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Classical Conditioning

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Classical Conditioning

My Experience with Classical Conditioning

Though it may be difficult to believe, I had never tasted a sip of alcohol until my freshman year of college. A combination of dedication to my sport, track and field, fear of my fatherÐŽ¦s reprisal, and dreams of getting a scholarship kept me from indulging in the normal temptations that teenagers succumb to during my high school years. But being on my own in college and having secured a scholarship, allowed me to give way to temptation and indulge myself in the standard college drinking atmosphere. Still, my dedication to running kept me worried about my weight because I knew that alcohol had a lot of calories and I did not want to fall victim to the dreaded ÐŽ§Freshman 15.ЎЁ Therefore I decided beforehand that I would allow myself to only drink vodka with a diet coke as the chaser.

The first time I ever took a sip of alcohol, I kept the diet cola in the other hand because I was worried about the horrible taste I had heard vodka had. I took a deep breath, took a mouthful, felt myself gag, and quickly raised the diet coke to my lips. The taste was awful, and every time I took a sip that night I was hit with the retching sensation which I tried to chase away with the mouthful of diet soda. For the next couple of days, drinking diet soda did not elicit any type of response other than satiate my thirst and wet my mouth.

After the next couple of weekends of going out to drink with friends, I found that drinking diet cola on a weekday, when I was not drinking alcohol, caused the same retching sensation that happened when I drank vodka. I was floored because diet coke was the thing I drank the most of, even more than I consumed water. But the retching sensation persisted, even when I was drinking diet cola by itself. However, by the middle of the first semester of my first year of college, I decided that I did not want to drink alcohol anymore, but the gagging response continued to persist. It was not until the beginning of the second semester, that I was able to drink diet soda without feeling as if I were going to dry heave.

Analysis of Classical Conditioning Experience

My experience with alcohol and diet coke serves as a perfect example of a Classical Conditioning experience. Before conditioning diet coke elicited no response in me, and alcohol caused a reflexive response of gagging with no prior learning. Like PavlovÐŽ¦s dogs learned to associate the sound of the bell with the presentation of food, so did I associate the taste of diet cola with the presence of alcohol. As far as immediate physiological responses were concerned, the taste of diet coke became equivalent to the presence of alcohol. Therefore, the alcohol is the unconditioned stimulus (UCS), because it elicits a response prior to learning, which is unconditioned response (UCR), gagging. The diet coke paired with the alcohol becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS), which would ultimately cause the gagging to become the conditioned response (CR).

Figure 1: Diagram of My Experience of Classical Conditioning

Before Conditioning

Diet Coke ------------------------------------------------„Ñ- no gag response

Alcohol (UCS)------------------------------------------„Ñ- gagging (UCR)

During Conditioning

Diet Coke (CS)

+ ---------------------------------------------„Ñ- gagging (UCR)

Alcohol (UCS)

After Conditioning

Diet Coke (CS) ------------------------------------------„Ñ- gagging (CR)

Classical Conditioning is usually strongest when there are repeated CS- UCS pairings, the UCS is intense, when there is forward pairing, and when the time interval between the CS and UCS is short (Passer and Smith 204). My experience with the alcohol and the diet coke meets all of these requirements. I had drunk the combination on many occasions, the gagging sensation was intense, and the second the alcohol touched my tongue I brought the diet coke to my mouth, making the time interval between the UCS and the CS short. Technically there was not forward pairing because I first had a taste of vodka before the diet coke, but since I had taken multiple shots, the diet coke was followed by another taste of alcohol. Therefore this is the perfect example of classical conditioning because it contains all of the aspects that need to be present to have a strong conditioning experience.

But a while after I stopped drinking alcohol, but continued drinking diet coke, the gagging sensation subsided until it completely disappeared. This is an example of extinction, or the process in which the CS, in this case the diet coke, is presented repeatedly in the absence of the UCS, the vodka, causing the CR, gagging, to weaken and eventually disappear. Every instance I drank the diet coke without the vodka was the extinction trial, and when the diet coke was again and again presented without the vodka, the gagging sensation stopped (Smith and Passer 204).

Operant Conditioning

My Experience with Operant Conditioning

The beginning of my senior year of high school I decided to start restricting certain foods in order to keep my body healthy so I could have a good track and field season. I continued to slowly restrict more and more foods until I could only eat a half pack of cream of wheat in the morning, an apple for lunch, and steamed vegetables for dinner. As a result I lost 45 pounds and was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. After researching different eating disorder treatment facilities, my parents decided to place me in inpatient care at a hospital.



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