When I was younger, I used to love cream cheese. I would put it on my bagels and use cream cheese icing for everything. When I was about 8 years old, I was a Girl Scout. Each week we did a different activity, usually a craft or making some sort of treat. One week, we had the assignment to make cinnamon cream cheese snails. To make them, we cut bread into long skinny pieces, soaked them in butter, rolled them in cinnamon-sugar, spread cream cheese down the center, and then rolled them up to look like a snail. Then you got to eat them, and they were delicious. I probably had 3-4 that night. Unfortunately, my sister and I started vomiting later that night, assuming that it was the cream cheese snails. It could have been something else I had eaten that day that made me throw up, or the combination of the ingredients in the snails, but I was convinced that it was the cream cheese. Since then, I have avoided cream cheese like the plague. This is called a taste aversion.
A taste aversion is the development of a nausea or aversive response to a particular taste because that taste was followed by a nausea reaction, occurring after only one association. It is considered to be part of classical conditioning because you’re associating a certain food with being sick. Taste aversions could actually be written into our genes. If you ate something bad, before there was medicine to make you feel better, then you would die. People learned to avoid these foods in order to survive. So now, if we eat something that makes us feel sick, we automatically don’t want to eat that food ever again for fear that it will make us sick again.
Now that I am 18 years old, I have slowly begun to warm up to cream cheese again. My mom makes these amazing Oreo truffles that have cream cheese in them; this is when I tried cream cheese again for the first time in years. Occasionally, I’ll have a thin layer of cream cheese on a bagel—but only an “everything” bagel. My taste aversion is slowly becoming extinct. Extinction occurs when the disappearance or weakening of a learned response (avoiding cream cheese) follows the removal or absence of the unconditioned stimulus (getting sick). Unfortunately, the aversion is not completely extinct yet; I still can’t go near cream cheese icing, maybe it’s because the sweetness reminds me of the combination of cream cheese and cinnamon-sugar. I’ll probably never forget about getting sick from those cinnamon cream cheese snails, but maybe in a few more years I’ll be able to eat it without fear of throwing up.
Reinforcement is anything that strengthens a behavior. There is both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement adds something desirable to the situation that encourages that subject to repeat the behavior. A negative reinforcement removes something that is unpleasant to the subject from the situation. Both positive and negative reinforcement reward the subject. They strengthen behavior.
This is different from punishment which decreases behavior. Positive punishment gives something to the subject that the subject does not like if they do not do the correct behavior. Negative punishment is taking something away from the subject that they enjoyed.
Reinforcement has been found to a more successful way for getting subjects to repeat a certain behavior because it rewards them for doing the correct thing. Punishment is also successful, but not as much because it can only teach a subject what not to do.
I have used both reinforcement and punishment on my dog, Chloe. Electric fences are positive punishment. I used these on her to make her stop running out of our yard. If she crossed the property line she was given a small shock. After crossing once, she never did it again. A beeping noise also goes off when she gets close to the electric fence. Chloe has associated this noise with the shock (classical conditioning) and will turn around whenever she hears it. I also taught Chloe some tricks with positive reinforcement. Through shaping I was eventually able to teach Chloe how to roll over. Every time she completed the task successfully I would give her a treat (normally a piece of cheese). This turned into a problem though because I might’ve made her do the trick too many times. For a while after teaching her how to roll over, Chloe would start rolling over and over and over every time someone in my family got some cheese from the refrigerator. She wouldn’t stop until they gave her the cheese or picked her up. Once I think she did 6 or 7 spins before I stopped her. Thankfully this only lasted a few days. She stopped this dizzying habit when we stopped responding to her.
The psychology concept that I will be talking about is taste aversion. Taste aversion states that humans are apt to have an aversion to a food if they become sick afterwards. Now I understand some may think to themselves why this would be a psychology concept. Well to keep it simple it’s because a mind game played with oneself. Taste aversions are also a great example of the fundamentals of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the type of learning in which an organism learns to associate stimuli. In the scenario, the person is associating the food with the illness followed after eating it. Although the food and the illness have no actual correlation, one will still avoid the food because it reminds them of the sickness. I have actually had a couple experiences in my life that describe this perfectly. I remember back when I was around eleven and I was at home eating Nabisco’s Nilla Wafers on a weekend. At the time, these cookies were one of my favorite snacks to eat and I always enjoyed eating them. Oddly enough, on this particular day I became sick after eating them and I threw up. I still to this day won’t eat these cookies. I understand that it wasn’t the cookie that made me sick but the thought of eating one somehow leaves a distasteful flavor in my mouth. Another is when I was on my school bus and I was chewing some generic gumballs that you might get as a crappy Halloween treat. As odd as it sounds, I could only compare its nauseating taste to that of old Chinese food. This resulted in me refusing to order Chinese food restaurant for years. Now that many years have passed I can now consume this type of meal with no hesitation. I do find it truly interesting though as to why we make the food we ate the “bad guy” as if it was the reason we became ill, resulting in us avoiding it for an extended period of time. It’s just another incredible concept of how the human mind works.
Two summers ago I went to the beach with my family. I was not a big fan of seafood then but I thought “when in Rome” and decided that I would give it a try. I ordered crab legs for the first time that night and actually liked them. Granted, they were drowning in butter but I still didn’t mind the ocean taste as much as I thought I would. The next day we packed our bags and said good-bye to our vacation home for another year. On the seven hour car ride home, I started to feel nauseous. This was a bizarre feeling for me because I had never been car sick before. Luckily I made it home without getting sick, but for the rest of the day I was still feeling under the weather. I went to bed early and thought that I would wake up and feel better. That could not have been further from the truth. I woke up seventeen hours later and every part of my body ached. The blue light on my cable box about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil was too bright for my eyes. The faint noise of my family members’ voices from the floor below was too loud. I cannot find the right words to explain the pain and uncomfortableness I was experiencing. A few hours later, after falling asleep again, I woke up to an acute pain in my abdomen. My mom took me to the emergency room where I was pounded with questions. At first the doctors thought I had food poisoning. I immediately thought of the crab legs that I had eaten two days ago. I ended up having mono and for those of you that have had it before, you know how unbearable it is. Even though I knew that the crab legs I ate didn’t give me mono, I had made the association between the awful symptoms and the new food that I tried. Crab legs were ruined for me. Even the thought of them made me nauseous. My sister’s favorite restaurant is Red Lobster and of course she chose to go there for her birthday dinner. Just the smell of the crab legs made me get sick in the bathroom. No matter how badly I hoped that I could eat them, my body would not let me. Thankfully, I never suffered from generalization. This is the tendency for similar stimuli to elicit similar responses. I couldn’t even stomach the thought of crab legs, but I had no problem eating shrimp. Two years had passed since I was sick with mono and it was time for my sister’s birthday again. Naturally, we went to Red Lobster like every other year. This time, I had no problem being around the crab legs. Though I preferred not to eat them just in case, my conditioned response of nausea had gone extinct. The unconditioned stimulus (smell of crab legs) no longer cued me to feel nauseous. Through this experience, I learned classical conditioning first hand. I hope that others that have suffered from taste aversion will experience extinction like I did and no longer have a conditioned response!
When I was in Elementary/High school I rode the bus every year up until I could drive myself. Every morning I would have the same routine, get up, shower, dress, brush teeth, and wait in my house until I could see the bus stopped at the stop just up the road. On days I was running behind my mom would yell “bus” and I would run out of wherever I was put on my coat and leave. When I was in sixth grade, we got a pug who, for the first few months after coming home with us, didn’t understand why we left or where we went for the day. After a while, Hoss (the pug) started to understand that when we would yell “bus”, that meant we were leaving. When we yelled “bus” Hoss would start barking and would run to the door, and many times would reach it before I even got up off the couch. Hoss became conditioned to expect us to leave when he heard the word “bus” and would react accordingly.
Classical conditioning is defined as a learning process that occurs through associations between an environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus. In this instance, the neutral stimulus was the word “bus” and the naturally occurring stimulus would be Hoss’s reaction to me leaving. Just like pavlov’s dogs, Hoss was conditioned to react to a once completely neutral word through the realization that when a certain word was used, that meant that I was leaving. Since I haven’t had to ride the bus in a few years, Hoss doesn’t react quite as strongly to the word bus, so it is now turning back into a neutral stimulus.
Psychology 100 Section 3
February 5, 2014
Blog Post #1
Classical Conditioning in Ballet Class
When I was in high school, I worked at my mom’s dance studio and taught ballet to children between the ages of two and six. I had always noticed one thing in particular while working with the children but never understood why it occurred. Whenever a child would get his or her splits, I would reward them with a sticker. In the beginning of the year, the kids would politely approach me to show me they got their splits so I could then give them a sticker. But as the year went on, the kids would start doing their splits randomly in the middle of class, come up to me, expect me to drop everything I was doing and give them a sticker. I could not figure out why this change was taking place throughout the year. This deeply troubled me because I wanted to reward the children for their achievements but by the end of the year, the stickers became a disruption.
Had I known about Pavlov’s discovery, I probably would have been much less puzzled about the children’s behavior. According to Psychology by Saundra K. Ciccarelli and J. Noland White, Pavlov showed that a reaction could occur in response to a formerly unrelated stimulus. He proved this theory by working with dogs. First, he observed that after turning on a metronome and feeding the dogs, they would salivate. However, after many trials of this experiment, the dogs started to salivate solely due to the sound of the metronome, before even being presented with food. He called this form of behaviorism, “conditioning”. (13)
I now realize that I was unintentionally conditioning the children to show an involuntary reaction once they got their splits. After several repetitions of rewarding the dancers with stickers for getting their splits, they became unconscientiously expectant of a reward. Pavlov’s experiment with the dogs compares to this because both the dancers and dogs were classically conditioned.
Ciccarelli, Saundra K., and J. Noland. White. Psychology. New York: Learning
Solutions, 2009. Print.
Last year, as a senior in high school, I took AP psychology, which was almost identical to PSYCH 100. I remember learning about Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiments with the salivating dogs. Classical conditioning is when two unrelated stimuli are paired and a response that would normally follow the first stimulus becomes associated with the second stimulus as well. Eventually, the second stimulus will cause the same response as the first did, even if the stimulus and response wouldn’t normally be related. Pavlov’s experiment included dogs, bells, food, and salivation. Whenever he rang a bell, he would present food to the dogs and they would begin to salivate. Eventually, whenever the dogs heard a bell, they would begin to drool, even though there was no food in sight.
I think that classical conditioning can be used with almost anything or anyone. My teacher last year told my class a funny story to explain to us just how well classical conditioning works. He said that a few years ago, some of his students classically conditioned him. For some reason, he noticed, they began asking about Pavlov a lot. He thought nothing of it, just that they were curious. What he didn’t notice was that every time someone asked a question about or said the name “Pavlov,” someone else in the class would yawn, causing my teacher to yawn. Soon, my teacher began to wonder why he always felt so tired in the middle of class. Every time Pavlov was mentioned, he would yawn—now without anyone else in the room provoking it. The students found this hilarious and actually began keeping track of how many times he yawned each class period. Eventually, his students told him about their little prank, and he was impressed with how well their experiment worked.
I think it’s amazing how well classical and operant conditioning can work. You can basically get anyone to do anything you want him/her to do.