Classical Conditioning & Examples

A theory of learning advocated by behaviorists is classical conditioning. It suggests that if an environmental stimulus is frequently coupled with a naturally occurring stimulus, eventually the environmental stimulus will elicit a comparable reaction to the naturally occurring stimulus. In this blog, let’s find out classical conditioning examples. The tests with dogs conducted by Russian biologist Ivan Pavlov are the most well-known investigations related to classical conditioning.

What Is Classical Conditioning?

The association-based learning method is classical conditioning, often refers to as Pavlovian or responder conditioning, which was by the Russian scientist Pavlov. Simply we can say that, when two stimuli combine together, a person or animal learns a new learned response. According to John Watson, the classical conditioning theory, which was in response to Pavlov’s findings, can explain every aspect of human psychology.

A neutral stimulus will turn into a conditioned stimulus when it is combined with an unconditioned stimulus (US) that has already produced an unconditioned response, and this will result in a conditioned response (CR) that is similar to the original unconditioned response (UR).

Everything, including speech and emotional outbursts, was ultimately a series of patterns of stimulation and reaction. Watson vehemently rejected the notion of a mind or awareness. According to Watson, every person’s behavioral variations are the result of their unique learning experiences.

Pavlov’s Experiment

According to classical conditioning, in order to create a learned response to a previously neutral stimulus, a neutral stimulus must arrive shortly before an automatic stimulus. In his experiments, Pavlov fed a dog while ringing a bell or flashing light in a dark room. The dog automatically started salivating as soon as the food was place in its mouth. After the meal presentation and the light or bell combination were employed repeatedly, the dog started salivating whenever it saw the light or heard the bell. In other words, the dog was trained to correlate its salivation response with the previously neutral stimuli.

Types Of Stimuli And Responses

With reference to Pavlov’s experiments, particular terminology is to describe each of the stimuli and responses in classical conditioning:

  • Because the dog responds to the food in a natural way, the act of presenting food to it is known as an unconditioned stimulus (UCS).
  • The dog needs to learn to connect the light or bell with the desired behavior, making it the conditioned stimulus (CS).
  • Because it is an intrinsic reflex, salivation in reaction to food is known as the unconditioned response (UCR).
  • The conditioned response (CR) involves salivation in response to light or bell because the dog learns to link that reaction to the conditioned stimulus.

Stages Of Classical Conditioning

Before conditioning

Unconditioned stimuli and unconditioned responses occur prior to conditioning. This is the innate reaction.

For example, eating causes salivation, while a stomach illness causes nausea. Because it currently has no impact, the conditioned stimulus still refers to as the neutral stimulus.

During conditioning

We start to link the unconditioned response and the neutral stimulus.

For instance, you might connect a certain food with a stomach virus, or you might associate getting food with the bell ringing.

After conditioning

It becomes the conditioned reaction once you’ve mastered the association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned response. Thus, the bell induces salivation and the particular type of food now causes nausea (despite though it wasn’t necessarily what caused the stomach illness).

You’ve thus unknowingly acquired the ability to link the new stimulus—a scenario, an object, a person, etc.—and the response.

Key Principles Of Classical Conditioning 

A variety of diverse phenomena connect to classical conditioning according to behaviorists. Some of these components deal with the initial development of the response, while others talk about its absence. Here are five fundamental ideas of classical conditioning in more detail. 


The initial phase of learning, known as acquisition, is when a reaction is initially developed and then gradually improved. The pairing of neutral and unconditioned stimuli occurs frequently during the acquisition phase of classical conditioning.

As you may recall, unconditioned stimuli are ones that spontaneously and instantly evoke a response without the need for learning. When a connection occurs, the once-neutral stimulus—now known as a conditioned stimulus—begins to cause the subject to display behavior in response. The response has now officially been obtained, we can say.

Once the response has been established, it can be gradually reinforced to ensure that the behavior has been properly internalized.


When a conditioned reaction stops occurring or goes extinct, it is said to have been extinct. When a conditioned stimulus is no longer paired with an unconditioned stimulus, this occurs in classical conditioning.

For instance, if the smell of food was mixed with the sound of a whistle (the unconditioned stimulus), the sound of a whistle might eventually begin to evoke the conditioned response of hunger (the conditioned stimulus).

The conditioned response—hunger—would progressively go away if the whistle and the aroma of food were isolated.

Spontaneous Recovery

A learned reflex occasionally resurfaces even after a period of extinction. This is what we mean by spontaneous recovery.

Imagine, for example, that after teaching a dog to drool in response to a bell, you stop rewarding the behavior, and the response disappears. After a period of rest during which the conditioned stimulus was not presented, you ring the bell. And the animal immediately remembers the acquired reaction.

If the connection between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus is broken, extinction will resume very fast after a spontaneous recovery.


Stimulus generalization is the propensity of a conditioned stimulus to elicit similar responses once the response has been conditioned. If an animal will train to salivate in response to the sound of a bell, it might respond similarly to a sound that is similar to the bell.

For instance, a small child was able to train to fear a white rat in John B. Watson’s well-known Little Albert Experiment. The youngster demonstrated stimuli generalization by also exhibiting dread in response to various fuzzy white things, including plush toys and Watson’s own hair.


The ability to discriminate between stimuli that are associated with an unconditioned response and other stimuli is known as discrimination.

For instance, discrimination would entail the capacity to tell a bell tone from other comparable sounds if a bell tone served as the conditioned stimulus. The individual will only react when the conditioned stimulus is present there. Since they have the ability to distinguish between several stimuli.

Classical Conditioning Applications To Mental Health


Both diagnosing and treating phobias make use of classical conditioning. A phobia is an extreme, illogical dread of a particular thing, such as an item or circumstance. The emergence of a phobia frequently explains the classical condition.

For instance, if you experience a panic attack in a certain location, such as an elevator, you can start to link elevators to terror and start dreading or avoiding all elevator rides. Your reaction may impact negative stimuli.

It’s critical to keep in mind that phobias cause unreasonable concerns. It’s possible that classical conditioning had an impact on how that fear you can “learn”. but it can also undo that learning.

The fear you can unlearn if the person regularly exposes to the circumstance or thing without a negative effect. Once you’ve taken 100 elevator rides without having a panic attack, you shouldn’t.


A terrible encounter may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious anxiety disease. It could give you the impression that you are in danger even though you are not.

This severe anxiety is learned or conditioned. Those with PTSD can recall the event with clarity.

Drug use

People who are recovering from substance use disorders must consider their conditioning.

People frequently unknowingly associate the pleasure of drug usage with these things when they have the drugs in particular settings or with specific individuals.

This is why many medical professionals advise patients in recovery from substance abuse to stay away from individuals and places they identify with substance abuse in order to prevent a recurrence.

Classical Conditioning Applied In Therapies

Two therapy for mental illness are frequently counterconditioning:

  • Exposure therapy
  • Aversion therapy

Phobias and anxiety disorders typically treat with exposure therapy. The person goes through what they fear. They progressively learn to overcome their fear of it.

A positive response swaps out for a negative one in aversion therapy to stop harmful behavior. This is typically in reference to alcohol and drug misuse.

A person may prescribe medicine by their doctor that makes them feel ill if they drink alcohol, hence instilling the idea that alcoholism is contagious.

This form of therapy frequently fails to work when employed on its own.

Classical Conditioning & Examples

Let’s have a look at different classical conditioning examples in many aspects of life.

Classical Conditioning Examples In The Classroom

The desk, the chalkboard, the pencil, the printed paper, and every other inanimate object needed to write on a test or exam in school are all viewed as neutral stimuli in and of themselves. Students only react negatively to them because they start to connect them to exam anxiety, the eerie silence in the room, or the frantically ticking wall clock.

Getting accustomed to exam circumstances is a crucial, yet sometimes disregarded, a component of SAT preparation. You won’t feel as anxious or tense while writing the actual test if you can try to imitate similar scenarios and create inspiring associations.

Positive reinforcement is a straightforward strategy to motivate pupils who are progressing in the right direction to keep going and to persuade those who are veering off course to switch courses.

After performing the action for which they complement, students will feel wonderful. Most pupils will continue to behave in this manner.

The students who may not be modeling the desired behavior may want to emulate it if they hear positive remarks about the behavior of other children. Then, they’ll probably act in the required manner. Of course, there are always exceptions. Concepts like positive reinforcement and operant conditioning connect with each other.

Classical Conditioning Examples In Organizations

One frequently advises getting insurance to guard against any unusual behavior or a situation that could change your life. Term insurance, which enables the victim to safeguard the interests of his or her dependents in the case of death, is the most crucial. His immediate family will receive a one-time payment to make up for the loss of an income-earning family member. However, people have been taught to earn a profit even on their insurance premiums thanks to innovative products like ULIPS, developed by insurance companies.

Because they are concerned about losing the money necessary to make a profit, customers are lured to these products. The consumer’s habit is reinforced by the fact that everyone else is using it, and he eventually makes a purchase. Insurance companies have affected consumer behavior even for this fundamental necessity by using advertising and classical conditioning.

Many companies in a variety of industries have employed classical conditioning to increase worker productivity. For instance, encouraging the desired behavior by rewarding the agent with a variable incentive that exceeds expectations. It spurs individuals to grow and empowers them to inspire others. In order to accomplish the desired goals, it first fosters positive behavior in staff members and reinforces such behavior. Similar techniques can be used to enhance workplace security for staff members in manufacturing companies and lower shop floor accidents.

Classical Conditioning Examples In Everyday Life

Just like the negative experience with the barking dog above, the principles of classical conditioning can apply to so many other areas of everyday life. If you’ve never eaten it before, any particular dish or kind of food is a clean slate for prospective associations.

If you get an acute food illness after eating sushi for the first time, it’s likely that you will start to link everything related to that sushi experience negatively, leading to food aversion. Sometimes all it takes to make you want to throw up is the fragrance of sushi rice or the sight of raw fish.

Classical Conditioning Examples In Animals

Imagine as a child taking the same route every day to school. As you passed a particular house, a dog in the yard would growl and hiss at you. Being a young child makes this situation even worse. The stimulation of dogs has always been extremely neutral.

You might eventually bounce back on your own. You might not even recall the name of the childhood dog, but you become nauseated and start to shiver anytime you pass a home that looks precisely like it and has a “beware of dog” sign posted on the fence.

Classical Conditioning Examples In Advertising

The practice of advertising is one of the most well-known examples of classical conditioning in action. Businesses create commercial advertisements to lure clients. Most companies rely on celebrity brand value to boost sales of their goods. Celebrity endorsements of particular products regularly influence consumers, therefore businesses want to boost the market value of their products by tying these celebrities to them.

Example Of Backward Conditioning

To induce fear while licking a water tube, a rat is forward-conditioned to link sound (conditioned stimulus) with shock (unconditioned stimulus) (conditioned response). As a result, following the excitation training phase, a rat may become scared and stop licking when exposed to noise alone.

Conditioned Stimulus will be presented on its own, without being followed by Unconditioned Stimulus, in a typical classical conditioning extinction. Conditioned Stimulus will eventually lose its capacity to terrify the rat if extinction is successful. When the unconditioned stimulus is provided before the conditional stimulus in backward conditioning, the extinction takes place right away.

Excitatory Conditioning Examples

Take a moment to picture yourself strolling in a forest. Despite the fact that you did not bring a lunch, you feel a little peckish. On a nearby shrub, there are several red little berries that appear to be delectable. So you pick out a handful and eat them.

You begin to feel quite nauseated and eventually throw up after approximately 20 minutes. terribly unwell After that, you must avoid all small, spherical, or red foods at all costs. Actually, your response is more comparable to a reflex. Even tomatoes and strawberries can grow on you. Even a watermelon’s interior has the potential to make you feel uncomfortable.

Trace Conditioning Example

You are excited when the Amazon delivery truck passes through your neighborhood because you know that a box, frequently an electrical item you have been waiting for, will be delivered to you shortly.

Unconditioned stimulus: Amazon delivery truck

Conditioned stimulus: receiving an Amazon package

Conditioned/unconditioned response: Excited to try the new gadget

A Few More Classical Conditioning Examples

Imagine if your boss is constantly bringing up work whenever they get the chance. After a while, you grow to detest lectures to the extent that you begin to fear running into your supervisor. Even at social events or when you’re not at work. You don’t want to be in the same room with them. Because you don’t want the association to get stronger over time.

The taste of peppermint, the appearance of lights strung from houses, the smell of pine, and the sound of Christmas music are widely used to describe the end-of-year festivities.

Popular Christmas songs start to bring back nice holiday memories when you hear them. Numerous studies have shown that listening to uplifting music can lift your spirits.

Do you recall getting your first vaccinations as a child? The bulk of the children waiting in line starts to weep as soon as one child starts to cry during an injection. The young folks waiting in line already link pain and needles. Classical conditioning is beautifully depicted in this scenario, where crying is the taught behavior.

Cancer patients and their families are most afraid of nausea and vomiting as side effects of cancer treatment. Patients receiving chemotherapy frequently vomit during or shortly after the procedure. After several sessions, some chemotherapy patients begin to experience nausea at the sight of the treatment area.

What happens when one of your favorite foods is smelled? You will feel really hungry if you haven’t eaten in hours. To every one of us, this occurs.

Most of the time, when we pass a particular restaurant or cross a food street, we begin to feel hungry. Even when we are not actually hungry. Similarly to this, some people will feel obligated to eat when they are not actually hungry.

The Bottom Line 

People don’t respond exactly the way Pavlov’s dogs did in real life. But there are many practical uses for classical conditioning. For instance, a lot of dog trainers assist owners with classical conditioning-based pet training.

Additionally helpful for assisting those with phobias or anxiety issues, these strategies. To establish a connection, therapists might, for instance, repeatedly link something that causes anxiety with calming approaches.

In order to help students overcome anxiety or dread, teachers might apply classical conditioning by creating a positive learning environment in the classroom. By connecting a stressful situation, like performing in front of a group, with a calm atmosphere, the learner makes new associations. Instead of becoming tense and anxious in these situations, the youngster will learn how to retain their composure and serenity.

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