My Cat Wednesday

I have a cat named Wednesday, jokingly named after the daughter in the Addams family due to her always grumpy looking demeanor. Ever since Wednesday was a kitten I began feeding her canned food. The sound of the can popping which we can call a neutral stimulus at this point, would be followed by an unconditioned stimulus -the food. Which creates an unconditioned response , meaning the excitement which occurs from the food being present is not learned but happens naturally. After a while I began to notice the moment she hears the pop of the can she chirps and trills running over to the sound with excitement, the neutral stimulus of the can popping has now become a conditioned stimulus. Wednesday has learned that the sound of the can popping means that she will be fed her canned food. The popping of the can now elicits a conditioned response. To sum up, the popping of the can now predicts the food which will cause Wednesday to get excited even without food being present. It is important to note that this conditioned response is not voluntary.

There are 5 key principles of classical conditioning that we can observe in the example of my cat.

1) Acquisition- it is the initial stage of learning when a response is first established and gradually strengthened. This is the phase where the can popping was consistently paired with the cats food. When Wednesday began to present a response to the popping of the can , we can say the response was acquired.

2) Generalization – an interesting thing I also noticed is that my cat reacts with excitement when she hears me open a soda can . Although the sound is a little different it still creates a conditioned response . The more similar the sound is to the original conditioned stimulus the greater the conditioned response will be.

3) Discrimination , it is the ability to discriminate between a conditioned stimuli and other stimuli that have not been paired with an unconditioned stimulus. For instance a bell would not create the same response that the can popping open would for Wednesday.

4) Extinction. This happens when the conditioned stimulus in our example the can popping is no longer paired with the unconditioned stimulus (the cats food) and the response decreases or disappears.

5) Spontaneous recovery- sometimes a learned response can suddenly re-emerge even after a period of extinction. This means that the response we previously had conditioned comes back.