Friday, September 5

Inside Pavlov's head...

A friend of mine told me this long ago, and provoked my curiosity about this whole thing. Another friend asked me what it was, and I shrugged at the opportunity to explain. Well, better late than never...

This is the story of a dog, whose owner went by the names of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, used to explain the phenomenon of Classical Conditioning, which involves the association of a neutral stimulus, that is, presenting a favoured and anticipated action and connecting it with an induced stimulus, which is what triggers a reflex mechanism in the brain. By associating the two, Pavlov discovered that it was possible to connect the dots between the two.

Confused? So am I, so I'll explain...

Who was Ivan Pavlov?
The Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born in 1849 in Ryazan, where his father worked as a village priest. In 1870 Ivan Pavlov abandoned the religious career for which he had been preparing, and instead went into science. There he had a great impact on the field of physiology by studying the mechanisms underlying the digestive system in mammals.
For his original work in this field of research, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904. By then he had turned to studying the laws on the formation of conditioned reflexes, a topic on which he worked until his death in 1936. His discoveries in this field paved the way for an objective science of behavior.
- From


While Pavlov was studying the secrets of the digestive system, he stumbled upon a little fact. He discovered that dogs by reflex started drooling whenever presented with food. In complex terminology, he found that when a dog encounters food, saliva starts to pour from the salivary glands located in the back of its oral cavity. However, he also noticed that the dog drooled without any proper stimulus.

Dogs drool when there is food around. But Pavlov noticed that his dogs drooled even when there was no food around. The reason? Lab coats. It turned out the the person feeding the dogs always wore a lab coat when he did so, and so whenever the dogs came across a lab coat, they figured that food was on the way. Pavlov didn't giggle at the irony of the fact and walk away. He instead chose to study it further, and the following is what he discovered...

Pavlov started to associate the relation between lab coats and food, and started experimenting with other forms of stimuli. He rang a bell whenever the dogs were fed food. Soon enough the dogs associated the food with the ringing bell, and in a span of time, would start drooling when the bell was rung, and no food was around. Subconsciously, the doggy brains would react to the bell just as they would react to food. Dogs are nice creatures. They scare me to death, but then again, so does Britney Spears, so it's ok. I don't have any dislike for their species, just fear. So sue me. My cousin has this friend who has a black puppy called Patch, perhaps the only dog that runs after me without a murderous intent.


Try this. Listen to your favorite song while doing math or studying physics. Do it for a few days, and leave it at that. You will notice that after that period of time, whenever you listen to your favorite song, you either feel like you want to study, or just feel like you already are. I've noticed this, because I've been doing something similar without even knowing it was physiologically theoretical stuff. I noticed that I always studied in the night, especially with this Iron Maiden tape I had long ago. I would get really pepped up and would really like studying when I heard that tape. One articular number in the tape (No more lies), is a song that ironically used to be playing whenever my kid brother would wake me up. This happened thrice. I would wake up with that song, and after that, whenever I would hear that song, I'd feel terribly lazy and soon enough, very sleepy.

I can go on and on, but my aim in this post was not to explain psychoanalytical theory, but to grab your interest, get you a little curious, and then, to let you discover for yourself what this is all about, but I'm guessing you got the basic idea in Pavlov's head by now. There's a lot more out there, and I'll let you discover it for yourself..

If you want, you can read up on Fear Conditioning, Behaviorism, Quantitative Analysis of Behavior et all. The net's got it all.

Happy searching.