Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner

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The twentieth century was a turning point in the way we view behavior. Sigmund Freud shook the medical world when he claimed that unconscious forces dictate our behavior and childhood experiences play a large role in personality formation. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory placed the subject of behavior into the forefront of medical study. Freud’s theory brought much criticism and controversy but most importantly; it brought interest to the subject of behavior and personality. This newfound interest caused many young doctors to begin studying how behavior is created. Many new theories would follow Freud’s and forever change the way science views behavior. Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and B.F. Skinner are three of the men that contributed in changing the scientific view of behavior. Ivan Pavlov was a Nobel Prize winning physiologist for his research on digestion. Pavlov was working with dogs when he made a significant discovery. Every day a bell would sound when it was time to feed the dogs. Pavlov noticed that the dogs were beginning to salivate at the sound of the bell before the meat was introduced to them. Unintentionally, Pavlov discovered how we obtain learned reflexes. This phenomenon is known as classical conditioning. Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to evoke a response (salivating) when the bell rang. Because the toll of the bell was repeatedly followed with meat, the dogs learned to salivate at this sound even before any meat was introduced. In this scenario, the meat is an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) because it is a stimulus that evokes an unconditioned response (UCR) which is salivation. However, the bell has become a conditioned stimulus (CS) because it has acquired the ability to elicit a response; and that makes the dogs reaction a conditioned response (CR) because it is a learned reaction. This discovery is important because many problems and fears people have may be a result of conditioning. A person that was assaulted in a movie theater may develop a...
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