Unconditioned Response: Examples & Definition

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In classical conditioning, an unconditioned response is a natural, automatic reaction to an event or stimulus. Learn the definition of an unconditioned response, explore examples of these types of responses, and discover how Ivan Pavlov's experiments helped us understand them. Updated: 09/07/2021

What Is an Unconditioned Response?

Have you ever accidentally put your hand on a hot stove? I'll bet you pulled your hand back automatically, without anyone telling you that you should. This is an example of an unconditioned response, a natural reaction to something that happens without behavioral modification.

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  • 0:05 Unconditioned Response Defined
  • 0:25 Classical Conditioning…
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Classical Conditioning and Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov
Ivan Pavlov

In classical conditioning, unconditioned responses are contrasted with conditioned responses. Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov first discovered classical conditioning when he ran an experiment in which he rang a bell every time he fed a group of dogs. The dogs would drool when they saw food. This was their unconditioned response; it was natural and automatic. After a while, he noticed that the dogs began to salivate whenever they heard the bell, even in instances where there was no food present. The dogs had learned to associate the bell with food, and their reaction to the bell was a conditioned response.

Let's look at another example of classical conditioning. Sally and Jeff are in love. They spend an entire summer together and often pick strawberries from his uncle's farm and feed them to each other. Every time he's with Sally, Jeff feels happy and content. But at the end of the summer, they have to go back to college on opposite sides of the country. After that, every time he sees strawberries, he feels happy and content.

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