Psychologists believe that children learn to control their bladders
during sleep through classical conditioning, a type of learning in which an
organism comes to associate different events. Normally, a wet bed or diaper
causes a child to awaken. Through repeated pairings, bladder tension becomes
associated with the sensation of wetness and children wake up when they
sense that the bladder is full.
Imagine that you are baby-sitting a 6-year-old bed-wetter who has
not yet learned the connection between bladder tension and wetness. In
desperation, the childs parents consult a behavioral psychologist who has
developed a classical conditioning technique for controlling bed-wetting,
using a special sheet containing fine electric wires. When a sleeping child
wets the bed, the urine (which conducts electricity) immediately completes
an electrical circuit and causes a loud bell to ring, awakening the child.
Over time, bladder tension becomes associated with the bell and the child is
conditioned to wake up before actually wetting the bed.
Although the parents have read a pamphlet that explains the basic
principles underlying the conditioning technique, they are seeking your help
in understanding exactly why it
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