In an attempt to better understand human behavior, behaviorist Pavlov undertook a number of experiments to develop a theory of conditioning behavior. Pavlov rationalized that a conditioned stimulus could be utilized to elicit a conditioned response. To prove, this point Pavlov sought to measure the behavior of dogs. Through his observations, Pavlov found that when dogs saw food they naturally salivated. He termed the food the unconditioned stimulus and the food the unconditioned response. In order to determine if behavior could be conditioned, Pavlov began ringing a bell each time he gave food to the dog. The dog heard the bell, saw the food, and began salivating.
After performing this experiment several times, Pavlov removed the food to determine if the dog would salivate when hearing the bell. As it turns out, the dog salivated upon hearing the bell. This led to two processes now a standard part of psychological theory known as classical conditioning:
- Pavlov termed the bell the "conditioned stimulus"
- The subsequent salivation that occurred the "conditioned response"
This process, which has become known as classical conditioning, became the central thesis of Pavlov's work. Pavlov was able to find numerous examples of how both animals and man were conditioned or trained to respond to certain stimuli in their environment. By examining both the stimulus and response, the process of conditioning could be discerned and a pathway for understanding learning could be developed.
Seeking to find specific instances of classical conditioning in one's own life, it becomes evident that this mechanism of learning is one that is widely employed in advertising. For instance, advertisers will utilize pleasing images in their ads to associate their products with the feelings elicited when a consumer looks at the advertisement. An advertisement for a car links the automobile with images of wealth and luxury. This elicits a response of pleasure. In this case the images are the unconditioned stimulus and the response, i.e. the pleasure, is the unconditioned response. By associating the car with the images and the response, the car becomes the conditioned stimulus and the felling of pleasure, the conditioned response.