5 Classical Conditioning Examples In The Classroom | OptimistMinds (2024)

In this blog, we will look at a few classical conditioning examples in the classroom. We will also give an in-depth understanding of what is classical conditioning, the basics of classical conditioning, and the pavlovian experiment.

What are some classical conditioning examples in the classroom?

Conditioning is the process of pairing two stimuli together so that if one stimulus can trigger a reaction, the other can do the same, too, simply by association.

Here are a few examples of classical conditioning in the classroom

  • If the teacher instructs the children to keep quiet they keep quiet. Bur if the teacher claps 3 times, the children will not keep quiet. But when the teacher claps 3 times and instructs the class to keep quiet, the students will keep quiet. After the daily association of the NS and UCS, the children keep quiet once they hear the teacher clapping 3 times.
  • If a student is bullied at school they may learn to associate the school with fear. It could also explain why some students show a particular dislike of certain subjects that continue throughout their academic careers. This could happen if a student is humiliated or punished in class by a teacher.
  • If the overall tone of a teacher’s classroom is one of praise and enjoyment in learning, the student will associate this pleasure with the specific class and will be more likely to attend. In classical conditioning, the entire class or individuals can be rewarded or punished for their specific behaviors. Classical conditioning can reinforce learning.
  • Students who have learned to associate threatening or fearful situations with classroom experiences can have a more difficult time. For instance, students often pair mathematical exams with test anxiety and pressure. This conditioned response may be based on early experiences in grade school, where a child was, for instance, given a high-pressure, timed exam. Even when she is older, the student may have autonomic responses, such as sweating and increased heart rate, when simply thinking about taking an exam or when faced with difficult math problems. This way classical conditioning can hinder learning.
  • Do you remember when you were in school talking to your friends and peers in the middle of the classroom was fun. Our teacher found a way to safely condition us to stop talking at inappropriate times by turning off the lights and lecturing us. Every time our teacher would turn off the lights, she would explain how disrespectful we were being towards our fellow classmates and to us and that made us feel extremely embarrassed and quiet. After days of doing that, whenever we got too noisy, as soon as the lights got turned off, we all immediately stopped talking and then knew we were being disrespectful.
  • A report card is nothing more than a piece of paper but the reaction evoked by what’s written on it can also be considered as a part of classical conditioning and can also motivate one to do better. Let’s assume every time you bring in a good report card your family takes you out for dinner so it becomes a conditioned stimulus. So next time when you have a good report card, you automatically become happy with the thought of going out for eating as you are already anticipating it.

We have been conditioned in our lives from the very beginning. As kids, we are conditioned to play with particular toys depending on our gender, wear clothes appropriate to our gender. The advertising industry uses the art of condition to enticing people to buy their products. We are conditioned at school, in everyday life, and in every other aspect of our lives.

What is classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning was discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov as he studied digestion in dogs in the early 1900s​.

Classical conditioning, also called Pavlovian conditioning, is learning through the association of a neutral stimulus with a biologically potent stimulus. The biologically potent stimulus is an involuntary response also known as a reflex.

Although classical conditioning was not discovered by a psychologist at all, it had a tremendous influence over the school of thought in psychology known as behaviorism.

Basics of classical conditioning

In order to understand how more about how classical conditioning works, it is important to become familiar with the basic principles of the process. Classical conditioning involves forming an association between two stimuli resulting in a learned response. There are three basic phases of this process.

Phase 1: Before Conditioning

The first part of the classical conditioning process requires a naturally occurring stimulus that will automatically elicit a response. Salivating in response to the smell of food is a good example of a naturally occurring stimulus.

During this phase of the processes, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) results in an unconditioned response (UCR). For example, presenting food (the UCS) naturally and automatically triggers a salivation response (the UCR).

At this point, there is also a neutral stimulus that produces no effect—yet. It isn’t until this neutral stimulus is paired with the UCS that it will come to evoke a response.

Phase 2: During Conditioning

During the second phase of the classical conditioning process, the previously neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with the unconditioned stimulus. As a result of this pairing, an association between the previously neutral stimulus and the UCS is formed.

At this point, the once neutral stimulus becomes known as the conditioned stimulus (CS). The subject has now been conditioned to respond to this stimulus. The conditioned stimulus is a previously neutral stimulus that, after becoming associated with the unconditioned stimulus, eventually comes to trigger a conditioned response.

Phase 3: After Conditioning

Once the association has been made between the UCS and the CS, presenting the conditioned stimulus alone will come to evoke a response even without the unconditioned stimulus. The resulting response is known as the conditioned response (CR).

The conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Pavlov’s experiment

In Pavlov’s experiments, the dogs salivated each time meat powder was presented to them. The meat powder in this situation was an unconditioned stimulus (UCS): a stimulus that elicits a reflexive response in an organism. The dogs’ salivation was an unconditioned response (UCR): a natural unlearned reaction to a given stimulus. Before conditioning, think of the dogs’ stimulus and response like this:

Meat powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)

In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is presented immediately before an unconditioned stimulus. Pavlov would sound a tone (like ringing a bell) and then give the dogs the meat powder The tone was the neutral stimulus (NS), which is a stimulus that does not naturally elicit a response. Prior to conditioning, the dogs did not salivate when they just heard the tone because the tone had no association with the dogs. Quite simply this pairing means:

Tone (NS) + Meat Powder (UCS) → Salivation (UCR)

When Pavlov paired the tone with the meat powder over and over again, the previously neutral stimulus (the tone) also began to elicit salivation from the dogs. Thus, the neutral stimulus became the conditioned stimulus (CS), which is a stimulus that elicits a response after repeatedly being paired with an unconditioned stimulus. Eventually, the dogs began to salivate to the tone alone, just as they previously had salivated at the sound of the assistants’ footsteps. The behavior caused by the conditioned stimulus is called the conditioned response (CR). In the case of Pavlov’s dogs, they had learned to associate the tone (CS) with being fed, and they began to salivate (CR) in anticipation of food.

Tone (CS) → Salivation (CR)

Classical conditioning can be an easy and non-invasive way to elicit or discourage a specific behavior from students. However, teachers looking to use behavioral techniques to reinforce learning are more likely to use operant conditioning techniques. Operant conditioning often involves punishments and rewards with consistently-expected results from the teacher to the classroom students. This form of behavioral technique could be done quite simply by a teacher offering a reward (for example, praise) for a job well done or punishment (extra homework) for failure to do well. In classical conditioning, the rewards are more related to interpersonal rewards. By contrast, classical conditioning may not be used directly in the classroom.


In this blog, we have looked at a few classical conditioning examples in the classroom. We have also given an in-depth understanding of what is classical conditioning, the basics of classical conditioning, and the pavlovian experiment.

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

FAQs: Classical conditioning examples in the classroom

How is classical conditioning used today?

We are conditioned in various aspects of our life every day. Our thoughts and actions are all conditioned in one way or the other. Classical conditioning is usually used in behavioral therapies. Psychologists use classical conditioning as a successful form of treatment in changing or modifying behaviors, such as substance abuse and smoking, and phobia. Some therapies associated with classical conditioning include aversion therapy, systematic desensitization, and flooding.

Give one example for everyday classical conditioning

Many real-world classical conditioning examples are near perfect parallels for Pavlov’s original experiment. When you’re greeted with the familiar smell of pizza fresh out of the oven, you might already start salivating, even before you take your first bite. The aroma of the food to come serves the same role as Pavlov’s ringing bell.

Can you use classical conditioning on yourself?

It’s absolutely possible to classically condition yourself, it just takes time. If you wear the same piece of clothing before studying, after a bit, your brain will be classically conditioned to associate the item of clothing with concentration, so wearing it puts you in the ‘mental state’ to study. You can even condition yourself to eat a certain kind of food while watching a particular show.

What’s the difference between operant and classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning involves associating an involuntary response and a stimulus, while operant conditioning is about associating a voluntary behavior and a consequence. In operant conditioning, the learner is also rewarded with incentives,5 while classical conditioning involves no such enticements.

What are the benefits of classical conditioning?

Research has demonstrated that classical conditioning alters human behavior. It’s a key focus in behavior therapy, which is an approach that focuses on reinforcing desired behaviors and eliminating undesired behaviors and is often used to help drug users deal with cravings.

Can classical conditioning be undone?

Extinction is the process in which classical conditioning is undone, such that the subject does not produce CR in response to CS. The sudden response by an organism with CR in reaction to the stimulus is known as spontaneous recovery.



What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Your feedback helps us improve the quality of these articles.

5 Classical Conditioning Examples In The Classroom | OptimistMinds (2024)


What is an example of classical conditioning in the classroom? ›

Conditioning in the Classroom: 4 Examples

Perhaps students have music class before lunch every day. Halfway through music class, their stomachs may begin to rumble, similar to the salivation of the dogs in Pavlov's experiment. The children may actually start to associate music class with hunger.

What are the 5 classical conditioning? ›

The five components of classical conditioning are the unconditioned stimulus (UCS), unconditioned response (UCR), neutral stimulus (NS), conditioned stimulus (CS), and conditioned response (CR).

What is conditioning how it can be used in classroom situation? ›

Conditioning is a form of learning in which either (1) a given stimulus (or signal) becomes increasingly effective in evoking a response or (2) a response occurs with increasing regularity in a well-specified and stable environment. The type of reinforcement used will determine the outcome.

Which form of conditioning would you most likely see in a classroom setting? ›

Used in a variety of situations, operant conditioning has been found to be particularly effective in the classroom environment.

How do you use Pavlov theory in the classroom? ›

Ivan Pavlov's classical conditioning was perhaps the first behaviorist theory to emerge. Pavlov recognized that a neutral stimulus associates with a reflex response through conditioning. For example, when a teacher claps out a pattern, students repeat the pattern while focusing their attention to the teacher.

Which is an example of classical conditioning quizlet? ›

You eat a new food and then get sick because of the flu. However, you develop a dislike for the food and feel nauseated whenever you smell it. This example is classical conditioning because the increased heart rate is an automatic response.

How is classical conditioning used today? ›

Classical conditioning is a form of unconscious learning that was popularized by Ivan Pavlov , a Russian physiologist. 1 Today, classical conditioning is often used as a therapeutic technique to change or modify negative behaviors, such as substance use.

What are the 4 principles of classical conditioning? ›

Principles/Stages of Classical Conditioning:

The stages or principles of classical conditioning are acquisition, extinction, Spontaneous recovery, stimulus generalization and Stimulus discrimination.

What is classical conditioning in child development? ›

Classical conditioning is a form of learning whereby a conditioned stimulus (CS) becomes associated with an unrelated unconditioned stimulus (US), in order to produce a behavioral response known as a conditioned response (CR). The conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus.

What is an example of a classically conditioned response? ›

In classical conditioning, a conditioned response is a learned response to a previously neutral stimulus. For example, the smell of food is an unconditioned stimulus, a feeling of hunger in response to the smell is an unconditioned response, and the sound of a whistle when you smell the food is a conditioned stimulus.

What is classical conditioning in simple words? ›

Classical conditioning is a type of learning that happens unconsciously. When you learn through classical conditioning, an automatic conditioned response is paired with a specific stimulus. This creates a behavior.

What is classical conditioning in teaching? ›

Classical conditioning refers to learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus (e.g., a tone) becomes associated with a stimulus (e.g., food) that naturally produces a behaviour. After the association is learned, the previously neutral stimulus is sufficient to produce the behaviour.

What are the implications of classical conditioning on the students learning? ›

4. Educational Implications of Pavlov's Classical Conditioning Theory: Many things of the school-subjects are learnt more adequately through this process. Reading writing, spelling or habits are learnt more effectively through the process of conditioning.

What is classical conditioning theory of learning? ›

Classical conditioning is a behaviorist theory of learning. It posits that when a naturally occurring stimulus and an environmental stimulus are repeatedly paired, the environmental stimulus will eventually elicit a similar response to the natural stimulus.

How is conditioning helpful in teaching and learning? ›

The idea is to use reinforcement to encourage desirable behaviors. Using operant conditioning can give students immediate feedback about their behavior. When the teacher rewards positive behavior, other students are more likely to copy that behavior to earn the reward.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated:

Views: 6595

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.