Sample%20Paper%20_1%20-%20Conditioning

Sample%20Paper%20_1%20-%20Conditioning - Psych 100 v...

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Unformatted text preview: Psych 100 v Madigan 09/28/99 Classical Conditioning Personal Experience with Classical Conditioning When I was a senior in high school, I worked at a music retail store called The Sound. I was the mflycmployve‘save‘fisr the owner of the store, and he generally was not around When I was working. Since it was a small store that did not receive too much business, I would open the store at eleven and stay by myself until closing at seven at night, handling all ofthe duties required. The building that the store was in was actually a house that had been converted into two businesses — there was a wall that had been built'irrthe'middle ofthelrousefandm‘the other'side ofthe wall was an office for the car lot next door. The Sound was set up so that the register was in front ofthe entrance, facing perpendicularly from it. Directly behind the register, and, consequently, the seat that I sat at, was an open doorway to the back room. This back room was also open to customers via a doorway parallel to the one behind me, on the other side ofthe room. Roughly a third ofthis back room was used for storage by the owner. He had placed two couches so that they created an informal barrier between the area ofthe room directly behind the register doorway and the rest of the room, making it inconvenient for a customer to walk into the storage area. On one particular day (May 22, 1997’,th 20 days after my ism birthday), I had a rather unpleasant experience that still affects me quite profoundiy even now. I had finished my various cleaning duties, and decided to use my spare time to do some ofmy homework. I was not paying the customers too much attention at this point, beyond greeting them as they entered, and answm’ing any questions they might have had. However, at the moment ofrny experience, there were only two people in the store, and they did not seem to need any assistance. I had become so engrossed in my homework that I nearly forgot about them, because I had not heard anything for a while other than the music I had playing. I was reminded ofthe presence ofanother persan when I heard a rustling noise and footsteps coming towards me from the back room. I was going to finish the page ot. the text [ was on, rather than lose my spot, and then turn around and see ifthe person needed any help. However, before i couid do much more than think about what i was planning, I felt this incredibly sharp, jabbing pain in the middle of my back, followed by an electrical shock. I immediately tensed up and my head sort of snapped backwards as I felt the muscles of my back spasm from the current. [jumped up and turned around to see a rather large man swinging his anns and thrusting a stun gun at me. He appeared to be stunned himself, as though he expected his stun gun to more effectively incapacitate me. Still confused, and honestly, quite frightened, I threw my arms up in selfdefense, trying to comprehend exactly what was happening, even as the stun gun was searing the skin left bare by the short sleeves of my shirt. It was just before I was hit by a second person, very forcefirlly, in the back of the head, that I figured out exactly what was happening. I was being mugged. The entire ordeal lasted at least another seven minutes, as they first kicked me while I was on the ground and then threatened to kill me- all the while holding the prickly points ofthe stun gun firmly against my back. After the incident was over, I found rnyselfwith a few immediate visual cues as to what had happened — bruises, welts, and slight burns from being attacked, as well as an empty cash register and a noticeable amount ofCDs missing. Additionally, I had a tremendous headache fi'om repeated hits to my head. Furthermore, and of more consequence, I have found that the incident has manifested itself in another, much more permanent manner. Since the incident, I have found that I react very strongly when I am alone to noises that I can not see the cause of, especially those emanating from behind me, and most especially, footsteps. Whereas before I might casually turn to see what {have heard (depending 011 the severity and type ofnoise, ol'course; anyone, past experience or not, would respond fairly quickly to, say, a gunshot, or particularly menacing sounding animal), I new experience an immediate reaction. My back involuntarily tenses up, and l become somewhat scared and “jumpy.” My heart beats a little quicker and I become tremendously more defensive. Analysis of Classical Conditioning As I mentioned before, everyone responds to noises behind them, and I was no exception to this case before my incident. The sound of footsteps behind me had previously been a more or less neutral stimulus, usually resulting in little or no response whatsoever. At the time of the attack, 1 did not even bother to turn around, as it was less important than securing my spot in my reading. But the stun gun and the realization that someone was attacking me caused my body, and capecially my back, to tense up. It also, needless to say, frightened me considerably and startled me. In Introduction to Psychologi, James W. Kalat defines unconditioned stimulus as “an event that consistently, automatically elicits an unconditioned response,” which he defines as “an action that the unconditioned stimulus automatically elicits.” (3999, p. 196) The stun gun and the feeling of being attacked were each unconditioned stimuli, both causing an unconditioned response of fear. Some primary characteristics of this unconditioned response included a teasing of the muscles, nervousness, and anxiety. My heart beat faster, and my body prepared a fight-or- fiight response. Kalat defines classical conditioning as “a process by which an organism learns a new association between two paired stimuli — a neutral stimulus and one that already evokes a reflexive response.” {1999, p. 196). As a result ofthe severity of the attack, it only took one pairing of footsteps with a physical assault to condition me into the aforementioned characteristics of fear at the sound of footsteps. l have prepared the following diagram to better illustrate the effects of the experience in terms ofconditioning. tiaiaretlnmiitiuninu Neutral Stimulus Mild reaction of attentive Sound of Footsteps response Uncondifioncd Stimulus Unconditioned Response Physical attack wt’ Stun gun Fear, anxiety tiuting-tlttttttitiuninu Neutral Stimulus Unconditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Response Sound of footsteps Physical Attack wt Stun gun Fear, anxiety titterllomiitianitttt Conditioned Stimulus Conditioned Response Sound of Footsteps Fear, Anxiety Another component olclassical conditioning is extinction. Kalat defines this as “(cxtinguishing) a classically conditioned response (by) repeatedly (presenting) the conditioned stimulus without the conditioned stimulus." (1999, p. 198) While thankfully I have not been mugged since that experience, I still respond with considerable anxiety when I hear footsteps if] am not aware ofwho, or what, is behind me. To state that in terms of conditioning, I have had the conditioned stimulus (sound of footsteps) presented without experiencing the unconditioned stimulus (physical attack). As a result, my conditioned response (fear and anxiety) today, roughly two years later, is not nearly as intense as the fear and anxiety] experienced from the sound of footsteps within the first couple of days, weeks, or even months after the incident. In this respect, I believe I have experienced partial extinction ofthe conditioned response. My Personal Experience with Operant Conditioning Throughout high school I never gave much attention to my weight or to what i was eating. I was somewhat active physically, but always with a purpose. If I was walking, it was to get somewhere; ifI was running, it was away fi'orn sotneth in g. I took only the minimum amount of physical education credits required. The idea of working out simply to ‘Wvork out” seemed silly to me, as did always monitoring what one ingested. It seemed like a lot of work for an ultimater unpleasant experience. I mean, you had to go out of your way to engage in activities that were in themselves a chore, such as rumiing. And you were supposed to forsake foods that you enjoyed, that tasted good, for foods that were good for you. I certame didn’t find most healthy foods appealing * I would take fried chicken or a nice greasy cheeseburger over, say, vegetables and rice within a second. I also thought that the time that many spent getting into shape could be better utilized by writing or reading, or pursuing other hobbies and interests. Such obsession over one’s weight seemed unhealthy to me, and as the ultimate manifestation ofone’s vanity. Likewise, I never really had a reason to worry about my diet or the amount ofexercise I partook in, for I was never really overweight. I stayed more or less at about 175 to 185 pounds, on a 6’ frame, which may not be perfect health, but it certainly was not a concern. However, at some point my poor diet and health caught up with me. I noticed during the end of my senior year that I weighed just less than 200 pounds. This caught my attention, though I did not let it concern me too much. Within two years though, during which time I took a leave from college and got U‘I married, my weight practically ballooned out ot‘control. I suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) found myself weighing 240 pounds. My thrill-store clothes that I had always worn somewhat baggy before were hardly fitting in even the regular sense, ifat all. I tried to compensate by wearing eVen baggier clothes, but catching my image in the mirror embarrassed me, and disgusted me ifI looked too loug. I now had the quintessential “beer belly,” despite the fact that [have never had a drink in my life. During this last summer I realized that I would have to do something about my weight, because it was only going to get worse. Having not had a steady job and being out of school were contributing to me being even less active a person than I already was. And now that puberty had been long gone for years, I was no longer growing up, but only outwards. A steady diet of fast food was expediting this process quite considerably. As the first order of business, my wife and I decided to do something I never imagined myself doing — joining a gym. Here 1 was, paying a rather exorbitant amount of money to go someplace I was not comfortable in, to partake in activities I did not enjoy. We then started a steady regimen ofusing the treadmill and bicycling machine for thirty minutes each, three to five times a week. It was, to say the least, misery. I felt completely out of place, especially considering the fact that most of the people in the gym were in much better shape than me, and did not appear to actually need to be there. The second matter that we felt we needed to establish more control over was our eating habits. Admittedly, neither of us was ready to switch from our terrible eating habits to complete health-nut diets. We reached a compromise of sorts, altering our diets sons to eliminate the really bad things (like overly greasy cheeseburgers) and to be more cognizant of our fat intake, and how we split up our meals. Through consulting with a professional at our gym, we found out that it is advised to eat five to six small meals a day, as opposed to the two large ones we were generally eating. We also began eating out less, and shopping for healthier products at the grocery store. We have since tried to maintain a more regular diet, and have incorporated smaller meals offi'uits and vegetables in our diet. We may treat ourselves to a cheeseburger or pizza once in a while, but it is much less frequently than we had in the past. At first, going to the gym and watching my diet were both somewhat difficult. I felt very uncomfortable at the gym, and the physical exercise itself seemed like it was going to kill me. But I found that with time, i not only stopped dreading my trips to the gym, but i almost started to look forward to them. Diet-wise, at first, the temptation of certain foods proved very strong, and the scrutiny of my food intake proved very laborious. But with time, that too has begun to change. Having a better sense of what is best for me to eat and best for me to avoid, I have learned to live without certain foods that I never thought I would be able to, and have learned to enjoy fruits and more nutritious meals more. Within the first month, i started to notice a difference. My trips to the scale showed a slight decrease with each visit. About two and a half months later, I find myselfweighing in atjust around 225. Obviously, this still is not my ideal weight, but I new look forward to the reward of losing more weight. Now that I have seen some results to my work, it does not seem as useless or as tedious, and I look forward to the day when i can see that I no longer weigh over 200 pounds. Analysis ofOperant Conditioning Kalat describes operant conditioning as “the process of changing behavior by following a response with reinforcement.” ln operant conditioning, one’s behavior determines an outcome and is affected by that outcome. (1999, p. 206) He further breaks operant conditioning down into four categories: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and passive avoidance. Positive reinforcement to a response will increase the likelihood of that response, as will negative reinforcement, otherwise knovm as escape learning. As a result ofnegative reinforcement, one’s responses lead to an avoidance of something painful. On the other hand, punishment and passive avoidance both decrease the likelihood of a given response. As a result of passive avoidance, one learns to avoid a particular outcome by being passive, or, in other words, by not doing something. Punishment teaches us to not repeat the behavior that led to the punishing outcome. (1999, p. 210) My weight dilemma presented itself as a combination ofthese factors. My incredible weight gain presented itself as a punishment for my own laziness and bad eating habits. As a result, [have leamed to not be lazy, and to not eat unhealthily. This also leads me to passive avoidance. I know that if I partake in these bad habits again, I will gain more weight, and be’lel'Lhel' displeased with myself. My steady (albeit somewhat slowNoss ot'w‘etght is also a positive reinforcement. i became more excited about my new, improved health-conscientious habits when i saw that Ihad in fact lost weight. So far ] have been continuously reinforced with increased weight loss, and i look forward to more positive reinforcement, or. in other words, losing more weight. The weight loss is a very effective reinforcer in that I not only plan to, but wan! to continue eating right and exercising, which I had never had any desire to do before. Furthermore, I have a strong feeling that I will not experience extinction ofmy conditioning very quickly. Kalat states that “alter a schedule of intermittent reinforcement, the extinction of responses tends to be slower than it is after a schedule of continuous reinforcement.” (1999, p.214) Despite the fact that my weight loss has been a continuous rcint‘orcer for my dieting and exercising, I feel that I would not experience extinction of these conditioned responses, even if my weight leveled out or I experienced slower weight loss. I know that ifI were to revert to my old habits of eating badly and being lazy, I would be punished again by gaining back the weight that I had lost, and quite possibly, gaining even more. Since my conditioned behavior is a combination of reinforcement, previous punishment, and passive avoidance, the possibility ofcxtinction seems less likely than if] were just doing something in response to continuoius reinforcement. Closing Comments Having never really analyzed my own reactions in terms ofconditioning before, I must admit that I was quite surprised at what it brought to my attention. I admittedly had previously a pretty clear idea of why I behave in the manners in which I addressed earlier (hat and anxiety in response to footsteps; exercising and eating well to lose weight). However, being able to establish the exact relationships that cause the various conditioned behaviors in my life has helped bring to light the reasons for some reactions that have hem reflexive to me for so long. Likewise, it is interesting to break things down into such clear- cut causal relationships, rather than just chalking it up to such sometimes-abstract concepts as instinct or my “nature." By being able to pinpoint or even approximate the cause of some behaviors, especially ones that are a result ofoperant conditioning, it hopefully will help me to try to eliminate undesired behaviors and strengthen others. Similarly, I can took at others and better understand the behavior of those around me in these terms ofclassical and operant conditioning. Reference Kalat,J.W. (1999). Imroducrfonlo Péyc'holoy. (5”‘ 6:21.). Belmont: Wadsworth. ...
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Sample%20Paper%20_1%20-%20Conditioning - Psych 100 v...

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