce frustration because the student cannot satisfy both motivations simultaneously.

When an individual is exposed to a frustrating situation, he develops the concept of general adaptation syndrome, which refers to the physiological process that enables an individual to adapt to stressful situation. He assumes that the body reacts to stress in three successive stages: alarm reaction, the stage of resistance and finally, stage of exhaustion.

Frustration has a real value despite of its unpleasant nature. It greatly strengthens an individual’s motivation to overcome obstacles. Under stress, an individual intensifies the effort to satisfy the thwarted need directly or indirectly. Sometimes, the best course of actions is to leave the frustrating situation and find another action where satisfactory adjustment becomes possible.

Sources of Frustrations

There are several obstacles to goal achievement, ranging from simple physical ones to complex personal inadequacies. Sources of frustration can come from (1) the physical environment (2) the social environment and (3) the organism itself. The physical environment presents such obstacles as flood, typhoon, or rugged mountains. For example, a drought or typhoon can frustrate farmers because this will adversely affect their harvest. The social environment presents such obstacles as restrictions imposed by other people and the laws of the community. Children are thwarted by parental paralysis that may limit their activities. Lastly, we individuals possess limitations and these weaknesses hinder our satisfaction of some wishes like for example, no matter how much one may love to play basketball in the PBA, his height can be a deterring factor when he does not meet the minimal requirement.

Types of Conflicts

Contrary situation which involve the choice of alternatives can serve as sources of origins of conflict. There are four types of conflicts:

1. conflicting attraction or approach-approach
2. attraction repulsion or approach-avoidance
3. conflicting avoidance or avoidance-avoidance
4. multiple conflicts

Conflicting attraction or approach-approach conflict occurs when there are two desirable but mutually exclusive goals that one cannot have both. Shall I take AB or BSE? Shall I date the charming Michelle or the sexy Maria? Conflicts of this type are usually resolved by choosing one goal over the other, either excluding one entirely or deciding which to do first. The response to this conflict is either alternation or freezing or blocking.

Attraction-repulsion or approach-avoidance conflict – there is an attraction to an object or state of affairs and at the same time repulsion towards something associated with it. The situation contains two elements, one of which is very desirable while the other is undesirable and disadvantageous. For example, a girl likes to eat ice cream but she does not want to get stout; a student enjoys school but looks forward to vacation; a woman wants to marry but will lose her inheritance if she does. The closer the individual is to the goal, the repulsion towards the negative aspects associated with it gets stronger. Attraction-repulsion conflicts usually produce indecisive and vacillating behavior.

Conflicting avoidance or avoidance-avoidance conflict – when there are two unpleasant alternatives and one cannot be avoided without encountering the other. For example, a student does not want to make the requirements in school, but neither does the student want to fail the course; Lilia must wash the dirty dishes or face parental ire; Carlos must perform a job he hates doing or go hungry.

Multiple conflicts –when there are two or more courses of action each has both pleasant and unpleasant consequences stemming from the role we play in life. Multiple conflicts take a longer time to resolve. Generally, these conflicts are common because of the many expectations we bear. For example, a beauty contest winner is given the opportunity to start a movie career or to travel abroad but is strongly attached to her boyfriend and family. The goals she has are exclusive such that she wants both, but she cannot have both at the same time.



Tags: conflicts, frustrations, psychology, 


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