Todays Nightlife on ABC is a Product of Classical and Operant Conditioning

The Classical Conditioning Theory by Ivan Pavlov explains the role of the environment and experiences in stimulating responses that result into learning. In his experimentation with dogs, the dog learnt to salivate at the sound of a bell after several experiences of ringing the bell whenever food was presented. The food was the unconditional stimulus (US) since it could elicit a response (salivation) naturally. The original response produced by the unconditioned stimuli is referred to as the unconditioned response (UR). Eventually, after repeated bearing of food and the sound of a bell, the dogs learnt to associate the bell with food, and started to salivate once it rang even if no food was presented afterwards. In this case, the bell is the conditioned stimuli (CS) a stimulus that elicits a response after association with the unconditioned stimuli. The response caused by such a stimuli (CS) is called the conditioned response (CR). A natural stimulus is one that does not elicit any response.

Operant Conditioning Theory by B.F Skinner posits that some responses are learned because they produced pleasant consequences, rather than because they were associated with an existing stimulus-response connection (Hayes and Orrell, 19). He called it the Law of Effect, since what resulted after a certain behavior either discouraged or reinforced the behavior. For instance, say excellent after a correct answer by a student will reinforce the behavior of answering questions.

A positive reinforcement is one where a certain behavior is rewarded, such as buying a child a gift or prize after posting good academic results. The gift will motivate the student and other learners to work hard. Negative reinforcement takes place when a certain behavior is rewarded by exempting the person from undesirable experiences or activities. For instance, a student who gets to school on time may be excluded from manual work.

Positive punishment occurs when a behavior is discouraged by subjecting the person to undesirable experiences, such as caning. Negative punishment is achieved by denying the person something desirable, e.g. restrictions such as going for break or a walk. Primary reinforcement satisfies the needs of a person immediately, such as giving good grades for hard work. Secondary reinforcement is achieved when something else is associated with the primary reinforcement. For instance, getting a good job is a secondary reinforcement associated with good grades

In human beings, classical conditioning takes place after a desired experience (US) is associated for a time with a another experience not originally desired (CS). With time, people get used with the new experience by associating it with the originally desired experience. For purposes of demonstration, I chose the Nightlife TV program aired by ABC in the US. The program began in November 8 1979, a few days after some Americans were held hostage in Iran, in what came to be popularly known as The Iran Hostage Crisis. By then, NBS was updating Americans daily on the situation. NBS program, the Tonight Show was a primetime hit since the hostage news was a national sensation. After launching the Nightlife, it became very popular as it gave a daily briefing by anchor Tedd Koppel The Iran CrisisAmerica Held Hostage (Bilhartz and Elliot, 232).

However, with time, especially after the 444 days of hostage, Nightlife began featuring other subjects such as politics and celebrity life. Nonetheless, the audience had been already conditioned by the hostage reportage to get hooked to Nightlife, even when the initial attraction (news from Iran) had been removed. Its still a favorite program in most American homes, resisting the effect of time. This is what the conditioning theorists call reinforcements resistance to extinction (Hayes and Orrell, 20), that is, impacting upon a person long after it had ceased.


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