what is stimulus generalization

The extension of a learned response to stimuli that are similar to the conditioned stimulus.

After studying classical conditioning in the 1920s, psychologist John Watson conducted the experiment which coined this term. Watson put a young boy named
Albert in a room and repeatedly presented him with a white rat. The white rat was a neutral stimulus because it caused only mild curiosity in little Albert. However, Watson soon began to condition a fear of the white rat into little Albert by pounding a loud metal gong directly behind little Albert’s head each time the white rat approached. Soon Albert would burst into tears upon seeing the white rat. This is a typical case of classical conditioning. Where the Stimulus generalization comes into play is when Watson presents little Albert with other things that are white and furry. Little Albert was now also afraid of a white cloth bag, a santa claus mask, cotton balls and various other things that shared the characteristics of the white rat.