Spontaneous recovery is the reemergence of a response that had been previously conditioned. This theory of learning and memory is associated with two types of conditioning:
Classical conditioning - The most well known of the two types since it was the type of conditioning Pavlov explored in his famous experiment regarding dog's salivation when food and and a bell were associated. It includes either positive or negative conditioning.
Operant conditioning - A highly complex conditioning which includes both positive and negative conditioning.
Everyday Examples of Spontaneous Recovery
- A rat is taught to push a lever when a light is flashed. Later, he is taught to push the lever when the bell is rung. He stops pushing the lever when the light is flashed. Months later, when the light is flashed he begins to push the lever again.
- A child is taught to go to sleep when the light is turned off. However, for many months the child no longer falls asleep when the light is turned off. Then, the child begins to fall asleep when the light is turned off again.
- A dog responds to the command “lay down.” One day, he stops listening when told to lay down. Days later, he begins to lay down again.
- A cat stops eating a plant when sprayed with water until one instance when the cat is sprayed and she continues to eat the plant. Eventually, weeks later, the cat once again responds to being sprayed with water and stops eating the plant.
- A parrot is taught to repeat after its owner when a tapping noise is made, and does so. However, the parrot stops responding to the tapping, but one day begins to talk again after hearing the tapping.
- A baby learns to stop crying when her mother comes into the room. Then, even when her mother does come into the room, she continues to cry. Eventually, the original response of stopping the crying when the mother enters the room returns.
- A neighborhood cat automatically runs when a door to a house is opened. Then, the cat stops running and remains where it is. The spontaneous recovery occurs when the cat begins to run again when the door opens.
- A student immediately stops talking during instruction when his teacher purses her lips and shakes her head. However, the student changes this behavior by not responding to the teacher's expression. Then, he begins to once again respond.
- A dog immediately runs to the food bowl after taking her morning walk. One day she starts to just go back to her dog bed. Then, weeks later, she begins to resume her normal response of running to the food bowl.
Now you can see different examples of spontaneous recovery. This will help you to better understand how this type of behavior is exhibited.