What is the meat to the dog in Pavlov's experiment known as?

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lizedwards eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meat to the dog in Pavlov's experiment is known as the unconditioned stimulus.

In Pavlov's famous behavior conditioning experiment, he showed that a neutral stimulus could become associated with a particular response. His experiments demonstrated that a subject could learn to associate an unconditioned stimulus with a conditioned stimulus. The conditioned stimulus would then bring about the same response as the unconditioned stimulus.

In Pavlov's experiment, he rang a bell at the same time as feeding a dog a piece of meat. The dog grew to associate the bell with food, and in time, the sound of the bell alone would elicit a salivary response from the dog. 

In Pavlov's experiment, the various stimuli and behaviors are defined in the following way:


  • The bell is the neutral/ conditioned stimulus. The neutral stimulus is something that elicits no response from the subject (not positive or negative). After association, the conditioned stimulus elicits a response.
  • The meat is the unconditioned stimulus. Unconditioned stimuli are anything in the environment that automatically cause some kind of biological reflex, such as salivation. For example, dogs naturally salivate at the presentation of meat.
  • When the dog sees food, the unconditioned response is salivation. 
  • When the dog hears the bell after being conditioned to associate the bell with meat, the conditioned response is salivation.