Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning in the Media Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1232 Words
Date:  2022-07-20

Conditioning is the study that relates a specific behavior portrayed by people towards something of interest. Operant and Classical conditioning are two ways where humans get to reflect the nature of what surrounds them. They explain the way in which humans behave after influence. Classical conditioning points out the activities of human beings irrespective of what the humans are doing. Operant condition involves the outcomes of the actions the humans engage in. Meaning the manner in which people respond to the activities in the universe. In media, classical and operant conditioning include the psychological responses consumer gives upon seeing products adverts. Use of classical and operant conditioning in advertisements has made the process efficient as it contributes to the persuasion of potential customers (Danciu, 2014).

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Classical conditioning explains why people behave the way they do upon seeing something that is appealing to the eye. The Pavlov's dog experiment helped in the discovery of this great concept of psychology. The research demonstrates how a dog salivated upon hearing the sound of a bell. It states that if the environment changes, then the behavior of organisms will change (Gormezano & Thompson, 2014). This conditioning is believed to alter customers' choices which results in persuasion. If a product is presented in a colorful way, then the persuasion of the customers is most likely to occur. Music that is good and played severally makes people happy upon hearing it, and they will like everything associated with it. Take an example of an advert identified with a certain song. The Coca-Cola advertisement using the 'Taste the Feeling' song by Conrad Sewell is an example of classical conditioning. Whenever one hears the song play, people associate themselves with the good feeling that results from drinking that specific coca cola drink. The song was previously a neutral stimulus before being associated with the soft drink. The song is the positive stimulus as it provokes the urge for a glass of Coca-Cola, which is the automatic response. The thirst for the product without seeing the drink itself is the conditioned response. Rhyming jingles also used in adverts that stick in the minds easily acts as driving factors towards a product (Hung, 2001). Every time the customer hears the jingle, the unknowingly remember the associated product. Every time the song plays, the audience gets the urge of having the drink. The unconditioned stimulus here which is the song results in the call to have a bottle. The urge is the response people have towards the stimulus.

An appealing photo of mouthwatering food makes customers respond to the stimulus by salivating, at times even unconsciously. Advertisers will try to get the customers to associate themselves with a specific response, with the aim of making more sales. A fast food company will print the most delicious and appealing foods in the media making the media uses to get hungry. The advertisers may also use a picture of a happy family enjoying a particular product. Some flour companies use these photos to show how using their product is associated with happy moments. An example here is the M-shaped arches of the McDonalds food company. Whenever a person sees the golden arches, the idea of the delicious MacDonald's food co into their mind and this makes them feel hungry. The unconditioned stimuli, which is the golden arches is combined with the conditioned stimuli, which is the food, results in hunger (conditioned stimuli). Looking at the M-shaped arches ignites an automatic response, that is hunger, and therefore it is the unconditioned stimuli. The conditioned response is the hunger one feels even upon seeing the arches in the photo.

Operant conditioning consists of the consequences that follow responses. It splits into positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement involves receiving a reward once you purchase a specific product. It is this reward that reinforces the behavior, and this may encourage the consumer to maintain loyalty to a product (Olds, & Milner, 1954). Buying goods using large discounts coupons, for instance, encourage customers as it is a cheaper way. The customers develop the habit of buying products even after the coupons are no longer available. Some retailers also offer seasonal discounts. A customer may purchase several products and get one free. After a certain period the offer expires, but because the customers have developed the behavior, they continue buying the products as they are conditioned. The snickers, Mr. Bean advertisement uploaded by Snickers in October 2014 is an example of positive reinforcement. Mr. Bean is seen turning into a mighty warrior after eating the Snickers. Anyone watching the advert might be persuaded to buy this product to experience the power too. Mr. Bean is known to be a humorous and his presence in the advert provokes an automatic response to the audience. Mr. Bean, in this case, is the unconditioned stimuli. The funny emotion and the feeling towards the snickers from the unconditioned response. People will now be curious to know what the comedian is saying, and in the course, they develop the interest in the Snickers. The unconditioned stimuli are used together with the neutral stimuli, in this case, the Snickers to develop the urge, which is the conditioned stimuli.

Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, involves a punishment. Generally, people get into a particular action to escape from the negative result (McSweeny & Murphy, 2014). It leads to a reduction in behavior. In the Dannon Oak's Greek Yogurt advertisement of 2012, punishment is used to introduce positive reinforce, that is, the goodness of the Greek yogurt. The undesired behavior of the man teasing the lady leads to a negative response of the male receiving a head-butt. Her action is meant to eliminate the negative stimuli of the male teasing. By head-kicking, the man, the female gets reach of the positive stimuli which in this case it is the yogurt. This action delivers the message of how sweet the yogurt is. The advertisements can be persuasive as they condition customers to give a particular response. Also, negative punishment occurs after the removal of the desired stimuli. The penalty is used to indicate how irresistible the yogurt is. Different schedules of reinforcement have different responses regarding the speed of behavior change. The female is teased for a while before taking the action of hitting the male. The move has a quick rate of ending the male behavior and hence this is an incidence of continuous reinforcement (Skinner, 2014).


Adverts are persuasive as they condition the audience to have a specific response. Advertising companies make their adverts appealing to the eyes of the audience and this result into positive reinforcement. As a result, the selection of unconditioned stimuli is created that leads to a positive conditioned response. Through adverts, the audience's behavior is manipulated and can lead to persuasion.


McSweeney, F. K., & Murphy, E. S. (Eds.). (2014). The Wiley Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning. John Wiley & Sons.

Danciu, V. (2014). Manipulative marketing: persuasion and manipulation of the consumer through advertising. Theoretical and Applied Economics, 21(2 (591)), 19-34.

Hung, K. (2001). Framing meaning perceptions with music: The case of teaser ads. Journal of advertising, 30(3), 39-49.

Skinner, B. F. (2014). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis (Vol. 3). BF Skinner Foundation.

Olds, J., & Milner, P. (1954). Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of septal area and other regions of rat brain. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 47(6), 419.

Gormezano, I., Prokasy, W. F., & Thompson, R. F. (2014). Classical conditioning. Psychology Press.

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