Psychological Self-Help

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Eventually both the unconditioned (UCS) and the conditioned
stimulus (CS) elicit similar (but we now know not the same)
responses--an automatic, involuntary response which the person
frequently (but not always) can not control. Examples of unconditioned
stimuli and responses are: pain and jerking away, a puff of air to the
eye and a blink, approaching danger and fear, light and pupil
constriction. Classical conditioning sounds simple. Actually, there are
many complexities. That's why Pavlov persisted for 30 years. He
discovered many of the basic learning processes, such as the
necessary timing when pairing the conditioned stimulus with the
unconditioned stimulus, inhibition, extinction, generalization,
discrimination, higher order conditioning, and others. All still described
in Introductory Psychology textbooks today. Pavlov thought he was
discovering the fundamental building blocks of all behavior (and to
some extent he was). He even found that animals (he didn't work with
humans) went crazy--barking, struggling to get away--when they
could no longer discriminate between two tones, CS+ and CS-,
becoming more and more alike, one tone (CS+) had been conditioned
to produce saliva and a very similar tone (CS-) conditioned to inhibit
saliva. Pavlov concluded that all psychopathology was learned via
classical conditioning. He wasn't always right, but he was a brilliant
How can we use this information? What are common, everyday
examples of classical conditioning? The Good Humor Wagon and the
bakery attract you with bells and smells previously paired with food.
TV advertisers pair their product with beautiful scenes or with
attractive, sexy, successful or important people in an effort to get you
to like their products more. Studying may be unpleasant for John
because it has been paired with frustration (hating to do it). Much of
what we like or dislike is a result of classical conditioning. Let's take
drinking coffee as an example. 
Have you ever wondered why and how so many people become
habituated to things that naturally taste bad? At first, coffee tastes
awful! Yet, many people drink it regularly (me too). Cigarettes taste
terrible! Alcohol too! Surely the taste of fingernails and filth under the
nails isn't very good! But many college students bite their nails. How
do we learn to like these things? Probably through classical
conditioning. How? 
I'll tell you how I learned to like coffee. My first job as a young
psychologist was in a Psychiatry clinic. I was the only psychologist and
alone a lot. Needing to talk to someone besides patients, I started
taking a coffee break with the secretaries, who were attractive and
interesting. Coffee started to taste better and better because I liked
the secretaries and enjoyed meeting my social needs. The clever
reader might ask why I didn't come to dislike secretaries instead of
liking coffee. That would have been possible if the awful taste had
been stronger than my social needs. I would have stopped taking
breaks if none of my needs were being met. 
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