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Second Order Conditioning Psychology Definition: Understanding the Power of Association

Second Order Conditioning Psychology Definition: Understanding the Power of Association

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell or a song can trigger a vivid memory or emotion within you? Or how just the sight of a particular logo can create an instant craving for a certain product? This is the power of conditioning, a fundamental concept in psychology that explains how our experiences shape our behavior.

One type of conditioning that is particularly interesting is known as second order conditioning. This occurs when a previously neutral stimulus becomes associated with an already conditioned stimulus, causing the neutral stimulus to also elicit the same response.

To understand this process better, let’s first take a look at classical conditioning, which was first discovered by Ivan Pavlov.

Classical Conditioning: The Basics

Classical conditioning is a type of learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with an unconditioned stimulus (something that naturally triggers a response) until the neutral stimulus alone elicits the same response as the unconditioned stimulus. This response is known as the conditioned response.

For example, in Pavlov’s famous experiment, he trained a dog to associate the sound of a bell (neutral stimulus) with the presentation of food (unconditioned stimulus). After repeated pairings of the bell with food, the dog began to salivate (conditioned response) at the sound of the bell alone, even when no food was present.

Second Order Conditioning: Taking it a Step Further

Now, let’s take this one step further. Imagine that instead of the bell being paired with food, it is first paired with a light (neutral stimulus). The light has no inherent association with food or any other response; it is simply a neutral stimulus.

However, after multiple pairings of the light with the food (which is the unconditioned stimulus), the dog begins to associate the light with the food and salivates at the sight of the light alone.

This is second order conditioning, where a neutral stimulus (the light) is associated with a previously conditioned stimulus (the bell) which is already associated with an unconditioned stimulus (the food).

Real World Applications

While the Pavlovian experiment with dogs is a classic example of classical and second order conditioning, the principles apply to many real-world situations, including marketing and advertising.

Companies often use branding and logos in an attempt to create positive associations in the minds of consumers. The goal is for these symbols to become conditioned stimuli that elicit a positive emotional response and lead to increased sales.

Another example is the use of music in movies and TV shows. Music can trigger specific emotional responses and bring back memories associated with certain scenes, making the overall experience more powerful and memorable for viewers.

Conclusion: The Power of Association

In conclusion, second order conditioning is a fascinating concept that helps explain the power of association in shaping our behaviors and emotions. By understanding the basics of classical and second order conditioning, we can better understand the world around us and even use these principles to our advantage in various marketing and advertising campaigns.