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What Is Acquisition?

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Definition:

Acquisition refers to the first stages of learning when a response is established. In classical conditioning, it refers to the period of time when the stimulus comes to evoke the conditioned response.

How Does It Work?

How does acquisition occur? In classical conditioning, repeated pairings of the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) eventually leads to acquisition. Remember, the unconditioned stimulus is one that naturally evokes the unconditioned response (UCR). After pairing the CS with the UCS repeatedly, the CS alone will come to evoke the response, which is now known as the conditioned response (CR).

Influences on Acquisition

A number of factors can influence how quickly acquisition occurs. First, the salience of the conditioned stimulus can play an important role. If the CS is to subtle, the learner may not notice it enough for it to become associated with the unconditioned stimulus. Stimuli that are more noticeable usually lead to faster acquisition.

Second, timing plays a critical role. If there is too much of a delay between presentation of the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus, the learner might not form an association between the two. The most effective approach is to present the CS and then quickly introduce the UCS so that there is an overlap between the two. As a rule, the greater the delay between the UCS and the CS, the longer acquisition will take.

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