Neutral Stimulus Definition | Psychology

A neutral stimulus is a kind of stimulus that elicits no response except one that is noticed. It’s essentially a stimulus without positive or negative feedback from those that witness it.

Imagine every time you take your child to McDonald’s, Ronald McDonald waves hello. A few minutes later, your child eats a disgusting approximation of what they call a hamburger. At first, every time your child sees Ronald, he doesn’t think much of this adult dressed in strange make-up. This is a neutral stimulus. But after repeated visits, the child starts realizing every time he sees the red-haired adult in drag, he has to eat a disgusting hamburger. The neutral stimulus of Ronald is now a conditioned stimulus, which triggers a conditioned response of your child crying and possibly puking at the thought of eating the so-called hamburger.