The extension of a learned response to stimuli that are similar to the conditioned stimulus.

Quite Simply...

  • Responding to things that are similar to the conditioned stimulus.
  • Learning to react to one thing but then confusing other things for that one thing.
  • Responding the same way to a (slightly) different stimulus.

Examples of Stimulus Generalization

  • Fearing a spider and responding the same way to all spiders disregarding the size or shape.
  • In Pavlov's experiment, a dog salivating to the sound of all bells. Stimulus generalization would be like if the dog also salivated to a whistle or a click.
  • Being attacked by a dog and developing a fear of all dogs, not just the one that attacked you
  • Being bitten by a snake, and consequently fearing all types of snakes after being bitten by that one specific one.
  • You crashed on a bicycle and injured yourself when you were young, as a result you grow up in fear of riding one.

Little Albert Experiment

After studying classical conditioning in the 1920s, psychologist John Watson conducted the experiment which coined this term. Watson put a young boy named
Albert in a room and repeatedly presented him with a white rat. The white rat was a neutral stimulus because it caused only mild curiosity in little Albert. However, Watson soon began to condition a fear of the white rat into little Albert by pounding a loud metal gong directly behind little Albert's head each time the white rat approached. Soon Albert would burst into tears upon seeing the white rat. This is a typical case of classical conditioning. Where the Stimulus generalization comes into play is when Watson presents little Albert with other things that are white and furry. Little Albert was now also afraid of a white cloth bag, a santa claus mask, cotton balls and various other things that shared the characteristics of the white rat.

See Also...