He was born on September 14, 1849 at
Ryazan. He is son of Peter Dmeitrievich
Pavlov who was a village priest. In his
country, he studied in a catholic school and
at the “theological seminary”. Because of two
important persons that will later be
mentioned, Pavlov left his religious beliefs
and decided to know about science. He then
began studying Physics and Mathematics in
1870. He was amazed by the subject of
Physiology. With one of his classmates
named, Afanasyev, they created their first
experiment of physiology on the “pancreatic
nerves”, and then obtained a gold medal.
When he completed his studies, he then received
his degree of “Candidate of Natural Sciences” in
1875. Pavlov was highly interested in physiology,
which is an important fact that contributed in his
experiment that will later be mentioned and
explained. He continued studying and decided to
attend to the Academy of Medical Surgery to finish
his 3rd classes. Again, after finishing his 3rd course
in 1879, he received another gold medal. He also
won a camaraderie at the Academy and became
“Director of the Physiological Laboratory” at the
well-known Russian clinician, S. P. Botkin. This
made him more curious to persist with his
investigations. Pavlov developed an idea of
“nervism” in his thesis of “The centrifugal nerves of
the heart”, “using as example the intensifying nerve
of the heart which he had discovered, and
furthermore laid down the basic principles on the
trophic function of the nervous system.”(1) In his
works he said that there was a “basic pattern in the
reflex regulation of the activity of the circulatory
“As guiding principles of materialistic
teaching on the laws governing the activity of
living organisms”(1), Pavlov developed three
ideologies for the theory of reflexes which
were: determinism, analysis and synthesis,
and structure. These principles impacted the
“building- up of a scientific theory of
medicine”(1) and explains how an organism
In the early periods of Pavlov’s
research, he was already
recognized. “In 1901 he was
elected a corresponding member of
the Russian Academy of Sciences,
in 1904 he was awarded a Nobel
Prize, and in 1907 he was elected
Academician of the Russian
Academy of Sciences; in 1912 he
was given an honorary doctorate at
Cambridge University and in the
following years honorary
membership of various scientific
societies abroad. Finally, upon the
recommendation of the Medical
Academy of Paris, he was awarded
the Order of the Legion of Honour
(1915).” (1)
One of his influences is the most
important Russian literary critique D.I
Pisarev, which also influenced other
people in the 1860’s.
I.M. Sechenov who is the father of
physiology, is another of Pavlov’s greatest
They both contributed into making Pavlov
leave his religious views and get into the
subject of science; physiology. “Pavlov
transformed Sechenov's theoretical
attempt to discover the reflex
mechanisms of psychic activity into an
experimentally proven theory of
conditioned reflexes.” (1)
“After the October Revolution, a special
government decree, signed by Lenin on
January 24, 1921, noted «the
outstanding scientific services of
Academician I.P. Pavlov, which are of
enormous significance to the working
class of the whole world».
The Communist Party and the Soviet
Government saw to it that Pavlov and his
collaborators were given unlimited
scope for scientific research. The Soviet
Union became a prominent centre for
the study of physiology, and the fact
that the 15th International Physiological
Congress of August 9-17, 1935, was
held in Leningrad and Moscow clearly
shows that it was acknowledged as
such.” (1)
First, behaviorism goes into the learning perspective. It
considers that free will is an illusion, therefore every
experiment conducted is deterministic. John Watson, who is
the father of behaviorism, described that everything that we
are is influenced specifically ONLY by our surroundings; we
are born empty. This theory consists that all behaviors are
obtained through conditioning. The types of conditioning
are Classical Conditioning, which Pavlov discovered, and
Operant conditioning.
As mentioned before, this theory was
discovered by Pavlov. It consists of two different
things that become associated. There should be
an environmental stimulus and a innate
stimulus. There are four main principles for
classical conditioning. These are unconditioned
stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned
stimulus, and conditioned response.
An unconditioned stimulus is something that
triggers a response without learning it.
A response that is not learned that is caused
by the unconditioned stimulus.
After the unconditioned stimulus becomes
learned unconsciously, the stimulus becomes
The conditioned
response occurs after
the conditioned
stimulus; when the
unconditioned stimulus
becomes learned and
therefore becomes
conditioned stimulus.
Basically Pavlov did not really have
the purpose of creating the theory
of Classical Conditioning in his
experiment, since he is a
physiologist. His intention of the
experiment was to see how much
saliva a dog produced when he was
going to be fed. He found out that
salivating was automatic after
showing the food. After attempting
the experiment, he and his
assistants noticed that the dogs
would salivate when there was no
food or smell of it. After this, he
knew that it was not an automatic
response to a certain stimulus.
In the discovery of Classical Conditioning,
Pavlov had dogs and he showed them meat
powder and the saliva of the dogs was
“collected by an implanted tube in their
salivary glands”(3). After some time, Pavlov
saw that the dogs began to salivate even
before the food was shown when the
assistants or Pavlov himself was near or
when the dogs heard the noise the machine
of the meat powder produced. Pavlov
became astonished by this and he decided
to a bell sound with the food. When these
two stimulus where combined various times,
afterwards he used the bell alone. Pavlov’s
prediction was that the dogs would respond
by salivating to the bell’s sound. At first the
bell was a neutral stimulus, but after the
combination of the bell with the meat, it
produced the salivation response with only
the sound.
Unconditioned Stimulus: Meat powder
Unconditioned Response: Salivation
Neutral Stimulus: Bell until association with
Conditioned Stimulus: Bell
Conditioned Response: Salivation
Here is a video that will explain with a more clear
and simple way what Ivan Pavlov attempted in his
experiment of Classical Conditioning.
“Can you make a dog drool on demand?” Here is
also a game that will also help you understand
the dog’s reactions.
Pavlov’s conclusion of his findings was that a
person can manage to trigger a response with
a neutral stimulus by making them learn it.
This means that a person’s reaction can be
malleable if correctly manipulated.
It does not affect any type of culture because
it is generalized experiment that shows the
functions of behavior. In simpler terms, there
are same responses in every culture.
It is an unethical experiment because Pavlov
did not have the consent of the dogs. For an
experiment to be ethical, there has to be the
consent of the person or animal. Obviously, it
is impossible to have the consent of an
animal, therefore it’s unethical.
There is no difference in gender because
every human has responses towards things
that we do or do not know off, which are
influenced by our surroundings.
The most relevant strength of the
experiment is that since the time
Pavlov discovered Classical
Conditioning, people know more
about how humans respond to
things and how we learn to
It is now easier to understand
human behavior.
There are several therapies used
according to classical conditioning
that help people get out of
A limitation could be that the dogs were
strained and they got used to starve
whenever the assistants or Pavlov trained
them to salivate by only hearing the sound of
the bell.
Since Free-Will is an illusion according to the
learning perspective, the study of Pavlov is
considered as a deterministic study because
it was not an experiment performed by its
own will.

Ivan Pavlov - BDoughertyAmSchool