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Hall of Fame - Ivan Pavlov


The Russian physicist Ivan Petrovitsj Pavlov was born in 1849.
He studied pharmacology and physiology in Sint Petersburg. Later he became a teacher on this academy. Besides teaching, he was involved in medical research.
Pavlov was interested in the behavior of both humans and animals, and he was especially interested in reflexes. His biggest contribution to the field of psychology is classical conditioning, a theory about how behavior is learned. He received a Nobel price for his important contribution to science. Pavlov died in 1936 in Russia.


Pavlov was a behaviorist. This means that his theories focused on observable behavior, because behavior can be measured and thought can not. The human mind should be interpreted as a black box that can not be opened. Only was goes in the box and what comes out can be known. Scientific evidence is the keyword in his theory.
Pavlov studied reflexes, automatic behavior that is caused by a stimulus from the environment. Some reflexes, such as blinking your eyes when a puff of air comes in it, or the sucking of a baby when something is put in his/her mouth. This automatic behavior can be manipulated. This is called conditioning. In this conditioning process, a unconditional stimulus is given to a person. This stimulus causes a reflex on its own. When the unconditional stimulus is now given to the person together with a stimulus that does not cause a reflex on its own. Thus, a unconditional stimulus is given together with a conditional stimulus. Because the presence of the unconditional stimulus, the reflex is caused. This process of stimulus-response is repeated for a number of times. After a while, the unconditional stimulus is not offered any more. Only the conditional stimulus is offered. Because of the repeated association of the unconditional and the conditional stimulus, the conditional stimulus will now cause the reflex on its own. Classical conditioning is succeeded.
Pavlov's theories where very influential, in particular in the field of child psychology.

Research and experiments

The theory of Pavlov could be tested in experiments that where conducted in a laboratory. He often used animals in his experiments. His most famous experiment is the one, in which he used dogs to demonstrate classical conditioning. The dogs he used showed a salivation response when they where offered food (unconditional stimulus). The food was offered a number of time with the sound of a buzzer (conditional stimulus). After this, the sound of the buzzer alone could produce the salivation response.

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