What is the first thing that comes to your mind after looking at the photograph displayed above? Some may say addiction others might simply state silliness but very few would say conditioned as in classical conditioning. There is little doubt that folks are addicted to technological devices today especially if we use the traditional and most accepted definition of addiction which is “An activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work…) as stated in psychology today. What if I told you we are beyond the point of addiction and are in fact conditioned to using these gadgets?
Classical conditioning can be easily understood if we break it down in distinct stages. The first stage is the stage prior to conditioning. In this phase, an unconditioned stimulus produces an unconditioned response. What is the world is that you might be asking! Ok, let me explain it in plain english. Let’s take the example of smartphones which I will define as a computerized device. Here we go — a computerized device (unconditioned stimulus) would produce a response of use (unconditioned response). In this phase, it is all there it to it. It is as simple as that.
After stage one we jump straight to the during conditioning stage. In this stage, the unconditioned stimulus (computerized device) which is neutral or simply understood as not producing any response as of yet starts (phase one) becoming associated with that stimulus and seeing signs of a conditioned stimulus pattern. Let me explain again! In this phase, the computerized device (unconditioned stimulus) might be associated (start showing signs) with use (conditioned stimulus). We start seeing evidence that whenever subjects are given a computerized device, they use it almost without too much thinking.
The last stage is referred to as after conditioning. In this stage, conditioning stimulus has been associated with unconditioned stimulus resulting in something called a conditioned response! What the heck is that! Let me explain — In this state, a subject who has been associated with a computerized device (unconditioned stimulus) now associates him/herself with automatically using that device (conditioned response), making him or her conditioned to using such devices overtime automatically.
Classical Example: As soon as you look at a smartphone… BAM! You use it! This is perhaps why a large number of people wakes up early in the morning, look at their smartphones and immediately start using it before doing anything else — Why? because they are conditioned to using the smartphone! Don’t you think?
Are we addicted to computerized devices? I think so. Are we conditioned to using the smartphone among other computerized devices? It appears evident to me especially from a classical conditioning standpoint.