Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich
Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich 1849-1936
Pavlov was a Nobel Prize-winning physiologist, whose research into the process of the conditioned reflex is considered a landmark discovery in both modern physiology and behavioral psychology. Pavlov was recognized by the Nobel Committee for his work with mammalian digestion; however, later experiments with canine salivation led to his theorization of the learned or conditioned reflex—a physiological response to associated but otherwise unrelated stimuli. Pavlov observed that dogs presented with some additional stimulus that accompanied regular feedings, such as a flash of light, could be made to salivate when only the additional stimulation, and no food, was offered. From these and similar experiments, Pavlov established the physiological basis of certain types of learned behavior. In theory, Pavlov also applied his discovery of the conditioned reflex to human beings. In addition to his study of digestion and higher nervous activity, Pavlov is remembered for his work with the physiology of blood circulation and as an accomplished scientific administrator.
Pavlov was born on 26 September 1849 in Ryazan, Russia. He was educated at Ryazan Ecclesiastical High School and later attended the Ryazan Ecclesiastical Seminary, where he exhibited considerable interest in the natural sciences. In 1870 Pavlov opted to leave the seminary and to continue his studies at St. Petersburg University. There Pavlov began working with the physiologist Elie de Zion and honing his surgical skills. After graduation in 1875, Pavlov entered medical school at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, and served as a laboratory assistant to Zion, who had recently been named chair of the academy's physiology department. Pavlov later transferred for two years to the Veterinary Institute following Zion's dismissal, and in 1877 traveled to Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) to study digestion under Rudolf Heidenhain. Pavlov was honored with a scholarship for postdoctoral study after earning his medical degree in 1879 and returned to Germany to further his research into circulation and digestion. In 1895 Pavlov was named chairman of physiology at the St. Petersburg Institute for Experimental Medicine and remained in this position for much of his subsequent career. For his continued studies into the process of mammalian digestion he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1904. By this time, Pavlov had begun his experiments on conditioned reflexes in laboratory dogs. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Pavlov occasionally spoke out against the Soviets, but was nevertheless given preferential treatment by the Communist Party, which hoped to use his experiments with the conditioned reflex for political ends. In 1935 the Soviet government built Pavlov an extensive, state-of-the-art laboratory where he could continue his work. He died of pneumonia shortly thereafter on 27 February 1936 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
Few of Pavlov's works are available in English translation and, in addition, critics discern that most of the writings attributed to him represent to some degree the combined efforts of Pavlov and his many laboratory assistants—though it is clear that Pavlov is the principal intellectual force behind all of the following texts. The Work of the Digestive Glands (1902) contains the culmination of Pavlov's experiments on the alimentary canal of dogs performed in the late 1880s and 1890s. Pavlov and his fellow researchers studied digestion by surgically altering laboratory dogs, principally by modifying canine stomachs to create a "Pavlov pouch," into which gastric juices could be separated for observation and testing. Pavlov's later and more well-known work on the conditioned reflex is available to English-speaking audiences in Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes (1923) and Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex (1960). These texts record the results of Pavlov's further experimentation with dogs. Again using surgical procedures, Pavlov and his team studied the relationship between the higher nervous system and the action of the salivary glands. By associating certain unrelated stimuli—such as the presence of a lab assistant, the ring of a bell, or a flash of light—with the routine feeding of the dogs, Pavlov was able to demonstrate the performance of conditioned reflexes. This he succeeded in doing by stimulating salivation without actually offering food, through the simple recreation of those stimuli (bell, light, assistant's presence) that had been related to feeding. Drawing from these experiments, Pavlov theorized the existence of a physiological component to psychological processes, and differentiated between the mechanisms of innate and conditioned reflexes. Pavlov's collected works, including a significant number of scientific articles and research essays, appear in the five-volume Russian compilation Polnoe sobranie trudov (1940-49).
Critics have observed that Pavlov's discovery of the conditioned reflex has been quite influential in the scientific community, particularly in Russia, where research into Pavlovian physiology has continued, uninterrupted, through the end of the Soviet regime and of the twentieth-century. Since Pavlov's death, however, many reassessments of Pavlovian theory have occurred. Contemporary scientists have uncovered a number of errors within the details of Pavlov's thought. Critics likewise have acknowledged that Pavlov's failure to satisfactorily explain the true mechanism of the conditioned reflex represents a serious limitation. Nevertheless, scholars have continued to see Pavlov as a pioneering figure in the study of physiology and have observed the tremendous influence his work with the conditioned reflex has exerted on the modern field of behavioral psychology.
*Experimental Data Concerning the Accommodating Mechanism of the Blood Vessels (physiology) 1877
Lektsii o rabote glavnykh pishchevaritelnykh (physiology) 1897 [The Work of the Digestive Glands, 1902]
**Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes (physiology) 1923
"The Conditioned Reflex" (physiology) 1934 [published in the book The Great Medical Encyclopedia]
Dvadtsatiletnii opyt ob'ektivnogo izucheniia vysshei nervnoi deiatel' nosti zhivotnykh (physiology) 1938 [Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex, 1960]
Polnoe sobranie trudov. Five vols. (physiology) 1940-49
Psikhopatologiia i psikhiatriia (physiology) 1949 [Psychopathology and Psychiatry, 1960]
Izbrannye trudy (physiology) 1951 [Selected Works, 1955]
**Experimental Psychology, and Other Essays (essays) 1957
*Published in Russian.
**English edition of work originally published in Russian.
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SOURCE: "Pavlov's Theory of Conditioning," in the Psychological Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, March, 1934, pp. 199-206.
[In the following essay, Guthrie offers a critique of Pavlov's theory of the conditioned reflex.]
Pavlov's recent article, 'The Reply of a Physiologist to Psychologists,'1 deals with two items printed some time ago in the Psychological Review, one by Lashley on 'Basic neural mechanisms in behavior,' and one by the writer, 'Conditioning as a principle of learning.' The issues raised by Pavlov deserve some further discussion because they are fundamental. My own article would have been justified if its only effect had been to persuade Pavlov to additional writing on the conditioned reflex, since by his laboratory experience he is undoubtedly its most competent exponent. However, on a number of points I remain quite unconvinced after reading his 'Reply.'
The first difference of opinion that he mentions concerns a very general issue. He says,
The psychologist takes conditioning as a principle of learning, and accepting the principle as not subject to further analysis, not requiring ultimate investigation, he endeavors to apply it to everything and to explain all the individual features of learning as one and the same process. . . . The physiologist proceeds in quite the opposite way. At every phase of his investigation he...
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SOURCE: "A Criticism of Pavlov's Concept of Internal Inhibition," in the Psychological Review, Vol. 44, No. 4, July, 1937, pp. 297-312.
[In the following essay, Wenger points out a flaw in Pavlov 's theory of conditioned response concerning the notion of "internal inhibition. "]
The concept of the conditioned response, with or without Pavlovian terminology, has become an important consideration in any contemporary theory of the learning process.12 The major phenomena discovered in the laboratories of Pavlov (18) and Bekhterev (2) have been verified by many other workers. However, Pavlov's interpretations of some of these phenomena have not met with general acceptance. The specific concept bearing the brunt of attack has been that of 'internal inhibition.' About it Razran (19), Guthrie (11), Beritoff (3), Wendt (24), Winsor (28), Chappell (5), Lashley (17), and others have had something derogatory to say.
The term 'inhibition' has found general use in two different contexts. First, it has been used in a descriptive sense to designate a condition of an organism characterized by various degrees of response decrement. Decrement during a competing reaction or Pavlov's external inhibition illustrates this behavioral use of the term. A second connotation of 'inhibition' involves an assumed process or substance affecting the neurones with a resulting decrement in response. In this...
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SOURCE: "Toward A Theory of Conditioning," in the Psychological Review, Vol. 46, No. 5, September, 1939, pp. 425-44.
[In the following essay, Irwin outlines Pavlov's general theory of conditioning, provides a critique, and presents an alternative interpretation of the subject.]
The manner in which the title of this paper is worded—toward a theory—implies a conviction that aside from Pavlov there exists no fully-developed systematic theory of conditioning. There are, however, some experimental data which may be used for the beginnings of a new formulation. A great deal of incidental questioning, if not outright criticism, is current in the literature on the subject, although it has not resulted in a concerted attempt to restate the conventional viewpoint. This situation is probably due to the enormous prestige of Pavlov's name. One should not be unmindful, of course, of the possibility that whoever proposes to raise questions concerning the underlying assumptions of a great scientific enterprise is himself vulnerable. On the other hand, he may be fortified by the knowledge that in the free atmosphere of modern science there are no faultless and enduring Messiahs, so that the prestige of Pavlov's achievement need not deter him from entertaining a healthy scientific skepticism of a powerfully entrenched dogma.
After summarizing in a preliminary way the main results of some...
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SOURCE: "The Man of Science," in Everybody's Political What's What, Constable and Company Limited, 1944, pp. 200-13.
[In the following excerpt, Shaw considers the absurdity of Pavlov's experiments as they refelct modern scientific practice.]
The department of science with which governments are most concerned is biology, the science of life. It includes physiology and psychology, and is the basis of public health legislation and private medical practice. It has gone far beyond the Churches in its violations of individual liberty and integrity. The Christian Church takes an infant from its mother's arms, sprinkles a few drops of water on it, and dedicates it as a soldier and servant of God: a ceremony that has never harmed any infant and has beneficially edified many godfathers and godmothers. The State, by the advice of the biologists, takes the infant from its mother's arms and poisons its blood to exercise its natural power of resisting and overcoming poison. It lays hands on soldiers, nurses, and other adult persons supposed to be specially liable to infection, and repeats the operation with various specific poisons guaranteed to produce specific immunities. A well-known soldier friend of mine told me he had undergone forty inoculations and been none the worse. His blood had been healthy enough to make short work of all the poisons.
Not everyone is so lucky. Every inoculation has...
(The entire section is 5706 words.)
SOURCE: "Stalin and the Uses of Psychology," in World Politics, Vol. VIII, No. 4, July, 1956, pp. 455-83.
[In the following essay, Tucker explores Soviet attempts to use Pavlovian theory in the creation of a policy for the controlled transformation of humanity.]
The influence of ideological conceptions upon the men who make Soviet policy has been frequently and rightly emphasized. Some observers are so deeply impressed by this influence that they tend to regard the Soviet system as a kind of ideocracy. It is undeniable that ideology has been one powerful factor in the shaping of Soviet policies and actions from the time of the October Revolution to the present. But one must not lose sight of the fact that, in Soviet Russia, the relationship between ideology and policy is one of mutual interaction. It is a two-way process in which theoretical conceptions affect the making of policy and practical considerations affect the content of the ideology. The ideological system is not a completely static thing. It has evolved over the years, and the realities of Soviet politics have been the driving force behind this evolution.
We may regard the Soviet ideology as consisting of two parts: a hard core of basic principles which has persisted more or less unchanged from the beginning of the Soviet period, and several surrounding layers of doctrine which have been subject to modification or accretion...
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SOURCE: A review of Experimental Psychology, and Other Essays, in Isis, Vol. 50, No. 162, December, 1959, pp. 514-16.
[In the following review, Hoff investigates the limitations and likely abuses of Pavlovian theory.]
The esteem in which the world of science, and* physiologists in particular, hold Ivan P. Pavlov is equalled only by that exhibited by the public at large. Indeed, he is one of the few physiologists of any age or country whose views have captured the public fancy and entered its everyday thinking; probably Freud alone in this century has had as great an influence. These considerations alone should insure for this volume of the selected works of Pavlov [Experimental Psychology and Other Essays] a large, interested, and favorably oriented audience. Beyond this, however, the western world has become aware that in the Soviet Union the works of Pavlov are accorded an even greater status as the foundation of Soviet psychiatry, as a fundamental guide to education, and presumably as the operating principle of "brainwashing." For these reasons this volume must, and very likely will, be read very carefully indeed. The reader will be disappointed and fail to find the clue to such weighty problems in these academic exercises so redolent of the nineteenth century, when, as Sherrington wrote, scientists knew far less and spread themselves out more than today.
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SOURCE: "Pavlov and Darwin," in Evolution after Darwin, edited by Sol Tax, University of Chicago Press, 1960, pp. 219-38.
[In the following essay, Gantt equates the importance of the scientific discoveries of Pavlov with those of Charles Darwin and surveys Pavlovian and post-Pavlovian research.]
The lives of Pavlov and Darwin overlapped. When Darwin was producing the great work which we now celebrate, Pavlov was a stripling lad of ten years, romping and scuffling with the urchins on the streets of Ryazan in central Russia. They both lived in the great age of the adolescence of science, in the century when science, like a rambunctious youth, felt the cocksureness of the teen-ager.
Darwin's theory of evolution liberated thinking among the masses. He gave to science a freedom from authority; he justified its right to stand in a new field upon facts. Pavlov was perhaps a more militant and conscientious champion of science than Darwin. The liberalization of science for which Darwin was responsible arose more from the impact of the theory of evolution than from any missionary zeal on Darwin's part. But Pavlov had the ardor of the reformer. He felt very much the prevalence of subjective thinking, the vague, confused arguments that permeated the psychology of that period. And it was against this kind of reasoning and false explanations that Pavlov struggled rather than against the existence and...
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SOURCE: "Pavlov and Freud," in Science & Society, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Spring, 1961, pp. 129-38.
[In the following review of Pavlov and Freud by Harry K. Wells, Bartlett cites Wells's failure to produce a satisfying materialist critique of Freud using Pavlovian theory.]
Wells' Pavlovian Critique of Freud [Sigmund Freud: A Pavlovian Critique, by Harry K. Wells. (Volume II of Pavlov and Freud.) New York: International Publishers, 1960, 252 p.] is based upon a one-sided but commonly-held view of what constitutes philosophic materialism in the field of mental disorder. Thus, it requires an attention out of proportion to its actual merits, for, in my opinion, this book makes little or no contribution to a critique of Freud and tends to harden and dogmatize certain limitations of Pavlov. At bottom, it is an attack upon any and every psychological approach to mental disorder.
On the surface we are confronted with what appears to be a puzzling insistence on a comparison of incomparables—a forcing into opposition of concepts which deal with related but quite different phenomena. The keynote of the book, carried through for a full chapter, is an almost bizarre comparison of Pavlov's use of the "salivary fistula" with Freud's use of the "dream fistula." Pavlov, says Wells, "had to find or construct a fistula or window which would allow him to observe the functioning...
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SOURCE: "Psychology as the Science of Behavior: Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson," in Pioneers of Psychology, W. W. Norton & Company, 1979, pp. 295-338.
[In the following excerpt, Fancher surveys Pavlov's life, experiments, theories, and influence.]
At the turn of the present century, the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov (1849-1936) was on the horns of a dilemma. He had just completed a monumental series of studies on the physiology of digestion that would win him a Nobel Prize, and he was looking for new scientific challenges. Some incidental observations he had made in the course of those studies seemed to point to a new and promising area, but Pavlov was uncertain about its scientific propriety.
The new idea was to study a class of responses that Pavlov initially called "psychic secretions." His earlier research had concerned itself only with innate digestive responses that occurred in response to clear-cut and measurable physical stimuli, such as the salivation of a dog whenever food powder or dilute acid was placed in its mouth. He could not help but notice, however, that many digestive responses were learned, and occurred in the presence of psychological stimuli. The watering of a dog's mouth at the sight of its keeper as its customary mealtime approached was the clearest example. Pavlov knew that he had already developed a series of...
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SOURCE: "Pavlov's Religious Orientation," in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 25, Summer, 1986, pp. 320-27.
[In the following essay, Windholz demonstrates that Pavlov, although a professed atheist, advocated the tolerance of religion as part of his theory of higher nervous activity.]
"Religion is the most basic and predictable human instinct" I. P. Pavlov.
In the post World War II era, Soviet anti-religious propaganda supported its position by describing Ivan P. Pavlov as a convinced atheist. As we shall see, in his personal belief, Pavlov was an atheist. But the propagandiste campaign distorted Pavlov's more complex stand on religion by ignoring his position on the tolerance of religious practices. Moreover, the Soviet anti-religious policy disregarded Pavlov's views on the function of religion in his theory of higher nervous activity.
A number of Soviet books have stressed Pavlov's atheism. In particular, J. W. Schorochowa (1956) contrasts Pavlov's materialistic theory of higher nervous activity with idealistic conceptions of human nature. According to A. N. Studitskii (1964), Pavlov both privately and professionally was a materialist and atheist. B. V. Andreev (1964) maintains that privately Pavlov was an atheist, but that he was tolerant of religious practices, and that his theory of higher nervous activity...
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SOURCE: "Pavlov's Physiology Factory," in Isis, Vol. 88, No. 2, June, 1997, pp. 205-46.
[In the following essay, Todes details the work produced in Pavlov's laboratory at the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine, analyzing Pavlov's scientific and managerial vision, as well as the forces and relations of production in the lab.]
What is a scientific laboratory? It is a small world, a small corner of reality. And in this small corner man labors with his mind at the task of . . . knowing this reality in order correctly to predict what will happen, .. . to even direct this reality according to his discretion, to command it, if this is within our technical means.
—Ivan Pavlov (1918)
In four successive years Ivan Pavlov was nominated for the Nobel Prize, and each time the committee confronted the same question: To what extent were the products of Pavlov's laboratory truly Pavlov's? The nominee had himself pronounced his most substantial work, Lectures on the Work of the Main Digestive Glands (1897), "the deed of the entire laboratory" and credited his coworkers by name for conducting the relevant experiments. More-over, he referred those readers seeking detailed experimental evidence for his most important arguments to the publications of his coworkers, where many of these arguments first appeared. Did Pavlov's major works,...
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Asratian, Ezras Asratovich. I. P. Pavlov: His Life and Work. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953, 163 p.
Critical biography of Pavlov.
Babkin, B. P. Pavlov: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949, 365 p.
Early account of Pavlov's life and scientific achievements. Babkin, a former pupil of Pavlov, considers this volume "only as material for a future more comprehensive biography."
Cuny, Hilaire. Ivan Pavlov: The Man and His Theories, translated by Patrick Evans. New York: P. S. Eriksson, 1965, 174 p.
Introductory study of Pavlov and his thought.
Gray, Jeffrey A. Ivan Pavlov. New York: Penguin Books, 1981, 153 p.
Assesses Pavlov's research, theories of conditioning and the brain, and influence in the fields of physiology and psychology.
Lashley, K. S., and Marjorie Wade. "The Pavlovian Theory of Generalization." Psychological Review 53, No. 2 (March 1946): 72-87.
Offers experimental evidence that contradicts the Pavlovian theories of stimulus irradiation and generalization.
Wells, Harry Kohlsaat. Pavlov and Freud, 2 volumes. New York: International Publishers, 1956-60, 476 p.
Studies "the Pavlovian science of higher...
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