Episode #7 of the course “Influential Psychologists Throughout History”
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian chemist and physiologist. However, he is also a household name in the world of psychology. Ironically, Pavlov was originally studying to become a priest, but after reading the works of Charles Darwin, he decided that scientific endeavors were more his passion. He received his doctorate in chemistry and physiology in 1879. Physiology is a branch of biology that studies the normal functioning of living organisms and their parts. He originally began studying digestion and blood circulation, and he was later appointed to be a professor of physiology at the Imperial Medical Academy.
His most well-known psychology study began as a study of the digestive system. He was studying the digestion of dogs, in particular the connection between salivation and the stomach. He realized that the two were closely linked; the stomach does not know to start digesting without salivation. Where the psychology portion of the study came in was that Pavlov introduced an external stimulus to start the salvation process. He paired the sound of a metronome with feeding the dogs for some time. Previously, the dogs only began salivating when they saw or ate their food. After pairing the food with metronome, however, Pavlov could sound the metronome without introducing the food, and the dogs would begin to salivate because they associated the sound with the food.
Pavlov termed his finding a “conditioned reflex.” This contradicts the normal notion of reflexes because a reflex by nature is automatic (it is done without thought). He called creating this reflex “conditioning.” He also noticed that if he sounded the metronome too many times without providing food, then the dogs would no longer associate the sound with food, and as a result, they stopped salivating at the sound of the noise.
Pavlov’s ideas contributed to the behaviorist theory of psychology that was created years later and is still used today.
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