Deconditioning the Mind for Better Learning: The Gift of Reasoning
This paper discusses classical or Pavlovian conditioning, deconditioning, and critical thinking within the context of the human condition and relevant literature. The practical goal of this analysis is to demonstrate how to ‘reprogram’ our thinking from previous, somewhat dysfunctional learning to improve our responsiveness to others and our joy. Becker (2020) defined deconditioning as a systematic self-training process to free oneself from “undesirable desires”–urges and emotions that pop up when we would prefer they did not, thereby making life more stressful. By training oneself to ‘tune out’ these undesirable or distracting desires, one becomes more capable of making and adhering to intentional decisions. Such purposefulness can lead to increased experiences of the pleasures of life emanating from a sense of freedom rather than compulsion (Becker, 2020,p.1). To achieve that goal, this paper explores the important distinctions between conditioning and deconditioning, examining their roles and usefulness in learning generally. In this pursuit, several pertinent articles and books describing conditioning and deconditioning, combined with critical reflection on the researcher’s relevant experiences, are examined to illustrate how people can ‘decondition’ their thinking to stimulate appropriate reasoning for improved learning and memory. Briefly, deconditioning can lead to superior reasoning, resulting in benefits for learning, character development and beyond.
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