It can be said without a doubt that the scientific community is definitely quite mesmerizing and interesting. There are often times when one sets out to find something but ends up finding something entirely unique. Something quite similar to this happened with Ivan P. Pavlov when he started to study the digestive system of a dog but ended up giving his own theory of classical conditioning. It is important to focus on this term ‘classical conditioning’ as it has helped a lot of people from all across the globe to learn about learning and all its various theories. Conditioning can be simply thought of as learning if it is roughly translated. And this entire term refers to a procedure in which learning takes place when a biologically potent stimulus is paired off with a rather neutral stimulus. This is also known as learning from the pairing. And in this academic writing piece, the readers will be able to learn about the conditioning experiments which were conducted by Ivan P. Pavlov. Readers will also be able to learn about the theory and its core concepts. But before beginning any of those discussions, it is first important for the readers to learn about who Pavlov was.
The Brief Biography of Ivan P. Pavlov
Ivan P Pavlov is also known as Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. He was a Russian psychologist who was primarily known for his theory of classical conditioning and the experiments he did on the basis of that theory. He was born on 26 September 1849 and he showed the ‘instinct for research’ from a very young age. This instinct for research meant that he depicted signs of intellectual curiosity and unusual energy from a very young age. He was quite impressed by the ideas of a Russian literary critic named D. I. Pisarev and I. M. Sechnov, who is regarded as the father of Russian physiology. Very early on, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov abandoned all parts of his religious career and decided to devote his life to the task of advancement of science.
Following that, he enrolled in the mathematics and physics department of the University of Saint Petersburg in 1870. He studied natural science there and eventually ended up winning a Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1904. He was the first man to become a Russian Nobel laureate and is also often ranked as one of the most prominent psychologists of the 20th century. The principles which Pavlov gave in his theory of classical conditioning have been operated in a number of fields and settings including that of the behavioral therapies, experimental settings, clinical settings, educational classrooms, and many other settings. The principles of classical conditioning have been especially useful in the treatment method of systematic desensitization for reducing phobias. From all this, it can easily be concluded that Ivan P. Pavlov one of the most important and brilliant psychologists of the 20th century. In the next sections, the focus of the academic essay writing piece will be on the theory and experiments of classical conditioning.
Classical Conditioning Experiment
In the 1890s, Pavlov was trying to study the procedure of salvation in dogs when those dogs are being fed. To study that, he ended up inserting a small tube in the cheek of each dog. This was done to measure the exact amount of saliva which was secreted when the dogs were being fed. In this experiment, the dogs were fed a powder which was made from meat. According to the predictions which were made by Pavlov, the dogs will salivate when food was presented in front of them but won’t salivate when there was an absence of food. But Pavlov noticed a rather interesting phenomenon that the dogs began to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of the assistant who was bringing the food. This triggered Pavlov’s curiosity and he ended up discovering that a dog can learn to associate an object or event with food which would further trigger the response which the presentation of the food did earlier. It is important for the readers to learn about the exact steps which were followed during the experiment. And those exact steps are mentioned below.
- During the first step, the dog was placed in a box and harnessed. Then the dog was left in there for a while and this procedure was followed for a couple of days. In this step, a surgeon also inserted a small tube inside the jaw of the dog while the other end of that tube was placed inside a measuring jar
- In the second phase or step, a bell was rung and the food was presented to the dog. Then the dog was allowed to eat the food without any kind of hassle. This entire routine was again followed for a couple of days.
In this experiment, it was found that during the first few trials, the dog only salivated at the sight of food but eventually the dog started to salivate when the bell was rung. There were also a number of trial situations which were then later introduced in this experiment. For example, in one of the trial conditions, the dogs who went under conditioning were introduced to a different situation in which the bell was rung but no food was presented. In this trial, it was observed that the dog continued to salivate whenever the bell was rung even if no food was presented. However, this salivation eventually stopped when the bell was not paired with the presentation of any food item. It is also important for the readers to note that Pavlov continued to work on such trial conditions throughout the rest of his career. In the next section, the readers will learn about the theory of classical conditioning.
Classical Conditioning Theory
According to Pavlov, there were a few things which dogs do not need to learn. And one of those things was the process of salivation whenever the food was presented. He gave four major terms in his theory of classical conditioning. And those four major terms are mentioned below.
- Unconditioned Stimulus
This is the stimulus which has the innate potential or capability of creating a biological reaction or unconditioned response. For example, the food which was presented in the experimental procedure which is mentioned above is an unconditioned stimulus.
- Unconditioned Response
This is the response which is given to an unconditioned stimulus. For example, in the above-mentioned experiment, salivation is the unconditioned response.
- Conditioned Stimulus
This is the stimulus which an organism learns to respond to after going through the procedures of classical conditioning. In the experiment which was mentioned above, the bell was the conditioned stimulus.
- Conditioned Response
This is the response which is given to the conditioned stimulus. In the above mentioned experimental procedure, salivation is also the conditioned response.
These are the four main concepts which were given by Pavlov. He basically theorized that an unconditioned stimulus will generate an unconditioned response. And when a conditioned stimulus is presented before an unconditioned stimulus then the maximum level of learning takes place.
Ivan P Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who is extremely famous for his theory of classical conditioning. He was the first Russian man to win a Nobel Prize. And he conducted a series of experiments on a dog to give his theory of classical conditioning. According to Ivan P Pavlov, when a conditioned stimulus is presented before an unconditioned stimulus a number of times then that results in the maximum level of learning or pairing between the stimulus and the response pairs.