Many people throughout their lives suffer from such phobias as fear of dogs, fear of insects, fear of heights, etc. My brother, as a child, was very much afraid of a Chihuahua dog, as she bit his leg. Now he is 25 and he is still afraid of dogs. Moreover, he is afraid of dogs of absolutely any breed. Scientists in the field of psychology and anthropology have been studying this phenomenon for centuries. In many years of research, it was found out that conditional and unconditional reflexes are responsible for phobias.
Scientists single out an unconditional stimulus, an unconditional reaction, a conditional stimulus, and a conditional response. The outstanding Russian scientist, Pavlov is the founder of the doctrine of unconditional and conditional stimulus (Chen et al.,2018). He developed a conditioned reflex theory, which states that acquiring a conditioned stimulus is possible when a physiologically indifferent irritation acts on the body. An unconditional stimulus is a stimulus that automatically causes a response, without prior conditioning, for example, such innate reflexes as pulling your hand away from fire. The unconditional reaction is an initial reaction to an unconditional stimulus, used as a basis for developing a conditioned response to a previously neutral stimulus. (Eelen, 2018). In addition, conditioned reaction is a learned or acquired reaction to a stimulus that initially did not cause a reaction. Therefore, in the case of my brother, the conditional stimulus is a dog bite in childhood. And the conditioned developed reaction is the fear of all dogs. My brother unknowingly associates a dog with danger and pain, even if he is not in any real danger.
In classical conditioning, discrimination is the ability to distinguish a conditional stimulus from other similar stimuli. For example, some people automatically become sad when they hear a certain song or melody because it is associated with bad events in the past. However, if we hear another song with a similar motif, the behavior will not change. Consequently, people can differentiate stimuli and distinguish them from each other. Generalization, on the contrary, is called to some extent the generalization of conditional stimuli (Eelen, 2018). For example, in the case of my brother’s phobia, we can conclude that this is, to some extent generalization, since he was bitten by a small dog of a certain breed, but the dread applies to absolutely all dogs without distinction.
External unconditional inhibition is carried out by the action of a very strong stimulus on the body. The termination of the conditioned reflex occurs due to the activation of nerve centers under the influence of new stimulation. The biological significance of conditional inhibition lies in the fact that the changed environmental conditions require appropriate adaptive changes in behavior. When several stimuli (light, sound, smell) are simultaneously exposed to the studied organism, the conditionally developed reflex fades, but the orientation reflex is activated over time, and the inhibition disappears. Therefore, to overcome fear, you need to replace the conditioned reflex. For example, if earlier the conditional stimulus was fear and fright, now it should be more pleasant emotions. So, if my brother understands by example that dogs can give joy and warmth, then pleasant associations will replace bad ones.
In conclusion, the conditioned reflex mechanism underlies the formation of any acquired skill, the basis of the learning process. The meaning of the development of a conditioned reflex is reduced to the transformation of an insignificant signal into a significant call by repeatedly combining its appearance with an effective unconditional stimulus. The importance of conditioned stimuli in the daily life of humans and animals is enormous. Reflexes help to navigate the terrain, get food, get away from danger, and save your life.
Chen, L., Li, C., & Chen, Y. (2018). A forgetting memristive spiking neural network for Pavlov experiment. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, 28(06). Web.
Edwards, T. L., Lotfizadeh, A. D., & Poling, A. (2019). Motivating operations and stimulus control. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 112(1), 1-9. Web.