Conditioned Response in Classical Conditioning: Definition and Examples

What is Conditioned Response (CR)?

Conditioned response (CR) is one of the key terms used in classical conditioning, others include conditioned stimulus, neutral stimulus, unconditioned stimulus, and unconditioned response.

In classical conditioning, the conditioned response (CR) takes center stage. It is a response that is acquired through the pairing of a conditioned stimulus (CS) with an unconditioned stimulus (US).

Imagine encountering a dog bite, initially devoid of fear. Yet, after this unsettling experience, the sight of a dog becomes intertwined with fear, resulting in a conditioned response. This learned response demonstrates the power of association.

Just as the sound of a whistle can trigger hunger, the conditioned response arises when the conditioned stimulus elicits a reaction independently from the unconditioned stimulus. It is the manifestation of our learned reactions, showcasing the profound influence of our experiences.

Examples of Conditioned Response

Let’s look at some examples of conditioned response in classical conditioning theory and real-life scenarios.

Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning

Pavlov’s classical conditioning illuminates how our minds embrace new connections. For instance, imagine pairing a bell sound (conditioned stimulus) with food (unconditioned stimulus). Over time, the bell alone triggers salivation (conditioned response) without food.

Pavlov termed this acquired response the conditioned response. It represents our ability to associate neutral stimuli with meaningful outcomes. By repeating the pairing of the conditioned stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus, our minds learn to respond automatically to the conditioned stimulus alone.

Little Albert (Watson & Raynor) Experiment

In the influential Little Albert experiment by Watson and Raynor, the conditioned response (CR) emerged as a defining concept. Little Albert, initially unafraid of a white rat (neutral stimulus), was subjected to loud noise (unconditioned stimulus) whenever the rat was presented.

Over time, Albert associated the rat with fear, resulting in a conditioned response. Whenever he encountered the rat alone, fear became his automatic reaction. This learned response to the previously neutral stimulus is the conditioned response.

Little Albert’s experience highlights how our minds can be shaped and emotions triggered through associations formed during early conditioning experiments.

Also Read: Unconditioned Stimulus in Classical Conditioning: Definition and Examples

Fear After Car Accident

Fear of driving following a car accident exemplifies a conditioned response. Initially, driving may have been an everyday activity, devoid of fear. However, after experiencing a traumatic car accident (unconditioned stimulus), a person may start associating driving (conditioned stimulus) with fear.

As a result, the mere thought or sight of a car can evoke anxiety and panic, even in the absence of immediate danger. This learned fear response is a conditioned response, where the mind associates the traumatic experience with driving, triggering an automatic fear response. The connection formed highlights the power of our experiences in shaping our emotional reactions.

The Recess Bell

In the world of school, a remarkable association unfolds. The recess bell, initially a neutral sound, becomes intertwined with the excitement of freedom.

Students, day after day, experience the joyous release from class when the recess bell rings (conditioned stimulus). Through repetition, this association takes hold, and the sound of the bell alone triggers a flurry of movement as students rush for the door (conditioned response).

This learned response, born from the pairing of the recess bell with the anticipated break, showcases the power of conditioning in shaping our behaviors. The recess bell becomes a symbol of liberation, eliciting an automatic reaction of escape.

Related: Neutral Stimulus in Classical Conditioning: Definition and Examples

How a Conditioned Response is Formed?

In the fascinating world of classical conditioning, the conditioned response takes center stage. Ivan Pavlov’s remarkable experiment with dogs provides a vivid example.

Initially, the dogs salivated to the taste of meat (unconditioned stimulus), which naturally triggered salivation (unconditioned response). However, by repeatedly pairing the sound of a tone (previously neutral stimulus) with the presentation of meat, an association is formed.

Eventually, the tone alone evoked salivation, giving birth to the conditioned response. This acquired response showcases how our minds can be trained to react automatically to a previously neutral stimulus through the process of classical conditioning.

Difference Between Conditioned Response and Unconditioned Response

In classical conditioning, conditioned and unconditioned responses play distinct roles.

The unconditioned response (UR) is an automatic, innate reaction to an unconditioned stimulus (US). It occurs naturally and doesn’t require prior learning. For instance, salivating at the taste of food is an unconditioned response.

On the other hand, a conditioned response (CR) is a learned response to a conditioned stimulus (CS) that was once neutral. Through repeated pairings with an unconditioned stimulus, the conditioned stimulus gains significance, triggering the conditioned response.

The distinction lies in the origin: UR is innate, while CR is acquired through associations. Understanding these responses helps unravel how learning and behavior are shaped by our experiences.


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