Written By: Trixie Jamito
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
A Brief Overview of Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian Physiologist known primarily for his work on Classical Conditioning. To simply put, it is a learning procedure in which a conditioned stimulus is created by combining a neutral stimulus and unconditioned stimulus to activate a conditioned response.
Ivan discovered the theory by accident with his dog. The dog naturally salivates (unconditioned response) when it sees a bowl of food (unconditioned stimulus). However, Ivan noticed that his dog also salivates (conditioned response) when it hears the footsteps of his lab assistant (conditioned stimulus) who delivers the food.
Ivan further proved this theory by creating a neutral stimulus in the form of a bell, which he consistently rings every time he delivers the food, thus combining the neutral with the unconditioned stimulus to create the conditioned stimulus. The dog then associated the ring of bell as the delivery of his food, triggering him to salivate (conditioned response).
We are indeed products of Pavlov’s work every time we hear a commercial or ads. Classical Conditioning has definitely helped branches of science especially in psychology and greatly changed the world as we know today.
The Dark Idea of Nikolai Krasnogorsky
As the saying goes, “Ideas are one thing and what happens is another”. One of Ivan Pavlov’s pupils, Nikolai Krasnogorsky, thought it would be revolutionary for science to expand Pavlov’s study on humans. He thought that dogs can be easily trained to activate conditioned response, so how about a more complicated specie?
Krasnogorsky wanted to train the subconscious mind of humans to unconsciously obey his command, so he gathered a dozen or so orphaned kids and babies to be part of his dark idea. The use of orphans for this study doesn’t seem quite right, and it acquired controversies from a variety of people, but his findings became a big deal in the field of science.
The Actual Experiment
Krasnogorsky put an apparatus to the opening (orifice) of salivary duct of each child to measure the amount of saliva they would secrete in different stimuli. First stimulus would be unconditioned wherein they would be given cookies without interference, thus creating an unconditioned response as they salivate.
Second, these children were consistently made to feel a pressure on their wrist every time a cookie is about to be delivered, making them associate that the pressure is an indication that they were about to be fed. This is the process of classical conditioning wherein the subjects (children) were trained to associate a neutral stimulus (wrist pressure) with the unconditioned stimulus (cookie), creating a conditioned stimulus (wrist pressure to signal the arrival of cookie) to stimulate a conditioned response (salivation).
To further support his study, Krasnogorsky tried activating the conditioned stimulus, but no food has been given. The next time the children felt the pressure, they still salivated as if no trickery has been done before.
Krasnogorsky claimed that a human mind can be easily trained as dog’s. For decades, he experimented on children trapped inside his laboratory. However, Krasnogorsky noticed slight changes on the responses of his human lab rats. He believed that a slight change in the conditioned stimulus would vary the conditioned response, or it could result to no response at all. For example, two friction pressure is the consistent conditioned stimulus, but any less or any more than what has been given, can alternate the human response.
Krasnogorsky then was able to prove that the human mind can separate subtle changes in the stimulus, unlike dogs. After this drastic discovery, Pavlov was fascinated by his pupil’s dedication and inspiration. Krasnogorsky’s work revealed that we are more sophisticated than dogs but are still very similar in learning through conditioning.
The fate of the poor orphaned children has been a mystery up until today. It was clear for sure, that they have been part of a revolutionary discovery that helped advances in science to take place.
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