Higher-order conditioning is an extension of classical conditioning in which “a stimulus that is associated with a CS [conditioned stimulus] can also become a CS” (Powell et al., 2017, p.143). In the class lecture and textbook, an example that is used is when a person is stung by a wasp. First-order conditioning occurs when the wasp stings you and produces an unconditioned response (UR) of fear. Therefore, the wasp is now a CS for the conditioned response (CR) of fear. According to second-order conditioning, now when faced with a trash bin at a park that is known to have wasps lurking around it, the trash bin becomes a CS that creates the CR of fear just by its association with wasps. Generally, each degree away from first-order conditioning makes the new CS weaker.
However, this has not stopped advertisers from utilizing third-order conditioning to try to entice customers into buying products. As seen in the above image, fragrance ads notoriously use higher-order conditioning and pair their products with attractive individuals who appear romantically involved. Although third-order conditioning is not as strong as first-order conditioning, it still resonates with audiences and conditions us to elicit whatever response the company desires. Another example of this can be viewed in this Fiat commercial in which a sexual encounter is implied while driving a car.
Powell and colleagues (2017) also note that higher-order conditioning can be demonstrated in vicarious emotional conditioning, a form of observational learning. It is important to recognize when higher-order conditioning is occurring, that way you can tell what emotions or actions are happening and what stimulus elicited these responses. I believe that higher-order conditioning influences us both in conscious and unconscious ways. Behavior that follows whatever stimulus that elicits fear or pleasure is an interesting way to gauge how much of an impact higher-order conditioning has and how it can shape our experiences as we move through life.