Ivan Pavlov
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Ivan Pavlov

Discovered the knee-jerk effect

Ivan Pavlov was primarily interested in physiology, but his discovery of classical conditioning heavily influenced the behaviorist movement.

Ivan Pavlov

“Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air. Facts are the air of science. Without them a man of science can never rise”, said Ivan Pavlov, the famous Russian born in a small village in Ryazan, where his father was the village priest. His family had hoped that like his father he would become a priest but Pavlov cared more for scientific pursuits. So he left the seminary for the University of St. Petersburg. There he studied chemistry and physiology which was in his prime interests. Pavlov helped in the development of Department of Physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine.

“Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never enable the bird to fly if unsupported by the air. Facts are the air of science. Without them a man of science can never rise”,

He was not a psychologist although his contribution in the field of psychology is immense. Incidentally the work that made Pavlov a household name in psychology actually began as a study in digestive function of dogs. Placing a variety of stimuli before the presentation of food, Pavlov discovered that after repeated association between the stimuli and the food , the dogs would salivate to the presence of a stimulus other than food. He termed this response a conditional reflex. This is different from an innate reflex, such as swiftly drawing a hand back from a flame, in that conditioned reflex has to be learned. Pavlov called this learning process in which the dog’s (the subject of his experiment) nervous system comes to associate the sound of a bell or metronome with the food. Alternatively Pavlov also noticed that the conditioned reflex would be repressed if the stimulus proved “wrong” too often – if the bell rang repeatedly and no food appeared then the association would be snapped and the conditioning lost. Pavlov believed that the reflexes originated in the cerebral cortex of the brain and could explain the behavior of psychotic people. His work had a major influence on the field, particularly on the development of behaviorism. The research also demonstrated techniques of studying reactions to the environment in an objective, scientific method.

Ivan Pavlov Nobel Prize

Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine in 1904, for his research on digestion. Pavlov’s work with classical conditioning had a great influence on how a human being identifies himself, how he participates in his environment and how he progresses in learning. The experiments in classical conditioning continue to be central to modern behavior therapy. Pavlov was held in extremely high regard in his country and around the world. The Soviet government also offered substantial support for Pavlov’s work, and the Soviet Union soon became a well-known center of physiology research.

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