The lifestyles of every living human

The alarm sounds, you get up, you take a shower, you eat your breakfast, and you drive off to work or school. Sound familiar? Repeating patterns are found in the lifestyles of every living human. Although it doesn’t require much thought to get up when your alarm sounds in the morning, you still need to process the information of the sound ringing and interpret this as a sign to wake up. Instead of hearing your alarm and getting confused on what to do next, you have conditioned yourself to respond a certain way depending on the situation.

This repetition of patterns and the proper response is known as classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a major phenomenon which has been the topic of experimental procedures for several decades. From animals, to babies, to adults, conditioning has been shown to be evident in several forms of life. Although there are several types of classical conditioning, this experimental report focuses mainly on the phenomenon of extinction. The main focus of extinction is how one is conditioned to respond distinctly to a certain indicator, but then the associated response diminishes over time as the certain indicator is removed (Nairne, 245).


Participants: The participant was a college undergraduate over the age of 18; experimental participation was in partial satisfaction of requirements for an undergraduate general education course. Additional criteria required is that some stimuli may occasionally cause the participant to be startled, so participants with hearing or seeing problems, or with a history of anxiety disorders, should consider these factors.

Procedure: The case study was presented as an experiment involving the use of repeating faces which occasionally would be followed by unpleasant sounds. The initial instructions received upon arriving were to view the images presented and predicting if the unpleasant sound would be followed by using a scale of 1 to 4 (1 – Will not be followed by sound, 2 – Might be followed by a sound, 3 – Will most likely be followed by sound, 4 – Will definitely be followed by a sound). The primary hypothesis being studied was a general conditioning test rather than a specific hypothesis case.

Design: The experiment was observed in 3 different scenarios where the manipulated variable was the location and position of the subject being tested. The first part was done in front of a large computer monitor in a pitch black room where the subject’s focus was directed only towards the images on the screen. Headphones where placed on the subject to simulate the provided sounds. After the first session, the subject was asked to fill out a survey to describe how they felt including information on how the subject’s anxiety level and comfort was towards the situation. For the second session, the subject was moved to a location right of the current location which contained a similar setup with the exception of a backlight located behind the monitor. The same instructions applied as the subject proceeded through the experiment once more. After the second session, the subject was asked to fill out another survey to re-evaluate their state of emotions and allow the tester to compare differences in the condition using the location as the manipulated variable.


As mentioned in the introduction, the experimental report is directly related to section 2 of chapter 7 in “Psychology: The Adaptive Mind” written by James S. Nairne. The book describes how the phenomenon known as extinction occurs when the “conditioned responding diminishes when the conditioned stimulus is presented without the unconditioned stimulus (Nairne, 245).” This is directly incorporated in the experimental report by relating the conditioned stimulus as the face and the unconditioned stimulus as the unpleasant sound following the face. When the sound was initially presented with one face, the subject continued to correctly guess when the sound would appear. After the sound was removed, the participant was still conditioned to respond to the face, but their response towards the stimulus slowly diminished over time until the end where both faces where equally rated.


Nairne, James S. (2003). Psychology: The Adaptive Mind. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson

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