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Psychology Glossary of Terms

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Acquisition

Definition:
The stage in classical conditioning where the conditional response is first elicited by the conditional stimulus.
 
Example:
Just before Sean's alarm clock went off at 5.00 AM in the morning there was an almost inaudible click about two seconds before the alarm sounded. This neutral stimulus was certainly not loud enough to wake up Sean but because it was paired with the loud alarm bell one morning he found that this neutral stimulus had woken him up with a start. In classical conditioning terminology this was the acquisition phase of classical conditioning.
 
Background:
While originally used to refer to the acquisition of a conditioned response by Pavlov the term was later also used to describe the acquisition of any conditioned response tendency as in operant conditioning. In behavioural terms it was seen as the initial stage of learning something which was described in terms of the formation and strengthening of S-R connections. It was the mandate of the behaviourists to study the process of acquisition and the variables, which effected it.
 
Further Reading:

Day, W. F., Jr. (1980). The historical antecedents of contemporary behaviorism. In R. W. Rieber, & K. Salzinger (Eds.), Psychology: Theoretical-historical perspectives. (pp. 203-262). New York: Academic Press.

Campbell, B. A., & Church R. M. (1988). Classical conditioning: A symposium. New York: Appleton Century-Crofts.

Grant, L., & Evans, A. (1994). Principles of Behavior Analysis. New York: Harper Collins.

 
Related Terms:
Classical conditioning

Learning

Operant conditioning

Reinforcement

Self-Instructional Resources:
Take a 2-item self-test over this concept.

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