Over the years that my husband and I have been together, we have come to know each other better than we know ourselves. This includes knowing what the other person will say before they even say it. Without realizing it, every time I would say, “guess what” to my husband, I would follow it up with “I love you.” Eventually, he began to expect that. This particular conversation between my husband and I is a perfect example of classical conditioning because he now associates my words, “guess what” with “I love you.”
Classical conditioning, according to our textbook definition, “occurs when the following two stimuli are paired: (1) a neutral stimulus that initially does not result in a response and (2) a conditioning stimulus that does result in a response” (Goldstein, 165). Therefore, the neutral stimulus then prompts the conditioned response. In my example of the conversation between my husband and I, the neutral stimulus would be “guess what” (which would usually result in a simple “what?”). The conditioning stimulus here is “I love you,” which obviously results in an “I love you too” response. After countless conversations like this, he apparently realized that I was going to say, “I love you,” and decided to skip the unnecessary part of the conversation by replying with “I love you too” right away. It never really occurred to me that I had classically conditioned him, until one day I said, “guess what,” and actually had something exciting and different to say. That conversation went something like, “hey, guess what,” to which he responded, “I love you too.” I was speechless, before finally saying “well yeah, that, but..” and I told him what I was excited about. My husband associated “guess what” with “I love you,” because I repeatedly paired the two stimuli in our conversations. Normally, however, these two stimuli are completely unrelated. It was only due to classical conditioning that they became related for my husband.
In the past, I had heard of individuals classically conditioning people they know as part of a project or experiment for school. Until recently, I had no idea that classical conditioning was a part of my life. It is quite fascinating that this was occurring right in front of me, and I was completely unaware of it!
Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.