Advertisements and Classical Conditioning by Natasha Barnhart

Classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning is the simplest mechanism whereby organisms learn about relationships between stimuli and come to alter their behavior accordingly. In other words, if the environment changes then the organism will learn to change it’s behavior. Classical conditioning is found in any kind of life form, from bacteria to plants and animals. There are dozens of examples of classical conditioning. The one that is most historically famous example is Pavlov’s dogs who learned to salivate at the sound of a bell. By pairing a US/unconditioned stimuli (the bell) with a CS/conditioned stimuli (food) together, once Pavlov’s dogs had learned that the bell would always be presented with food, Pavlov then took away the food and his dogs had been conditioned to salivate when he only presented the bell. Bell = Salivation.  

A more modern example is the familiar golden arches of McDonalds. Everyone knows that the golden M like arches symbolizes the McDonalds food and then thinking of food often makes a person hungry. So McDonalds has successfully used classical conditioning on almost the entire world to associate their golden arch logo with hunger for food. (Right now just writing about this is making me hungry). I am not just picking on McDonalds every present day advertisements use classical conditioning to pair their product (US) with a certain behavior response (CR). Any advertisement that you hear on the radio or see on the TV is using classical conditioning to make you change your behavior and go and buy their product. Cola, pizzas, cars, and even toilet paper commercials are no exception. Advertisements are made with this psychological principal in mind to dig deep into your mind and your pocket book. So be warned when you are driving down the road and see those golden arches and your stomach starts to give a little growl then you should realize that you are probably being classically conditioned just like Pavlov’s dogs.   

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