Ivan Pavlov is known for his theory of classical conditioning. This can be thought of as a reaction that is learned through the pairing of stimuli (motivations). During his study of dogs, Pavlov noted that when dog food is presented, the dogs begin to salivate. This pairing seems expected, and the salivation is an innate reaction of the dogs to feeding. But, then Pavlov began to pair the dog food with the ringing of a bell. Through these repeated pairings, the dogs became conditioned to salivate at the sound of the bell even when no food was presented.
It is believed that some fears and phobias develop in much the same way as the conditioning process of Pavlovís dogs. For example, driving a car is a pretty neutral event that should not elicit an intense fear response. But, if you experience a panic attack while driving, you may begin to associate driving with causing your panic response. But the driving itself is not really the cause of your panic. Rather, you have become conditioned to panic when faced with driving.
Photo from Nobel website, PD-US
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