1849 - 1936


Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936)

Born September 14th, 1849.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was the son of a village priest who sent him to be educated at the local seminary school in his village of Ryazan. Early on in his education he was captured by the progressive ideas of literary critic, D.I. Pisarev the Russian father of physiology. Pavlov had previously been destined for a career in the church following in his father's footsteps. He abandoned this and devoted his life to science. In 1870 Pavlov took up studying physics and mathematics but his passion always remained physiology. In 1875 he completed the course with outstanding results. He continued with his studies and took a course at the Academy of Medical Surgery where he received a gold medal for his achievements in 1879. He then won a fellowship to the Academy where he continued with his research and continued to be recognised for his achievements in the field of physiology. Pavlov's achievements and awards came thick and fast throughout his career; 1901 Pavlov was elected a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 1904 Pavlov was awarded a
Nobel Prize for his work in Physiology. 1907 Pavlov was elected Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 1912 Pavlov was awarded an honorary doctorate at Cambridge University. 1915 Pavlov was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour in Paris.
Pavlov died in Leningrad on February 27th, 1936.


The Famous Experiment Involving 'Pavlov's Dog'

Pavlov's importance to the field of psychology is one of accident. In his research concerning physiology Pavlov was studying the role of various juices in digestion, one of those being saliva. He was using dogs in his study and noticed that some dogs salivated before they were fed, this was limited to dogs who had been in the laboratory for some time. Pavlov wanted some scientific explanation for what he saw. What followed are now famous experiments involving Classical Conditioning.

+ (Unconditioned stimulus)
The dog salivates when it sees steak (unconditioned response)

+ (Unconditioned stimulus) + (Neutral stimulus)
The dog salivates when it sees steak and hears the sound of the bell

+ (Neutral stimulus has become conditioned)
The dog eventually salivates when it hears the sound of the bell alone (conditioned response).


The formation of the stimulus response requires a number of pairings of the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus. With the increased number of pairings the conditioned response occurs more frequently and more strongly. There is a limit to the conditioned response which will increase to a point and then levels off.

Extinction and Recovery

A behaviour, which is acquired through classical conditioning, is amazingly resilient. A dog conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell and left for months will salivate again (although to a smaller extent) when brought back into the laboratory and the bell sound is made. Classical conditioned responses can be eliminated, or as termed by Pavlov becomes 'extinct'. This can be done by presenting the conditioned stimulus repeatedly without the unconditioned stimulus. What often happens though, is there is 'spontaneous recovery' of the behaviour, complete recovery would require the presentation of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus again after spontaneous recovery.

The processes of Acquisition, Extinction and Recovery are at the very heart of the development of behaviourism and early learning theories.


Lefrancois, G.R.(2000) Theories of Human Learning, 4th Ed. Belmount:Wadsworth
Pavlov Institute

Submitted by Juliet Thompson
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