The key difference between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus is that conditioned stimulus produces a learned response to the previously neutral stimulus while unconditioned stimulus produces a response without any previous learning.
A stimulus is any internal or external thing that induces our nervous system to respond to it. They cause a reaction in an organ or a cell. As a result, stimuli cause behavioural responses in human or animal. Conditioned and unconditioned stimuli are two types of stimuli that trigger responses in humans or animals. A conditioned stimulus is a learned stimulus. In contrast, an unconditioned stimulus is any stimulus that naturally and automatically triggers a specific response. This response is not a product of learned behaviour like a conditioned stimulus.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is a Conditioned Stimulus
3. What is an Unconditioned Stimulus
4. Similarities Between Conditioned Stimulus and Unconditioned Stimulus
5. Side by Side Comparison – Conditioned Stimulus vs Unconditioned Stimulus in Tabular Form
What is a Conditioned Stimulus?
A conditioned stimulus is a neutral stimulus to an experience. It is a product of learned behaviour. Moreover, it is one of the components of conditioning. The response for a conditioned stimulus is learned over time after repeated exposure. Conditioned stimuli are also called classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning. The most common example is the experiment done by Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov with dogs. During his experiment, he noticed that dogs began to salivate in response to a tone (sound of a bell). He realized that the sound is paired with presenting food. This process was due to a learned response. In this experiment, the sound is the conditioned stimulus, while salivating is the conditioned response.
Another example of classical conditioning can be explained as follows. Some have a habit of going to the kitchen for a snack whenever there is a commercial break while watching a favourite TV show. This is due to classical conditioning.
What is an Unconditioned Stimulus?
An unconditioned stimulus is anything that naturally and automatically triggers a response. The response is an unconditioned response which takes place without any prior learning. In other words, it happens automatically. There is no necessity to learn to respond to an unconditioned stimulus.
For example, when you accidentally touch a hot pan, you remove your hand immediately. The immediate response you have given is the unconditioned response for the unconditioned stimulus. Another example is the feeling of hunger when you smell food. The smell of food is the unconditioned stimulus, while feeling hungry is the response. Another example of unconditioned stimulus is a kiss elevating the heart rate. Here, the elevated heart rate is the unconditioned response. In all three examples, the response occurs naturally and automatically.
What are the Similarities Between Conditioned Stimulus and Unconditioned Stimulus?
- Conditioned and unconditioned stimuli are two types of stimuli that induce responses in the nervous system of human and animals.
- Both conditioned and unconditioned stimuli trigger the same response.
- When a neutral stimulus becomes associated with an unconditioned stimulus, it becomes a conditioned stimulus.
What is the Difference Between Conditioned Stimulus and Unconditioned Stimulus?
A conditioned stimulus is a previously neutral stimulus. In contrast, an unconditioned stimulus is a stimulus that triggers a natural and automatic response. So, this is the key difference between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. Moreover, a conditioned stimulus triggers a learned response while unconditioned stimulus triggers a response which requires no prior learning.
Below table summarizes the difference between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus.
Summary – Conditioned Stimulus vs Unconditioned Stimulus
Conditioned stimulus produces a learned response while unconditioned stimulus produces a natural and automatic response which is innate and requires no prior learning. Thus, this is the key difference between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus. Besides, a conditioned stimulus is followed by an unconditioned stimulus. When a neutral stimulus is associated with the unconditioned stimulus, it became a conditioned stimulus. Finally, it produces a conditioned response.
1. “Conditioned Stimulus Definition And Its Role In Psychology | Betterhelp”. Betterhelp.Com, 2020, Available here.
2. “What’s An Unconditioned Response In Psychology?”. Verywell Mind, 2020, Available here.