Conditioning as a Source of Liking: There is Nothing Simple about It



Humans and other organisms tend to want, do, and buy more often the things they like than the things they do not like. To understand and control human (consumer) behavior, it is therefore imperative that we understand how likes and dislikes are acquired. Evaluative conditioning research has shown that the preference for a stimulus can be influenced by pairing that stimulus with another stimulus. Unfortunately, we still do not know much about this important phenomenon. I argue that progress in our understanding of evaluative conditioning is hampered by confusion regarding the meaning of the concept "evaluative conditioning". It can be used to refer to a procedure (i.e., pairing stimuli and checking whether this produces changes in liking), an effect (i.e., an actual change in liking as the result of pairing stimuli), or a theoretical process (i.e., the process by which pairing stimuli results in changes in liking). This conceptual analysis clarifies that researchers should be open to the possibility that evaluative conditioning is not the simple phenomenon it appears to be.
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Dr. S. Puntoni