Pavlov's Dogs

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Learning and Conditioning
Ivan Pavlov studied dogs, metronomes, salivation, and the discovery of the conditioned reflex nearly 100 years ago. Ivan will be remembered as the man who changed psychology by his experimentations with the salivation of dogs. Pavlov learned through experimentation of the unconditioned responses due to unconditioned stimuli and of the potential to condition responses from previous no stimuli.

Pavlov performed his experiments at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Petrograd. There, he reflected on his previous work. He had noticed during his previous work that dogs naturally produced amounts of saliva depending on what they were given to eat. The dogs salivated little amounts for moist food, larger amounts for dry food, and varying amounts for inedible objects. He then had the theory that the dogs had learned from experience to associate food with the appearance of certain signals—the conditioned stimuli. He set up a lab to train dogs to salivate at random signals, conditioned stimuli. Pavlov succeeded in training dogs to drool from hearing the sounds of footsteps, bells, metronomes and the smell of vanilla. He associated the food, unconditioned stimuli, with the previously neutral stimuli and then repeated the combination until the dogs would salivate at the scent or sound without the need of the unconditioned stimulus. The most important finding of the study was that if a neutral stimulus was in contact with the dogs after the unconditioned response took place, the neutral stimulus would stay a neutral response.

The impact of Pavlov’s work taught us about our behavior and the impact that conditioning has upon humans. The theory of classical conditioning is universally accepted and has remained unchanged since its conception through Pavlov’s work. Other psychologists have worked with Pavlov’s conditioning. John B. Watson, for example, conditioned 11-month-old little Albert to fear a white rat (and other furry things) by...
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