Individual Posts: Conditioned Eye Blink Experiment
Professor Joe Reish, Psychology 201, Tidewater Community College
reproduced by
D. Reiss with permission


Ask a friend to become your experimental subject. All they have to do is hold still while you blow air in their eye! OK, it's not the greatest job in the world, but tell them it is a contribution that they can make to science:
  • Hold the tip of a drinking straw about an inch from their open eye and count "One, two, three, then quickly blow a small puff of air)into their eye. They will reflexively blink to the air. Repeat for at least six trials. Or as many as your subject will tolerate.
  • Then count as usual, "One, Two, Three", and act as if you are going to puff. But don't. Your subject should blink in anticipation of the puff of air.
  • Write a brief summary of your experience and identify the UCS, UCR, CS, and CR (as with Pavlov's dog):
    • UCS - Unconditioned Stimulus - means "not learned", like the meat powder in the dog's mouth causes salivation
    • UCS - Unconditioned Response...the drool
    • CS - conditioned stimulus or "learned" stimulus, i.e., the bell (which was paired with the food)
    • CR - Conditioned response - slobbering to the sound of the bell.
Selected Student Responses

My cousin, Heather, was my test subject. *hehehe* She had no choice, Blackmail is always a useful tool. I must tell you right off the bat, Heather is rather...well we will say Different. She is very strong willed, and will usually do the exact opposite of what is expected. On with the experiment.

I counted to three and blew a small puff into her eye..she blinked... Did this several times, she always blinked. Then I acted as if I was going to puff...She didnt blink...Or if she did blink I didnt see it. Like I said, SHE'S STRANGE...ooops, I mean "different." The Counting was the CS. The puff of air was the UCS. The blinking was the UCR. The anticipated puff of air should have been the CR (had she blinked). I guess I shouldn't have blackmailed my cousin into being my test subject. I think her not blinking was her revenge....OOOOPPPS....Guess I better aplogize....

I did this experament with my mother (Note: Don't ever ask your mother to participate in a experement for school.) I found that is was a bit of classical conditioning with this. The first time I blew the air through the strw and she blinked. The second time she tried not to blink . The third time she blinked when I put the straw in my mouth without me blowing air. That was an example of (Cs). Afterword I got a lecture on proper spelling and better more organized approaches. (An example of CS, don't ask mom for help with classwork again)
I did this experiment on my daughter and when I started the counting which was the (CS) and started blowing throw the straw (USC)and that lead to the blinking of the eye>UCR. After doing so for about a minute my daughter started to get angry because she felt like I was taking advantage over her and her reaction to the blowing could not be helped even after I stoped the blowing .  
Nothing like an ever-loving spouse to use for experimental lunacy...
I did the counting (CS), then the puff of air (UCS), which lead to her blinking (UCR) from the anticipated puff of air (CR).
Also noted was the statement, "I did not blink," (Denial), "because I knew you were gonna do that" (Rationalization). Wow, when we're done with this course, can we even walk without thinking about the psychological processes behind it??
I performed this test on my 10 year old nephew. At the beginning of the experiment I told him at the count of three I would blow air into his eyes and to see if he would blink. I started with the word okay each time before I said the numbers and each time he blinked. When I did it for the last time as soon as I said the word okay he blinked. I would say that the air blowing into his eyes was the UCS and the blinking was the UCR, the CS would be me just saying the word "okay" and the CR would be his blinking.

I read the passage on conditioned response with the slobbering dogs and this gave me an idea to go one step further with this expirement. The association of pain with a stern voice . This is what I did:  I first allowed my very anxious girlfriend relax, letting her anxiety subside.
Then I counted in a soft reassuring voice.
She blinked every time I blew through the straw; however when I counted to three and didn't blow, she didn't blink. The second time I raised my voice.
And as you would expect she blinked every time, even when I didn't blow.

 I'm convinced that the act of blowing was the unconditioned stimulus (US). She had no prior exposure to someone blowing through a straw into her eyes. Ears mabe, but not the eyes. Clearly the responce was elicted by the uncomfortable feeling of air being blown in her eyes. Hence the unconditioned responce (UR). It was automatic. Without practice. We did this several times untill she was comfortable with what we were doing. Then I raised my voice and blew with the same force. She blinked every time. Even when I didn't blow. Of course after violating her trust, that game was over.  In my opinion, there was a conditioned response (CR) to the level of voice and pain association learned long before the ole' "air in the eye" trick because her father was a stern man who dominated with a stern voice and a whack on the behind.  I believe that the raised voice evoked a (CR). Hence unconditioned stimulus (air) + conditioned stimulus (stern voice) = conditioned responce. Blink.  Got to go make up. Unconditioned stimulus (dirty look) + Conditioned responce (storming away) = Me begging for forgivness.