To fully understand classical conditioning in chapter three, one must have a grasp on elicited behaviors. An “elicited behavior is one that is automatically drawn out by a certain stimulus.” The reaction to the stimulus can be viewed as involuntary, or unlearned. The book uses an example of a gunshot. When a person jumps in response to the loud noise, they are experiencing an involuntary reaction.
There are different types of elicited behaviors that we experience. Reflexes such as salivating are the most basic since they can be brought about by only one gland or a small set of muscles. Other reflexes, such as the startle response and the orienting response, employ coordinated action of many body parts to be successful. The startled response causes automatic tightening of skeletal muscles. The defensive reaction occurs when we are exposed to sudden and unexpected stimuli; it is the body’s way of preparing for “fight or flight” mode. This reflex and many others are thought to enable survival.
The structure that underlies many of our reflexes is called a reflex arc. The arc consists of a “sensory neuron, an interneuron, and a motor neuron.” Together, these neurons work to understand and react to stimuli without our awareness or help. When we touch something hot, our reaction to let go happens before our mind is told that we are experiencing pain. It is the reflex arc that interprets the danger message and reacts to it without our knowledge.
Babies are born with reflexes, some that will disappear as the get older, in order to help them survive. The rooting reflex occurs when the baby feels stimulus on one side of their cheek and turn toward that direction. This reaction is supposed to help them find the nipple, which is their source of food.