If you are looking to expand your knowledge on the disciple of psychology, the experiment popularly known as “Pavlov’s Dogs” is what I consider to be the gateway to the study of mind and behaviour.
The study was initially designed by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian psychologist born in 1849, and was initially intended to be an experiment to investigate why dogs apparently didn’t need to learn to salivate when in the presence of food. It wasn’t until later that the psychologist John Watson coined the term “Classical Conditioning” or “Pavlovian Conditioning” that is used today.
Pavlov began by establishing that the response of salivation in dogs is merely an unconditioned response to the presence of food stimuli by presenting a dog with food and measuring the volume of salivary secretion; he showed that as soon as a dog sees food it will salivate uncontrollably.
Upon discovering that the dog had begun to salivate when it saw Pavlov’s teaching assistant (who had consistently fed the dogs) Pavlov realised that dogs could learn to associate objects or individuals with a particular response i.e. salivating. He then went on to design an experiment which would enable the dog to associate any object with the response of salivation (here is where we see the famous bell being put to good use).
Each time Pavlov presented the dog with food he would simultaneously ring a bell and over time, the dog learned to associate the sound of a bell ringing with the presence of food and would begin to salivate. By the end of the study, the dog would only need to hear the bell ring in order to salivate i.e. the dog had become conditioned to associate the bell with food.
|Neutral (Bell) + Unconditioned (Food)
The association could then later be rendered “extinct” by continuously ringing the bell without providing the dog with any food. The dog would then lose the association it previously had between the sound of the bell and the presentation of food.
In case you’re wondering whether this experiment has anything whatsoever to do with the real world – it does! For example, think about the lunchtime bell at school. When you first start school, the same bell would ring every day at the exact same time to indicate to students when it was time for lunch, right? As a result, you learned to associate that particular bell with food (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!). Furthermore, if you were to continue to hear the bell every day but not be allowed to go to lunch *gasps in horror*, you would therefore lose the association you had between the bell and food and as a result you wouldn’t feel hungry.
I hope you enjoyed this first post!
Now, please excuse me while I go make myself something to eat…