The Emergence Of Animal Studies Of Classical Conditioning

Although human eyeblink classical conditioning studies began a steep decline in the 1960s, classical conditioning studies using animals showed rapid growth. This was in part likely due to at least two factors. First, some experimentalists moved from human conditioning research to working with animals, which served to stimulate the field of animal work. Second, although problematic, the human research on classical conditioning nevertheless revealed the potential of classical conditioning to serve as a paradigm for the systematic and thorough analysis of associative learning if it could be appropriately exploited. What was needed was the development of a "model" paradigm of classical conditioning in which all the basic features (e.g., CS and US types and intensities, measurement of the responses, and ISIs and ITIs) would be held consistent across laboratories. A model paradigm must result in robust acquisition of the CR, which is reliable across laboratories. This would allow theoretical questions about learning and memory to be addressed. Additionally, these methods must be economical and relatively easy to implement, and the characteristics of the learned response must not be unique to the experimental circumstances or to the species being tested.

In the early 1960s, Isidore Gormezano and colleagues developed a paradigm in which classical conditioning of the NM response was used with rabbits. The NM is vestigial in humans but is quite pronounced in the rabbit. It consists of a sheet of cartilage located behind the inner canthus of the eye. When the eyeball is stimulated, it retracts into the eye socket. This causes the NM to passively sweep across a portion of the eyeball. This movement is the measured response. The NM response was chosen because it is simple to measure (usually with a minitorque potentiometer) and because the NM cannot completely cover the eye. In this preparation, the rabbit's eyelids are held open with clips to prevent the subject from completely closing its eyelids and avoiding an airpuff US. Because the rabbit cannot avoid the airpuff US, the response cannot be an instrumental response but remains squarely within the domain of classical conditioning.

This paradigm remains the model classical conditioning paradigm. It has endured because it has simply proven to be an ideal paradigm. The result is that the processes and factors that influence the acquisition of the CR are now understood in detail. These details allow learning theories to be constructed. This model system then allows the hypotheses that are derived from these theories to be rigorously tested and interpreted against an immense background of empirical data. In this respect, the importance of classical conditioning to modern learning theory cannot be overestimated.

Conquering Fear In The 21th Century

Conquering Fear In The 21th Century

The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Fear And Getting Breakthroughs. Fear is without doubt among the strongest and most influential emotional responses we have, and it may act as both a protective and destructive force depending upon the situation.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment