Father of Classical Conditioning:Ivan Pavlov Laura Nickell


Pavlov was the eldest child in a large, poor family. His father was the village priest and so he initially planned to follow in his father's footsteps and study theology in school. During this time he started to hear more about the progressive ideas of revolutionary D.I Pisarev which sparked his interest in science and led him to his decision to switch his education focus. Throughout his early research in school he completed research projects that earned him many honors and awards. During this research period he established reflex regulation of circulatory organs.


From 1891 to 1900 he did a majority of his research on digestion at the Institute of Experimental Medicine. Much of his work dealt with the nervous system and its regulation of digestion and control over digestive glands. From this he started his experiments with reflex regulation of the glands and discovered that saliva produced was a result of conditioned behavior and could be altered. The process of conditioning brought in psychological aspects including research done by Sechenov that reactions/reflexes of humans and animals is shaped by their environment and events in life can shape the reflexes.


Pavlov adapted Sechenov's research to fit an experiment that would be a cumulation of Pavlov's research until that point. The basic concepts within the experiment were that the cerebral cortex acts as the command center of activity and responses. However, with the right timing, the commands could be altered and elicit different physiological responses. Essentially, the experiment dealt with creating new rules to have consistent responses by pairing a new stimuli with a current one and after creating an association with the new stimuli and the current/original, then the original stimuli could be removed the the new stimuli would be able to bring out the same response that the original one did.

The actual details of the experiment are as follows: Pavlov worked with a group of dogs who would salivate when presented with food. The food is considered an unconditioned stimulus and the salvation is considered an unconditioned response. Pavlov then started to ring a bell at the same moment when he presented the dogs with food which was ultimately creating an association with the sound meaning food was there. When Pavlov only rang the bell but didn't present food the dogs would still salivate because the salvation was now a conditioned response from the conditioned stimulus of the bell. Pavlov went on to try different sounds or cues such as touching the dogs' harness and the results remained consistent.

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Laura Nickell

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