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Overview

conditioning


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A process by which animals learn about a relation between two events. In classical ( or Pavlovian) conditioning, repeated presentations of a neutral stimulus (e.g. the sound of a bell or buzzer) are followed each time by a biologically important stimulus (such as food or electric shock), which elicits a response (e.g. salivation). Eventually the neutral stimulus presented by itself produces a response (the conditional response, or conditioned reflex) similar to that originally evoked by the biologically important stimulus. For example, Pavlov's dogs learned to salivate in response to the sound of a metronome that preceded the presentation of food. In instrumental (or operant) conditioning the animal is rewarded (or punished) each time it makes a particular response; this eventually causes the frequency of the response to increase (or decrease). For example, a rat will learn to press a lever in order to obtain food. See learning (Feature); reinforcement.


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