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Classical Conditioning

Natural Response (Salivation)
Dog salivating

In classical conditioning reflexive response (salivation) normally elicited by an unconditioned stimulus (food) becomes evocable by a second, conditioned stimulus (bell ringing).  In this example the natural response is salivation.

Food (Unconditioned Stimulus)

In this case, the food is known as an unconditioned stimulus because this is a natural stimulus for salivation and no pairing with another stimulus is needed.

Bell (Learned Stimulus)

In this example, the bell is known as a conditioned or learned stimulus, because the reflexive response is a result of the pairing of this stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus.


It is important to note that extinction occurs when the conditioned stimulus is no longer associated with the unconditioned stimulus, for example dissociating the bell from the food intake will result in decreased and complete absence of salivation in response to the bell over time.

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