History and background on ivan pavlov

23 Mar 2015

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Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (Russian: Иван Петрович Павлов, September 14, 1849 - February 27, 1936) was a Russian, and later Soviet, physiologist, psychologist, and physician. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for research pertaining to the digestive system. Pavlov is widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning.

In the 1890s, Pavlov was investigating the gastric function of dogs by externalizing a salivary gland so he could collect, measure, and analyze the saliva and what response it had to food under different conditions. He noticed that the dogs tended to salivate before food was actually delivered to their mouths, and set out to investigate this "psychic secretion", as he called it.

He decided that this was more interesting than the chemistry of saliva, and changed the focus of his research, carrying out a long series of experiments in which he manipulated the stimuli occurring before the presentation of food. He thereby established the basic laws for the establishment and extinction of what he called "conditional reflexes" - i.e., reflex responses, like salivation, that only occurred conditionally upon specific previous experiences of the animal. These experiments were carried out in the 1900s, and were known to western scientists through translations of individual accounts, but first became fully available in English in a book published in 1927.

Unlike many pre-revolutionary scientists, Pavlov was highly regarded by the Soviet government, and he was able to continue his research until he reached a considerable age. Moreover, he was praised by Lenin and as a Nobel laureate.[2][3]

After the murder of Sergei Kirov in 1934, Pavlov wrote several letters to Molotov criticizing the mass persecutions which followed and asking for the reconsideration of cases pertaining to several people he knew personally.

In later life he was particularly interested in trying to use conditioning to establish an experimental model of the induction of neuroses. He died in Leningrad. His laboratory in Saint Petersburg has been carefully preserved as a museum.

Conscious until his very last moment, Pavlov asked one of his students to sit beside his bed and to record the circumstances of his dying. He wanted to create unique evidence of subjective experiences of this terminal phase of life.[4]

The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the "conditioned reflex" (or in his own words the conditional reflex: the translation of условный рефлекс into English is debatable) he developed jointly with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901.[8] Tolochinov, whose own term for the phenomenon had been "reflex at a distance", communicated the results at the Congress of Natural Sciences in Helsinki in 1903.[9] As Pavlov's work became known in the West, particularly through the writings of John B. Watson, the idea of "conditioning" as an automatic form of learning became a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology, and the general approach to psychology that underlay it, behaviorism. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of Pavlov's work for philosophy of mind.

Pavlov's research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. The phrase "Pavlov's dog" is often used to describe someone who merely reacts to a situation rather than using critical thinking. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, Brave New World, and also to a large degree in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings record the use of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to ringing a bell. Catania[10] cast doubt on whether Pavlov ever actually used a bell in his famous experiments. Littman[11] tentatively attributed the popular imagery to Pavlov's contemporaries Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev and John B. Watson, until Thomas[12] found several references that unambiguously stated Pavlov did, indeed, use a bell.

Catania, A. Charles (1994); Query: Did Pavlov's Research Ring a Bell?, PSYCOLOQUY Newsletter, Tuesday, June 7, 1994

Behaviourism is primarily associated with Pavlov (classical conditioning) in Russia and with Thorndike, Watson and particularly Skinner in the United States (operant conditioning). 

Behaviourism is dominated by the constraints of its (naïve) attempts to emulate the physical sciences, which entails a refusal to speculate about what happens inside the organism. Anything which relaxes this requirement slips into the cognitive realm. 

Much behaviourist experimentation is undertaken with animals and generalised. In educational settings, behaviourism implies the dominance of the teacher, as in behaviour modification programmes. It can, however, be applied to an understanding of unintended learning.

Classical condiioning is the process of reflex learning-investigated by Pavlov-through which an unconditioned stimulus (e.g. food) which produces an unconditioned response (salivation) is presented together with a conditioned stimulus (a bell), such that the salivation is eventually produced on the presentation of the conditioned stimulus alone, thus becoming a conditioned response. Such associations can be chained and generalised (for better of for worse): thus "smell of baking" associates with "kitchen at home in childhood" associates with "love and care". (Smell creates potent conditioning because of the way it is perceived by the brain.) But "sitting at a desk" associates with "classroom at school" and hence perhaps with "humiliation and failure"...

Behaviorism as a movement in psychology appeared in 1913 when John Broadus Watson published the classic article 'Psychology as the behaviorist views it'. Watson believed that all individual differences in behavior were due to different experiences of learning. Watson proposed that the process of classical conditioning (based on Pavlov's observations) was able to explain all aspects of human psychology. Everything from speech to emotional responses were simply patterns of stimulus and response. Watson denied completely the existence of the mind or consciousness.

Ivan Pavlov showed that classical conditioning applied to animals. Did it also apply to humans? In a famous (though ethically dubious) experiment Watson and Raynor (1920) showed that it did "Little Albert" was a 9-month-old infant who was tested on his reactions to various stimuli. He was shown a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey and various masks. Albert described as "on the whole stolid and unemotional" showed no fear of any of these stimuli. However what did startle him and cause him to be afraid was if a hammer was struck against a steel bar behind his head. The sudden loud noise would cause "little Albert to burst into tears.

When "Little Albert" was just over 11 months old the white rat was presented and seconds later the hammer was struck against the steel bar. This was done 7 times over the next 7 weeks and each time "little Albert" burst into tears. By now "little Albert only had to see the rat and he immediately showed every sign of fear. He would cry (whether or not the hammer was hit against the steel bar) and he would attempt to crawl away. Watson and Raynor had shown that classical conditioning could be used to create a phobia. A phobia is an irrational fear, i.e. a fear that is out of proportion to the danger. Over the next few weeks and months "Little Albert" was observed and 10 days after conditioning his fear of the rat was much less marked. This dying out of a learned response is called extinction. However even after a full month it was still evident

If, when an organism emits a behaviour (does something), the consequences of that behaviour are reinforcing, it is more likely to emit (do) it again. What counts as reinforcement, of course, is based on the evidence of the repeated behaviour, which makes the whole argument rather circular.

Learning is really about the increased probability of a behaviour based on reinforcement which has taken place in the past, so that the antecedents of the new behaviour include the consequences of previous behaviour.

The theory of B.F. Skinner is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual's response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment. A response produces a consequence such as defining a word, hitting a ball, or solving a math problem. When a particular Stimulus-Response (S-R) pattern is reinforced (rewarded), the individual is conditioned to respond. The distinctive characteristic of operant conditioning relative to previous forms of behaviorism (e.g., Thorndike, Hull) is that the organism can emit responses instead of only eliciting response due to an external stimulus.

Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's S-R theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be verbal praise, a good grade or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. The theory also covers negative reinforcers -- any stimulus that results in the increased frequency of a response when it is withdrawn (different from adversive stimuli -- punishment -- which result in reduced responses). A great deal of attention was given to schedules of reinforcement (e.g. interval versus ratio) and their effects on establishing and maintaining behavior.

One of the distinctive aspects of Skinner's theory is that it attempted to provide behavioral explanations for a broad range of cognitive phenomena. For example, Skinner explained drive (motivation) in terms of deprivation and reinforcement schedules. Skinner (1957) tried to account for verbal learning and language within the operant conditioning paradigm, although this effort was strongly rejected by linguists and psycholinguists. Skinner (1971) deals with the issue of free will and social control.

Operant conditioning has been widely applied in clinical settings (i.e., behavior modification) as well as teaching (i.e., classroom management) and instructional development (e.g., programmed instruction). Parenthetically, it should be noted that Skinner rejected the idea of theories of learning (see Skinner, 1950).


By way of example, consider the implications of reinforcement theory as applied to the development of programmed instruction (Markle, 1969; Skinner, 1968)

1. Practice should take the form of question (stimulus) - answer (response) frames which expose the student to the subject in gradual steps

2. Require that the learner make a response for every frame and receive immediate feedback

3. Try to arrange the difficulty of the questions so the response is always correct and hence a positive reinforcement

4. Ensure that good performance in the lesson is paired with secondary reinforcers such as verbal praise, prizes and good grades.


1. Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective

2. Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced ("shaping")

3. Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli ("stimulus generalization") producing secondary conditioning

Cognitive behavioral therapy (or cognitive behavioral therapies or CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. The title is used in diverse ways to designate behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and to refer to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive research.[1]

There is empirical evidence that CBT is effective for the treatment of a variety of problems, including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders.[2][3] Treatment is often manualized, with specific technique-driven brief, direct, and time-limited treatments for specific psychological disorders. CBT is used in individual therapy as well as group settings, and the techniques are often adapted for self-help applications. Some clinicians and researchers are more cognitive oriented (e.g. cognitive restructuring), while others are more behaviorally oriented (in vivo exposure therapy). Other interventions combine both (e.g. imaginal exposure therapy).[4]

CBT was primarily developed through a merging of behavior therapy with cognitive therapy. While rooted in rather different theories, these two traditions found common ground in focusing on the "here and now", and on alleviating symptoms.[5] Many CBT treatment programs for specific disorders have been evaluated for efficacy and effectiveness; the health-care trend of evidence-based treatment, where specific treatments for symptom-based diagnoses are recommended, has favored CBT over other approaches such as psychodynamic treatments.[6] In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends CBT as the treatment of choice for a number of mental health difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, bulimia nervosa and clinical depression, and for the neurological condition chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.[7]

The roots of CBT can be traced to the development of behavior therapy in the early 20th century, the development of cognitive therapy in the 1960s, and the subsequent merging of the two. Behavior therapeutical approaches appeared as early as 1924,[5] with Mary Cover Jones' work on the unlearning of fears in children.[8] In 1937 Abraham Low developed cognitive training techniques for patient aftercare following psychiatric hospitalization.[9][10][11][12][13] Low designed his techniques for use in his organization, Recovery International, which supports people recovering from mental illness.[14] Although Recovery International was originally led by Low, he later adapted the techniques for use in lay-run self-help groups operating under the same name.[15]

It was during the period 1950 to 1970 that CBT became widely utilized, with researchers in the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa who were inspired by the behaviorist learning theory of Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson and Clark L. Hull.[5] In Britain, this work was mostly focused on the neurotic disorders through the work of Joseph Wolpe, who applied the findings of animal experiments to his method of systematic desensitization,[16] the precursor to today's fear reduction techniques.[5] British psychologist Hans Eysenck, inspired by the writings of Karl Popper, criticized psychoanalysis in arguing that "if you get rid of the symptoms, you get rid of the neurosis",[17] and presented behavior therapy as a constructive alternative.[5][18] In the United States, psychologists were applying the radical behaviorism of B. F. Skinner to clinical use. Much of this work was concentrated towards severe, chronic psychiatric disorders, such as psychotic behavior.[5][19] and autism[5][20]



Albert Ellis (1913-2007) was a pioneer in the development of CBT.

Although the early behavioral approaches were successful in many of the neurotic disorders, it had little success in treating depression.[5] Behaviorism was also losing in popularity due to the so-called "cognitive revolution". The therapeutic approaches of Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck gained popularity among behavior therapists, despite the earlier behaviorist rejection of "mentalistic" concepts like thoughts and cognitions. Both these systems included behavioral elements and interventions and primarily concentrated on problems in the present. Albert Ellis's system, originated in the early 1950s, was first called rational therapy, and can arguably be called one of the first forms of cognitive behavioral therapy. It was partly founded as a reaction against popular psychotherapeutic theories at the time, mainly psychoanalysis.[21] Aaron T. Beck, inspired by Albert Ellis, developed cognitive therapy in the 1960s.[22] Cognitive therapy rapidly became a favorite intervention technique to study in psychotherapy research in academic settings. In initial studies, it was often contrasted with behavioral treatments to see which was most effective. During the 1980s and 1990s, cognitive and behavioral techniques were merged into cognitive behavioral therapy. Pivotal to this merging was the successful development of treatments for panic disorder by David M. Clark in the UK and David H. Barlow in the US.[5]

Concurrently with the contributions of Albert Ellis and Beck, starting in the late 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, Arnold A. Lazarus developed what was arguably the first form of broad-spectrum cognitive behavioral therapy.[23] He later broadened the focus of behavioral treatment to incorporate cognitive aspects.[24] When it became clear that optimizing therapy's effectiveness and effecting durable treatment outcomes often required transcending more narrowly focused cognitive and behavioral methods[clarification needed], Arnold Lazarus expanded the scope of CBT to include physical sensations (as distinct from emotional states), visual images (as distinct from language-based thinking), interpersonal relationships, and biological factors.

Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow pioneered the idea that cognitive behavioral approaches can be used successfully with a criminal population. They are the authors of, Criminal Personality Vol.I. This book has an extensive amount of information regarding the dynamics of criminal thinking and application of cognitive behavioral approaches.

CBT includes a variety of approaches and therapeutic systems; some of the most well known include cognitive therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy and multimodal therapy. Defining the scope of what constitutes a cognitive-behavioral therapy is a difficulty that has persisted throughout its development.[25]

The particular therapeutic techniques vary within the different approaches of CBT according to the particular kind of problem issues, but commonly may include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also commonly included. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often also used in conjunction with mood stabilizing medications to treat conditions like bipolar disorder. Its application in treating schizophrenia along with medication and family therapy is recognized by the NICE guidelines (see below) within the British NHS.

Going through cognitive behavioral therapy generally is not an overnight process for clients. Even after clients have learned to recognize when and where their mental processes go awry, it can in some cases take considerable time or effort to replace a dysfunctional cognitive-affective-behavioral process or habit with a more reasonable and adaptive one.

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