Excitatory and Inhibitory Conditioning: How They Work and Examples

Excitatory and inhibitory conditioning are two very relevant phenomena in classical or Pavlovian conditioning theory. The exciter would be the one that occurs when a conditioned stimulus elicits a response similar to the unconditioned response that the unconditioned stimulus had elicited.

Instead, the inhibitor would be when a conditioned stimulus, when conditioning occurs, acquires antagonistic or opposite properties to those acquired by a conditioned stimulus in excitatory conditioning.

In this article we will see what is excitatory and inhibitory conditioning. and for this we will use some examples that allow readers to better understand the two phenomena.

    Basic concepts of classical or Pavlovian conditioning

    Before continuing with the explanation of excitatory and inhibitory conditioning, we find it appropriate to give a few small brush strokes on some fundamental concepts for understanding classical conditioning theory, so that the key concepts that are intended to be explained in the present can be better understood.

    1. Unconditional Stimulus (IE)

    An unconditioned stimulus is a stimulus that is of sufficient intensity or quality to elicit a response in an organismwithout needing previous experience to produce such a response.

    2. Unconditional Response (IR)

    An unconditional response would be that kind of response from an organization that was triggered due to the appearance of an unconditioned stimulus.

    3. Neutral Stimulus

    A neutral stimulus would be that stimulus which has no effect on the body and its behavior, so it it produces no response to the appearance of such a stimulus.

      4. Conditional Stimulus (CE)

      A conditioned stimulus would be this type of stimulus resulting from the association between an unconditioned stimulus and a neutral stimulus. In this case, the neutral stimulus acquires the properties of the unconditioned stimulus, thus becoming a conditioned stimulus and may elicit in an organism a response similar to the unconditioned response, and in this case would be known as a conditioned response.

      5. Conditional Response (CR)

      Finally, the conditioned response would be that response capable of eliciting the conditioned stimulus in an organism once the association has been madementioned above, between the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus.

        What is excitatory and inhibitory conditioning?

        Once we have seen the basic concepts of classical or Pavlovian conditioning, we will explain what excitatory and inhibitory conditioning is.

        Excitatory conditioning would be that which occurs when a conditioned stimulus elicits a response similar to the unconditioned response that the unconditioned stimulus elicited; while inhibitory conditioning would be that which occurs when a conditioned stimulus, when a conditioning takes place, manages to acquire the antagonistic or opposite properties with respect to which it would acquire a conditioned stimulus in an excitatory conditioning.

        Exciting conditioning

        In behavioral psychology or behaviorism, excitatory conditioning occurs when a conditioned stimulus elicits a conditioned response, similar to the unconditioned response elicited by the unconditioned stimulus. Similarly, excitatory conditioning is capable of activating conditioned responses in an organism, so it would be the most common type of conditioning and also the easiest to apply.

        This phenomenon of excitatory conditioning, in which a conditioned stimulus is able to elicit a conditioned response similar to the response elicited by an unconditioned stimulus, due to the association between stimuli. At first, the conditioned stimulus arises because of the association between an unconditioned stimulus and a neutral stimulus, whereby the neutral stimulus had acquired the properties of the unconditioned stimulus, so that it had thus become a conditioned stimulus.

          Examples of excitatory conditioning

          The best-known example of excitatory conditioning would be Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov’s experiment with dogs.. In this experiment, he was able to observe at the end that the dogs secreted saliva when they heard the sound of a bell (previously EN; after EC), which was previously associated with food (EI).

          Although previously the bell (EN) was not able to cause this salivation in dogs, when repeatedly presented next to food (EI), yes it was able to generate salivation in these animals , after several tests, the dogs began to salivate at the simple sound of the bell (EC), without the food being present..

          A common example in which this phenomenon known as excitatory confinement could occur is when we feel uneasy thinking about a food because we had long since felt bad in our stomach after eating it, even if it wasn’t because it was in bad shape. , and it could be because we were intolerant to that food or even because we ate too much that day. Therefore, this excitatory conditioning phenomenon will make us want to eat that food again.

            Inhibitory conditioning

            Inhibitory conditioning is that which occurs when a conditioned stimulus, when conditioning occurs, it acquires antagonistic or opposite properties to which it acquires a conditioned stimulus in excitatory conditioning.

            Therefore, in inhibitory conditioning, a conditioned stimulus becomes inhibitory when it has been paired with the absence of an unconditioned stimulus during the normal excitatory conditioning process. Due to this phenomenon, the stimulus produces an opposite type of reaction to that of an excitatory conditioned stimulus. So, here the conditioned stimulus would slow down or even cancel the excitatory processes.

            In other words, inhibitory conditioning occurs when an organism he learned that after the conditioned stimulus the unconditioned does not follow it, so it will hardly produce any response. Also, if inhibitory conditioning elicits a response, it would be the opposite type of response to excitatory conditioning.

            Besides, inhibitory conditioning is a process in which the unconditioned stimulus (IE) occurs only in certain trials, and not all of them as is often the case with excitatory conditioning. Then, in the inhibitor, the unconditioned stimulus (EC) follows the conditioned stimulus (EC) only in some trials, while in others the conditioned stimulus (EC) would be followed by another different neutral stimulus (EN ), without the unconditioned stimulus (EI), so the conditioned stimulus (EC) will become the absence signal of the unconditioned stimulus (EI).

              Examples of Inhibitory Conditioning

              In everyday life, an inhibitory conditioning process would be one that occurs in a situation where something is introduced that serves to prevent the result that would otherwise occur. For example, when we see a red pedestrian light when we want to cross the street through a zebra crossing at a busy intersection, we are faced with an excitatory conditioned stimulus signal of potential danger (unconditioned stimulus), which It could happen if we cross this street at a red light because they could run over us.

              On the other hand, if a police officer or a municipal agent tells us that we can cross the zebra crossing without waiting for the light to turn green, the indications of the agent prevailing on the road signs, it is unlikely that we will reach have a accident, because it makes sense that you have previously ordered vehicles to stop so that pedestrians can cross the zebra crossing.

              So here we can raise it is unlikely that the red light on fire (excitatory conditioned stimulus) accompanied by the gestures of the agent (inhibitory conditioned stimulus) they could be followed by dangersince the gestures of the police act as an inhibitory conditioned stimulus, thus succeeding in blocking or inhibiting our initial refusal to cross the zebra crossing at a red light, it is then an inhibitory conditioning.

              One of the most common procedures for causing inhibitory conditioning is the differential procedure.and is that when one is in the phase of acquiring a certain behavior, excitatory tests are used in conjunction with other inhibitory tests that are presented at random throughout the experience.

              Then, in the excitatory tests, the conditioned stimulus is systematically followed by the unconditioned stimulus; however, in inhibitory assays this does not occur.

              Another example that could serve to illustrate inhibitory conditioning would be when a child who has a phobia of dogs and is afraid that they will bite him as a sign of danger (excitatory conditioned stimulus), but when the child is accompanied by his mother (inhibitory conditioned stimulus), he is not afraid of the dog biting him.

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