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4.3 Theory of Conditioned Response

(i) Theory of Conditioned Response :- Conditioned response means the generation of natural ultimate from of behaviour in response to an artificial stimulus. For instance a child is going to school taking his school bag through the market, he begins to salivate on seeing the variegated sweetmeats enticingly arranged in the display of a shop. Gradually, this becomes the child’s normal response. But when a natural response of this kind occurs as a result of an artificial stimulus, it is called a conditioned response. Defining this concept, H.W. Bernard has stated, “Conditioning is the automatization of behaviour by repetition of stimuli which accompany a given response and which ultimately becomes causes for the behaviour which formerly they merely accompanied.”


The theory of conditioned response was first propounded in 1904 by the Russian physiologist, LP. Pavlov. In his opinion, the process of learning is influenced by the response. Elaborating this principle. Stimulus - response is a part of the creature’s innate instinct, that is, it constitutes learning. Now, a new stimulus is given along with the original stimulus. After some time, when the original stimulus is removed, it is observed that even the second stimulus produces the same response as was produced by the original stimulus. Thus, the response becomes conditioned to the new stimulus.

Pavlov conducted his famous experiment upon a pet dog. The dog’s salivary glands were operated upon, so as to make it possible to collect the saliva through a glass tube in a vessel outside the dog’s body. When the experiment started, a bell was rung at the moment when the dog was given food. Initially, it who observed that saliva naturally began to flow as soon as the dog saw the food. After sometimes however, it was found that the bell was rung but the food was withdrawn. Even then the dog began to salivate. This indicated that the dog had become conditioned to responding to the sound of the bell. It was in this way that the principle of conditioned response was formulated.


The mechanism of conditioned response operates as shows below.
1. U.S.————UR (Ultimate stimulus and ultimate response)
Food—————Saliva
2. US + CS—UR (Ultimate stimulus and conditioned response)
Food + Sound of bell——Saliva
3. CS—————CR (Conditioned stimulus and conditioned response)
Bell———Saliva

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Factors Influencing Conditioned Response :-

Many factors influence the formation of conditioned response. These include :


1. Practical- Experiments on conditioned response have established the fact that the more often the usual stimulus and the conditioning stimulus are repeatedly applied to the learner, the more firm will the conditioned response be.
2. Time- The time factor plays an important role in the formation or establishment of a conditioned response. The differences of time between the usual stimulus and the conditioning stimulus, when the two are applied to the learner, will determine the effect of the stimulus and the response generated by it.
3. Intelligence- Intelligence plays as important role in the functioning or operation of conditioned responses. Intelligent individuals establish conditioned responses more quickly that dull witted persons. The experiment of the Miss Metieres establishes this fact.
4. Age- Young children manifest conditioned responses relatively more quickly, than adults. The person for this is that social controls exercise their influence upon children’s behaviour less than upon adult behaviour.
5. Mental health- If the child is mentally healthy, conditioned response will be established quickly and easily, whereas in the case of an unhealthy persons, conditioning takes time and needs to cross many hurdles before it is established.

Conditioned Response : Criticism :-

1. Emphasis upon mechanical learning - This theory considers man a mere machine, but it is self evident that man is not a machine only, that he carries out his various activities under the spur of rational though, imagination,attitudes, feeling, etc. The theory of conditioned response completely neglects analysis of activities done on the basis of reflection or rational thought.
2. Instability - There is a definite instability in conditioned response. Just as it is generally observed that a conditioned response is reinforced by constant repetition or practice, in the same way, it is seen that the response gradually loses its force if the natural stimulus generating the conditioned response is removed.
3. Experiments only on animals and children - This theory has been propounded on the basis of experiments conducted only upon animals and children. Adult and mature individuals are not as easily influenced by false stimuli as are children or animals, and hence in the former case, conditioned is far less powerful.


Conditioned Response and Education :- Human or animal behaviour is the basis of conditioned response, a fact which encouraged Watson to claim that he could make a child anything he wanted. Watson gives special emphasis to conditioned to conditioned response in the development of skills and abilities. This principles can be adopted and implemented successfully in schools.
1. Habit formation - A conditioned response gradually becomes the individual’s nature, his habitual mode of response. Nature has a very important place in human life.
2. Development of aptitude - With the assistance of this principle, good and desirable aptitudes can be developed in children. Ideals can be presented to the children and they can be inspired or motivated to accept the stimulus and respond in the desired manner.
3. Teaching of the alphabet and multiplication - This principle can be profitably employed in the teaching of the alphabet and multiplication because the theory lays and emotional instability and practice.
4. Cure of mental and emotional instability - This principle provides a cure for children suffering from mental ill-health or from emotional instability. “
5. The teacher’s contribution - In developing the right conditioned responses, the teacher makes a very important contribution in generating a suitable atmosphere. It is desirable for the teacher to institute a system of rewards and punishment because this will help in generating conditioned responses rapidly.
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