Classical conditioning is a means of changing a being’s behaviors through the use of rewards and punishments relating to specific biological stimulus. Pavlov’s dogs are a classic example of classical conditioning.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Classical Conditioning

A dog being fed demonstrating classical conditioning
Classic conditioning often involves food.

Classical conditioning is a form of operant conditioning. It’s also know as Pavlovian conditioning (after Ivan Pavlov and his famous dog…). It is similar to reinforcement theory and says that the results an individual experiences as a consequence of undertaking actions or behaviors, will affect how they act in the future. More simply, it’s possible to change the ways that people and other animals behave through the use of rewards and punishments.

Classical conditioning and reinforcement theory are, however, subtly different. Where reinforcement theory typically uses a social mechanism to reward or punish behaviors, classical conditioning is founded on specific biological stimulus.

The most classic examples of this from Pavlov’s work include conditioning dogs to expect food as the result of the ringing of a bell. There’s lots more to his work than this simple explanation suggests, and it’s worth a bit of exploration if you have time.

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Learning More

To learn more about changing behaviors, you benefit from reading up on the Behavior Change Wheel. It’s a fairly simple way to look at how to change behaviors through various interventions.

There are also several different models that look at personal change. These include the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change and Intentional Change Theory.

If you’re interested in change to increase happiness, they might find the GREAT DREAM happiness model of interest.

Some aspects of personal change relate to understanding the power of habits. And once we understand them and how long it takes to form them, we can learn to replace our bad habits, so that we achieve better outcomes.

Habits are powerful things. We can reach the stage where we have Automaticity, the ability to do things without really thinking about them. You can learn more about habits in our podcast on them:

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We don’t have much to add to this post, which is really just a stub. We don’t expect classical conditioning to be used in the workplace.

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This post on classical conditioning is really just a stub on an interesting topic that we’ve not fully explored. If you’d like to learn more, this www.simplepsychology.org article is a good starting point: “Pavlov’s Dogs”.

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