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Video clips are a great way to introduce and reinforce the concepts and steps to classical conditioning. When I first started teaching the course, students had a very difficult time understanding the concepts of classical conditioning. It might be safer to say, I had a difficult time presenting the material in a clear, understandable way.
Since those first years, students are now presented with two mnemonic devices, an additional helpful step to the equation, and some video clips of classical conditioning. At the end of the unit, more students have a much better understanding of classical conditioning.
The use of smartboards and youtube has made it very effective to find clips to support the learning of classical conditioning. For example the Pavlov’s dog clip is from a video series my school owns. Very often I only show clips of the video. Be able to access the same clip from my computer is so much more convenient.

The Videos

Pavlov’s Dog
This is a great clip to illustrate classical conditioning. The cartoon of the dog is a great visual to help many of the students understand the steps of classical conditioning. The narrator, Phil Zimbardo is a very important psychologist who is famous for his Stanford Prison Experiment.
At the end of the clip, have the students attempt to write a classical conditioning equation for the gun segment.
Helpful step   “RELAX”                        —X—>                           STARTLED
Step #1           X                      +          GUN SHOT      ——>        STARTLED
Step #2           “RELAX”         +          GUN SHOT    ——>          STARTLED
Step #3           “RELAX”         +          X                      ——>          STARTLED

Seabiscuit Segment – There is an excellent 2-minute clip from the movie Seabiscuit that illustrates how the trainer conditions Seabiscuit to start quickly at the sound of the bell. The term the trainer uses is “a predatory response.” This is a great term to reinforce the idea that the 1st step of classical conditioning is a “natural” response.
I could not find the clip on youtube, so I use a tape of the movie. (A DVD would be so much better.) I simply fast forward to the scene at the track,  which takes place just prior to the match race with War Admiral, towards the end of the movie.
A teacher can also choose to extend the viewing time to give a little historical background. If you choose this option, show the clip from the whistle stop promotion and training to the actual match race.
Helpful step   BELL                                              —-X–>                     RUN
Step #1           X                      +          WHIP       ——>                         RUN
Step #2           BELL               +          WHIP      ——>                         RUN
Step #3           BELL               +          X              ——>                         RUN
Little Albert Experiment
Clip #1 (6:21): The Little Albert experiment is an early example of classical conditioning. There are a few choices for clips to show. I really like this clip and used it this year. It is nicely done with excellent footage of the experiment. I also love the background music from Peanuts.
Clip #2 (4:14): This clip is a little amusing with commentary and a reference to Fat Albert in the beginning. (Turn the volume down, it is set very high on this website!) The comments are a little comical, however, if you do not like the comments, you can mute them. The presentation does include some useful slides at the end that are very educational, identifying the different terms associated with classical conditioning.
Clip #3 (3:20): This clip has excellent footage of the experiment without the added commentary.
(Helpful)        WHITE RAT                                     ——>            FEAR
Step #1           X                      +          NOISE         ——>              FEAR
Step #2           WHITE RAT    +          NOISE      ——>              FEAR
Step #3           WHITE RAT    +          X                ——>             FEAR
The Office
The Office example is short and sweet. Jim uses classical conditioning on Dwight from “Teacher Tube (1:09).” I would love suggestions on the best way to write out this equation. I am still trying to figure out the best terms and placement.
Can you identify the UCS, CS, CR and UCR?
A Mother Tickling a Son
A mother conditioning a son with tickling.
Helpful step   “Ahhh”                       —-X–>                     LAUGHTER
Step #1           X                      +          TICKLE            ——>    LAUGHTER
Step #2           “Ahhh”               +       TICKLE            ——>   LAUGHTER
Step #3           “Ahhh”                +       TICKLE            ——>  LAUGHTER
Hopefully these tools are helpful in teaching classical conditioning to high school students. I would be glad to share other lessons ideas with any teacher who was interested. Email me at
Mark Molloy is a high school teacher at Hanover High School and founder of My Town Tutors, a website that connects parents with local teachers who tutor. My Town Tutors believes “Teachers are great tutors!” Any teacher who tutors can register for one full year for $12. Teachers keep 100% of their tutoring fees charged.