Respondent Conditioning, The Four Ways of Pairing an Unconditioned Stimulus with a Conditioned Stimulus

Respondent conditioning involves the pairing of stimuli.  There are four ways of pairing the unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus. The rate of respondent conditioning will vary with the degree of CS – US contingency. The interval, contiguity, between the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus also affects how quickly conditioning occurs.

Trace and delayed conditioning present the conditioned stimulus prior to the unconditioned stimulus. In trace conditioning the conditioned stimulus begins and ends before the unconditioned stimulus is presented.  With delayed conditioning there is an overlap of the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus.  Delayed conditioning is also affected by the length of delay between the presentation of the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus; these delays are referred to as short and long delays (Chance 2008 p 69).

With delayed conditioning initially both short and long-term delays elicit similar results. However with long delay conditioning the interval between the conditioned stimulus and conditioned responses, conditioned response latency, gradually increases. The conditioned stimulus becomes not just the presented stimulus but the appearance of the stimulus for a given length of time (Chance 2008 p 70). With both trace and delayed conditioning a conditional response begins to appear after the conditioned stimulus is presented as there is a high degree of CS-US contingency and there is an interstimulus interval (Chance 2008 p 73).

In simultaneous conditioning and backward conditioning the conditioned stimulus is not presented before the unconditioned stimulus but either simultaneously or after the unconditioned stimulus is presented. With simultaneous conditioning the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus are presented at exactly the same time, as there is no interval between the conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus it makes conditioning very ineffective. Backward conditioning presents the unconditioned stimulus before the conditioned stimulus and weakens the contingency between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus. In respondent conditioning the amount of learning depends on the degree to which the conditioned stimulus predicts the unconditioned stimulus (Chance 2008 p 71).

Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior, Wadsworth Cengage Learning


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