Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 355
Conditioning/Psychological Theories: Even if we assume that Eysenck’s (1957)(1) theory were correct, classical conditioning cannot account for the known phenomena of neurosis. As discussed by Corr (2008a)(2), the classical conditioning theory of neurosis assumes assumes that, as a result of the conditioned stimulus (CS) (e.g., hairy animal) and unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (e.g., pain of dog bite) getting paired, the CS comes to take on the eliciting properties of the UCS, such that, after conditioning and when presented alone, the CS produces a response (i.e., the conditioned response (CR), e.g., fear, and its associated behaviours) that resembles the unconditioned response (UCR) (e.g., pain, and its associated behaviours) elicited by the UCS.
Problem: The CR (e.g., fear) does not substitute for the UCR (e.g., pain). In some crucial respects, the CR does not even resemble the UCR. For example, a pain UCS will elicit a wide variety of reactions (e.g., vocalization and behavioural excitement – recall the last time an object hit you hard!); but these reactions are quite different – in fact, opposite to – a CS signalling pain, which consists of a different range of behaviours (e.g., quietness and behavioural inhibition). >Conditioning/Eysenck, >Conditioning/Gray.


1. Eysenck, H. J. 1957. The dynamics of anxiety and hysteria. New York: Preger
2. Corr, P. J. 2008a. Reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST): Introduction, in P. J. Corr (ed). The reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality, pp. 1–43. Cambridge University Press


Philip J. Corr, „ The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press

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Slater I 28
Conditioning/psychological theories: in the years since 1920 (Watson’s and Rayners Experiment “Little Albert”, Watson and Rayner 1920)(1); >Experiment/Watson) classical conditioning has been shown to be a complex operation that depends on many procedural nuances (Bouton, 2002(2); Field, 2006a(3)) and subject characteristics that qualify its effects (Craske, 2003)(4). Two of the more important procedural issues center around two characteristics thought to be associated with classical conditioning: namely, equipotentiality and extinction.
Equipotentiality refers to the notion that any stimulus is able to become a conditioned stimulus, if it is associated with an unconditioned stimulus. This notion, of course, has not stood the test of time. For the criticisms of Watson’s and Rayner’s 1920 experiment >VsWatson, >Conditioning/Watson, >Experiment/Watson, >Conditioning/Craske.
Slater I 29
VsWatson: some early attempts to replicate conditioned emotional reactions in young children by other investigators were rather mixed, with some being successful (e.g., Jones, 1931)(5) whereas others were not (e.g., Bregman, 1934(6); Valentine, 1946(7)). Clearly, from a conceptual and theoretical standpoint, Watson and Rayner’s depiction of classical conditioning was simplistic and, assuming conditioning was produced, it may also have been fortuitous!


1. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
2. Bouton, M. E., (2002). Context, ambiguity, and unlearning: Sources of relapse after behavioral extinction. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 976–986.
3. Field, A. P. (2006a). Is conditioning a useful framework for understanding the development and treatment of phobias? Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 857–875.
4. Craske, M. G. (2003). Origins of phobias and anxiety disorders. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
5. Jones, H. E. (1931). The conditioning of overt emotional responses. Journal of Educational Psychology, 22, 127–130.
6. Bregman, E. (1932). An attempt to modify the emotional attitudes of infants by the conditioned response technique. Journal of Genetic Psychology 45: 169-196
7. Valentine, C. W. (1946). The psychology of early childhood (3rd edn). London: Meuthen.


Thomas H. Ollendick, Thomas M. Sherman, Peter Muris, and Neville J. King, “Conditioned Emotional Reactions. Beyond Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018

Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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