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April 2018: Conditioned Response

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Featured Experiment

Conditioned Response

Conditioned and unconditioned responses are psychological behaviors that result from specific stimuli.

An unconditioned response is a behavior that occurs naturally due to a given stimulus. A stimulus prompts a conditioned response only when someone has come to associate that stimulus with another stimulus.

For example, when a person slaps their arm when being bitten by an insect, the slap is an unconditioned response.

After hearing a mosquito buzzing every time the person is bitten, he or she may slap their arm or the air around them every time the buzz sound is heard. This is a conditioned response because it occurs after the individual learns to associate the buzzing with an insect bite, it does not occur spontaneously.

Psychologists distinguish between conditioned and unconditioned responses to explain classical conditioning, a type of learning. This is the type of conditioning made famous by Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. During the 1890s, Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he or an associate entered the room, even when not bringing them food.

Pavlov started from the idea that there are some things that a dog does not need to learn; dogs don’t learn to salivate whenever they see food. This reflex is “hard-wired” into the dog, it is an unconditioned response (a stimulus-response connection that required no learning). Pavlov discovered that any object or event which the dogs learned to associate with food (such as the lab assistant, or just opening the door at dinner time) would trigger the same response. This has become known as a conditioned response, because what had happened was that the neutral stimulus (the lab assistant or the door opening) had become associated with an unconditioned stimulus (the food).

In this lab you will study the time taken between a stimulus and the response. These reaction time measurements will be made from an individual shown a neutral visual stimulus and then to that same neutral stimulus when a small shock is applied IF the reaction is not fast enough.

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Add the Response Pad to your Physiology Kit.: RPD-400