Classical Conditioning

Spec Check

1. The main features of classical conditioning, including…

  • unconditioned stimulus (UCS)
  • unconditioned response (UCR)
  • conditioned stimulus (CS)
  • neutral stimulus (NS)
  • conditioned response (CR)
  • extinction, spontaneous recovery and stimulus generalisation

2. Pavlov (1927) experiment on salivation in dogs

Stretch and Challengestars

Click here to read Pavlov’s original work on classical conditioning:

We are going to watch a clip from the film “A Clockwork Orange” to introduce this new topic. This film as very controversial when it originally came out and was banned in many countries. This clip from YouTube is not the original as you will probably be able to tell!! The real film they showed Alex depicted a lot of sex and violence not suitable for the classroom, this is a nicely annoying sanitised version , but you’ll get the picture šŸ˜‰

issues and debates tree

You need to try and explain what is going on in the clip and think about why Alex is being treated in this way.

There are so many opportunities to think about Issues and Debates in this clip; tick them off on your issues and debates tree and add to your booklet –  essential examples here for Paper 3! Make sure you add to your issues and debates booklet; templates available as “google sheets” via classroom. I can see these as you add to them so I will know if you have not filled anything in! issues and debates booklet

This quizlet quiz is a quick way to check your understanding of the clip:


Watch the following two clips and make detailed notes on the theory of classical conditioning and Pavlov’s (1927) famous experiment. You should also make some basic notes on Watson and Rayner’s (1920) experiment with Little Albert. This will be our classic study for the LearningĀ Topic.

Here is a powerpoint about Pavlov (1927) to help you! Pavlov (1927) and my revision podcast.

Pavlov (1927) revision podcast from mandy wood on Vimeo.

In lesson time we will also make notes from the smartboard on the 2 additional example studies which can also be used as evaluation in your essays. These are also examples of animals experiments and so could be useful in the methods section of the Learning Topic:

  • Gormezano’s bunnies: gormezano starter
  • taste aversion in Smith and Roll’s study of rats


Stretch and challenge: Find out more by clicking here to find out about a variety of issues regarding the use of rabbits in research. This could be useful in Paper 1 Section E or Paper 3.

stages-of-classical-conditioning When ever you are thinking through a question on classical conditioning always get into the habit of drawing out the stages to help you think about what is going on.

cc-design-a-study-and-i-and-d This sheet prompts you to design your own study on classical conditioning. There are plenty of questions here to get you practicing your methods knowledge and skills, including some relating to issues and debates for paper 3.

analysing-ratio-data-mean-and-sd This sheets provides some fake data that you can use to complete the questions in the worksheet above. There are also some additional questions on this sheet as well.

Answer sheet for the activity above

Once you are confident in describing the theory, you need to practice applying it, use the following sheet to complete some research on alcoholism and how this can be treated using aversion therapy. This links to the issue and debates topic of social control, which could come up in paper 3: classical-conditioning-applied-1 This sheet also prompts you to find out more about the study by Karekan et al which looks at the links between classical conditioning and localisation of brain function. This is also useful for issues and debates as it shows how psychological knowledge has developed over time, now that we have access to brain imaging technology we can find out more about the physiological mechanisms that underpin associative learning in the brain. This covers another of your issues and debates topics for paper 3.

evaluating-classical-conditioning This writing frame helps you to structure an 8 marker where you are asked to evaluate classical conditioning with reference to research evidence, applications to real life and in comparison with alternative theories. You will complete this after you have studied the classic study of Little Albert by Watson and Rayner (1920)

Further help with planning your CC essay.

Model essay on classical conditioning; long but demonstrates how to create a variety of different styles of chains of reason relating to evidence, applications and alternative theories as well as issues and debates such as reductionism and social control.

Pictures to scaffold aversion and conversion therapy:

aversion therapy pictures

conversion therapy picture scaffold

Just for fun

Funny Everyday Experiment Ideas for Classical Conditioning

multiple-choice-cc A quick quiz to test your self on this topic.

Assessment Questions:

  1. According to the theory of classical conditioning, we learn through

A consequences

B identification

C observation

D association.

2. Suggest one way in which Pavlovā€™s (1927) experiment with salivation in dogs could have been improved. (2)

3. Victor fought in the Afghanistan war. Whilst he was there he saw his friend’s leg blown off by a land mine. He is now living a civilian life but is haunted by post-traumatic stress from this event. One day a car back fired while he shopping in town and Victor had a sever panic attack, which left him housebound for many days. Using classical conditioning explain  Victor’s reaction. (4)

Helpsheet: Victor Timed question

4. To what extent is classical conditioning a useful explanation of human learning? (8)

5. Evaluate Pavlov’s (1927) research into classical conditioning (8)