Crossing Curves:
2. Conditioned Responding

Posted by Bob on November 13th, 2007

The Industrial and pre-Industrial Eras required conditioned responses from their performers. The leaders analyzed the data, organized the goals, developed the programs, and assigned tasks or steps to be performed. The performers made the specific responses they were conditioned to make to specific stimuli.

In its simplest form, behavior is viewed in terms of a stimulus → response or S → R sequence (see Figure 2). There is no intervention between stimulus and response. When the stimulus is presented, the response is made, similar to the way a knee muscle reflexes to a tap.

Thus, the responses we made at home to our parents or children, those we made in school to our teachers or learners, and those we made at work to our employers or employees were all conditioned responses. For our purposes, what is critical is that there is no intelligence or intentionality mediating the sequence or relationship of stimulus and response. The conditioned responder simply reacts in an unthinking or mechanical manner. Reduced, the “condition”—or stimulus complex—determines the person’s response. Indeed, it is believed by many learning theorists that the cultural or conditioning context determines the behavior of its human populations.

Figure 2. The S—R Conditioned Responding Paradigm

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