In general the conditioning becomes easier, the higher the species of the organism is. Thus, learning by this method should become easier in the case of human beings. But man is so complex an organism that stimuli which distract him and interfere in his learning are numerous. In spite of this conditioning has a great importance in the learning of a child.
Many of our responses are conditioned to particular things in childhood and these remain fixed even in the adulthood. For example, if a person of a particular appearance treated you badly in your childhood, your hate or fear response for that figure becomes conditioned and this response remains so in your adulthood for the persons of similar appearance.
Conditioning technique is also used in the teaching of words meaning to children. The word ‘Mama’ is spoken to the child while pointing to ‘Mama’. The child associates the sound ‘Mama’ with the figure of ‘Mama’ and begins to call her Mama.
If the child cannot distinguish between different females in the family he calls ‘Mama’ to all persons of that figure. But when he is similarly told about other females, he learns to distinguish between them. Thus, whereas we acquire different responses to things, animals or human beings through conditioning, ‘we also acquire the meaning of words through this process.
Pavlov wanted to prove that all learning is conditioning. Modern psychology does not accept this view. But no psychologist can deny the fact that conditioned response is a very important technique used in teaching many things to tamed animals.
For example, if a bear is to be taught dancing to the sound of the drum, it is made to stand on a hot plate and the drum is sounded as the animal lifts its feet. After sometimes it begins to lift its feet at the sound of the drum only.
Many examples of the application of this method can be given in daily life. At the time when the husband normally returns home, the wife expects her husband coming at each sound of the bell on the road.
Your hand always goes to the right pocket for the purse though it is in the left pocket; because the purse has been taken out from the right pocket so many times that the activities of taking out purse and putting hand in the right pocket are associated with each other.
Another form of conditioning is negative adaptation. Negative adaptation means learning not to make a response. This is in fact, a form of conditioning. It is very useful in the changing of habits. In negative adaptation a particular response in inhibited when a second response takes place.
For example, if an adult male rat is given an electric shock as it reaches the female rats, it will gradually learn to go away from the female rats.
Conditioning starts very early in life
Even the child in the mother’s womb is influenced by the sound etc., through this process. Learning by this technique increases till the age of four or five years. After that, with increasing age its importance gradually decreases because conditioning is interfered by many tendencies of the adult person.