Lincoln Pius X Catholic High School

Psychology students learn about conditioning

Seniors in Psychology classes learned about classical conditioning in a unique way on April 11.

Psychology teacher Matthew Sestak taught the lesson by conditioning volunteers to flinch at the word “can.”

“I paired the word ‘can’ with squirting someone in the head with a squirt gun,” Sestak said. “After a while when I said the word ‘can’ they physically had a reaction of flinching, even if I don’t squirt the water gun.”

The experiment was done to kickstart the class’s unit over the brain’s response to stimuli and learning.

“It was a surprising experiment that I didn’t expect to happen,” senior Gabby Seeman said.

The activity resembled the famous experiment done by Pavlov in which he discovered he could teach dogs to associate the ringing of a bell with food.

Sestak’s experiment follows the same basic principles, with the word “can” acting as the neutral stimuli and the water gun as the unconditioned stimulus.

“It’s like teaching a dog to sit,” Sestak said. “He’s not going to know it right away, but once you keep pairing it with a treat, he’s going to realize that the word ‘sit’ means he’s going to get something, even if there’s no treat present.”

After pairing the two, the word “can” became a conditioned response, meaning students reacted to it the same way as they would the water gun.

From the 'X-change' Student Newspaper

By: Grace Langdon

Staff Writer

Photographer: Grace Langdon

Pius X

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