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Pavlov – A Magnificent Failure

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66 – August, 2020

By Amy Fernandez

“Pavlov’s Dog” is a catchphrase so deeply embedded in popular culture that it long ago surpassed any direct reference to dogs. And guess what…that’s exactly what good old Ivan Pavlov had in mind when he commenced his oddball experiments back in the 1880s in Russia.

Like many great thinkers, his career took a circuitous route. History remembers him for his groundbreaking contributions to psychology, which was about the last thing he could have envisioned when he began his education as a theology student. He later switched to become a math and physics major and eventually found his niche as a medical research assistant–graduating from medical school in 1879 with a gold medal award for his research work and prepped for a star-studded career as a physiologist. That roundabout academic calling was a perfect indication of an endless intellectual odyssey that was just starting.

Pavlov is mainly remembered these days as the scientist who unlocked the concept of classical conditioning. Everyone knows about his famous dog and bell experiments. And indeed, his laboratory eventually housed a full-scale kennel as his original pursuit became subsumed by a far bigger goal.

At first, Pavlov was interested in understanding the mechanics of physiological processes, which is how he gravitated to studying the digestive system. His discoveries about classical conditioning were almost by accident and, from the outset, he was after a way bigger prize than teaching dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. In that sense, it’s fair to say that the basis of Pavlov’s classical conditioning research was inseparable from the historical backdrop of his day.

Click here to read the complete article
66 – August, 2020

Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=188302

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