Spontaneous Recovery in Psychology: Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:00 What Is Spontaneous Recovery?
  • 0:40 Pavlov's Classical…
  • 1:59 Memory And Spontaneous…
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson discusses and defines the concept of spontaneous recovery. The researcher who first introduced the term is discussed and an example of this research shows how spontaneous recovery occurs. How this influences memory is also discussed.

What is Spontaneous Recovery?

Spontaneous recovery is a term first associated with Ivan Pavlov and a learning process called classical conditioning. Pavlov conducted a series of experiments where the focus was learning and training conditioned responses. From his experiments he found that spontaneous recovery was the reappearance of a Conditioned Response (CR) that had been extinguished. In other words, it no longer occurred. Specifically, Pavlov found that spontaneous recovery can occur after a period of not being exposed to the Conditioned Stimulus (CS). This period is called spontaneous because the response seems to reappear unexpectedly.

Pavlov's Classical Conditioning

To understand spontaneous recovery, it is important to understand Pavlov's classical conditioning. He essentially trained a dog to associate two stimuli with one response. Pavlov trained dogs to salivate not only to when meat was presented: they were also trained to salivate to a bell ringing because they had been conditioned to know that a meat treat would follow.

For example, if Pavlov had trained a dog to first salivate to a bell ringing and then to a light flashing, those would be two conditioned responses. Once this was accomplished, he would notice after a period of time had passed, that the bell ringing would be extinguished. After another period of rest, the dog would suddenly return to salivating when the bell was rung and not when the light was flashed. In this situation, there was the spontaneous recovery of a response to bell ringing that had been previously extinguished and replaced by another stimulus (light flashing).

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