Conditioned Response is probably the simplest form of learned behavior. It is a response that – as a result of experience – happens to be caused by a stimulus different from the one that originally triggered it. The physiological basis of the conditioned response is the transfer, by appropriate neurons, of nervous activity in the auditory areas of the brain to the motor neurons controlling salivation. This involves the development and/or strengthening of neural circuits, which are also assumed to be at the heart of all forms of learning. A conditioned response is often called a conditioned reflux.
Classic conditioning, of which Conditioned Response is a large part, was developed by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov in early 1900s. Pavlov found that placing meat powder in a dog’s mouth would cause it to salivate. He also found that if he rang a bell every time he put the meat powder in the dog’s mouth, the dog eventually salivated upon hearing the bell alone. With this experiment he demonstrated the concept of Conditioned Response (CR). John B. Watson carried Pavlov’s work a little further and investigated whether humans could be conditioned. In 1921, using an 11 month old child, he paired a white rat with a loud, frightening sound and found that the child soon developed a fear of rats.
Very similar to experiments with animals, humans can be conditioned to respond to targeted stimuli in an otherwise non-obvious manner (aka. conditioned response). Growing up, when we are repeatedly told “NO” - with an angry look, harsh tone, or gentle slap - then we learnt that the word “NO” means to stop whatever we are doing and that other person will not be pleased with us doing that thing. Conditioned response can be taught / inculcated by gentle repeated action or by traumatic intense action. Once learned, a conditioned response is hard to get past. It becomes a part of us, deep within our subconscious. As children, we also learn how to make others react in the way we want. A child learns that if they act in a certain way, they will receive attention. This is the basic and animalistic quality we all have in us.
Conditioned Response can be used to expose abilities of a animals, that are otherwise hard to discern. For example, do we know whether Honeybees can see and distinguish different colors? That is a great question, but how we answer it? Obviously, we can't just ask the honeybees. Another way to approach it is to leverage Conditioned Response (based on one color), and then change the color environment to see if they can still pick up the color-based stimuli that was learnt as part of the prior conditioning. Karl Von Frisch, a physiologist, was able to determine that honeybee can see several colors by conditioning them to look for food on blue cardboard. Once they showed the proper conditioned response, he did the same with cardboard in other colors and discovered that bees can tell the difference between blue and green, blue and violet and yellow and green.
Some researchers consider conditional response reactions to be the building blocks for all learning, and others attribute conditioned responses to be the reason behind most of our phobias