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Russian Psychologist

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is a renowned Russian Psychologist who was made various contributions to the advancement of the field of psychology. Born on September 14, 1849, Ivan Pavlov has not only been distinguished in the field of psychology but is also known in physiology and medicine (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). In fact, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1904 for his ground breaking research on the digestive system (Todes 1997).

In the field of Psychology, Ivan Pavlov is known for his role in developing the theories in relation to classical conditioning (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). Born in Ryazan, Russia, Ivan Pavlov began his education in a very unconventional manner for a scientist by enrolling at an ecclesiastical seminary. This did not last long, however, as Pavlov soon dropped out and decided to study the natural sciences at the University of St. Petersburg where he completed his doctorate in 1879 (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). He soon grew in renown and was held in high regard by the Russian government.

His status as a Nobel laureate allowed him to carry out government sanctioned experiments at a very advanced age (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). It was his early research on the functions of animals, however, is what made him known in the field of psychology (Todes 1997). His early research involved the study of the gastric functions of rodents. During these experiments, Pavlov would externalize the salivary glands in order to analyze the saliva and the reaction that it had on food (Rescorla and Wagner 1972).

It was also during this time that Pavlov discovered an early form of “conditional reflexes” (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). Pavlov discovered that the rats began to salivate prematurely on the sight of certain foods such as chili. This so-called “psychic secretion” was what set about his various experiments on the manipulation of the stimuli of the rats and other animals in response to the sight of food (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). Conditional Reflex is what perhaps the most important contribution of Pavlov to the field of Psychology.

Originally introduced to the West by John B. Watson, the concept of “conditioning” as a different process of human learning became very conditional in the field of behaviorism (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). As a specialism of comparative psychology, Pavlov was able to induce certain behaviors among different animals (namely rats and dogs) by forcing different reactions from the animals depending on the stimuli that was presented (Rescorla and Wagner 1972).

In his most famous experiment, Pavlov discovered that dogs began salivating not at the presence of food (unlike the previous experiment on the rats) but rather in the presence of the people delivering the food (Rescorla and Wagner 1972). It was during these experiments that Pavlov discovered that what he would term the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus. His research in this field became so well known that it not only influenced the field of science and psychology but also popular culture.

Soon after, Conditional Reflexes became associated with people who were quick to react to certain stimuli without using the process of critical thinking (Todes 1997). In fact, the theories advanced by Pavlov in this field became so popular that they soon found their way into popular novels such as Brave New World and Gravity’s Rainbow (Todes 1997). The other contributions and influences of Ivan Pavlov were not as influential in the field but they did pave the way for the research of other well known scientists (Rescorla and Wagner 1972).

Among the notables are Carl Jung, who furthered Pavlov’s work on TMI, and William Sargant, who followed up the research conducted by Pavlov non the mental conditioning and brain washing of persons (Rescorla and Wagner 1972).

Works Cited: Rescorla, R. A. , & Wagner, A. R. (1972). A theory of Pavlovian conditioning. Varitions in effectiveness of reinforcement and non-reinforcement. In A. Black & W. F. Prokasky, Jr. (eds. ), Classical Conditioning II New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Todes, D. P. (1997). “Pavlov’s Physiological Factory,” Isis. Vol. 88. The History of Science Society, p. 205-246

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