Higher order conditioning (you know, the stuff we’re really good at) involves the paradigm where previously successfully conditioned stimulus (CS) operates as the unconditioned stimulus (US) for further conditioning. And, like classical conditioning in general, high-order classical conditioning is often linked to known biological predisposition of the organism trained.
But the implication of traditional classical conditioning are less obvious; a real hit in the head to those that insist that life should be about using ‘common sense’.
Take the instance of McDonald’s being sued (2010) to stop giving out toys with happy meals (used to entice kids and adults when paired with bad food) at least, one would claim in such a court fight. Toys which are also reinforcers that keep the people coming back, (operant conditioning) not necessarily for the food but for the ‘free’ giveaways. Is that really any different than places providing good service, clean restrooms, good food, social amenities, or cigarettes being the delivery mechanism for nicotine, etc.?
Well, some obviously think so.
The food, an Unconditioned Stimulus (US), is paired with a toy, a Conditioned Stimulus (CS) and a potential reinforcer for the children (yea, a new toy to have and hold) and the children (yea, a new toy for them to have and hold and keep them satisfied or quiet, whichever is the case). The parents buy the food (US) and get the toy (CS) at the same time and they become linked. There is also the gambler’s bet operating in this type of example. The conditioning that takes place is rarely some part of the awareness of anyone other than the people in the delivery business, thus, proving once again, that you do not have to have awareness to be conditioned or to avoid conditioning. The awareness is a irrelevant.
Soon the family or the child attends McDonald’s and is not hungry for the nuggets, burger or shake, etc. and wants just the toy! Not going to happen so the spending entity — grandma, parent, older person… buys the kid’s meal to appease the kid (enablement) and someone ends up eating the extra food or the food that the kid didn’t want but was purchased to get the new (surprise) toy. Great! The kid isn’t going to get more rotund but the adults are because they are now stuck eating the kids meal and their meal… after all there are poor people starving somewhere in the world. (huh?)
Anyhow, some parents and food focused groups are saying that they want McDonald’s to stop the practice which “hooks” the parents and the kids on going to McDonalds. McDonalds’ is protesting the suit.
Basically, we are all conditioned and that example is no different than other types of conditioning. Making is less or more obvious is not the substantive question other than for the media. The real issue is better food with less fat for children from a distribution place that many are conditioned to eat at. But that is not the prima fascia case being made. Any changes in delivery mechanisms will require changes in fast food services content [food] which, in some cases, neither the children or the parents (and certainly not the fast food distributors) want to consider.
The result is conditioned helplessness of the parents.. Something to consider when selecting a restaurant next Friday night… or a business where repeat customers are part of the planned strategy…
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