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Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
Иван Петрович Павлов

Nobel Prize portrait
Born September 14, 1849(1849-09-14)
Ryazan, Russia
Died February 27, 1936 (aged 86)
Leningrad, Soviet Union
Residence Russian Empire, Soviet Union
Nationality Russian, Soviet
Fields Physiologist, psychologist, physician
Institutions Military Medical Academy
Alma mater Saint Petersburg University
Known for Classical conditioning
Transmarginal inhibition
Behavior modification
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1904)

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.


Life and research

Ivan Pavlov was born in Ryazan, Russia.[1] He began his higher education as a student at the Ryazan Ecclesiastical Seminary, but then dropped out and enrolled in the University of Saint Petersburg to study the natural sciences and become a physiologist. He received his doctorate in 1879.

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]

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.[3]

Reflex system research

Pavlov contributed to many areas of physiology and neurology. Most of his work involved research in temperament, conditioning and involuntary reflex actions. Pavlov performed and directed experiments on digestion, eventually publishing The Work of the Digestive Glands in 1897, after 12 years of research. His experiments earned him the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine[4] These experiments included surgically extracting portions of the digestive system from animals, severing nerve bundles to determine the effects, and implanting fistulas between digestive organs and an external pouch to examine the organ's contents. This research served as a base for broad research on the digestive system.

Further work on reflex actions involved involuntary reactions to stress and pain. Pavlov extended the definitions of the four temperament types under study at the time: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholic, updating the names to "the strong and impetuous type, the strong equilibrated and quiet type, the strong equilibrated and lively type, and the weak type." Pavlov and his researchers observed and began the study of transmarginal inhibition (TMI), the body's natural response of shutting down when exposed to overwhelming stress or pain by electric shock.[5] This research showed how all temperament types responded to the stimuli the same way, but different temperaments move through the responses at different times. He commented "that the most basic inherited difference. .. was how soon they reached this shutdown point and that the quick-to-shut-down have a fundamentally different type of nervous system."[6]

Carl Jung continued Pavlov's work on TMI and correlated the observed shutdown types in animals with his own introverted and extroverted temperament types in humans. Introverted persons, he believed, were more sensitive to stimuli and reached a TMI state earlier than their extroverted counterparts. This continuing research branch is gaining the name highly sensitive persons.

William Sargant and others continued the behavioral research in mental conditioning to achieve memory implantation and brainwashing (any effort aimed at instilling certain attitudes and beliefs in a person).


One of Pavlov's dogs, Pavlov Museum, Ryazan, Russia

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.[7] 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.[8] 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[9] cast doubt on whether Pavlov ever actually used a bell in his famous experiments. Littman[10] tentatively attributed the popular imagery to Pavlov’s contemporaries Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev and John B. Watson, until Thomas[11] found several references that unambiguously stated Pavlov did, indeed, use a bell.

See also


  1. ^ Ivan Pavlov The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1904
  2. ^ Ivan Petrovich Pavlov :: Opposition to Communism - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Chance, Paul. Learning and Behaviour. Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1988. ISBN 0534085083. Page 48.
  4. ^ 1904 Nobel prize laureates
  5. ^ Mazlish, Bruce (1995) Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines, Yale University Press, pgs. 122-123 ISBN 0-300-0541104
  6. ^ Rokhin, L, Pavlov, I & Popov, Y. (1963) Psychopathology and Psychiatry, Foreign Languages Publication House: Moscow.
  7. ^ Todes, Daniel Philip (2002). Pavlov's Physiology Factory. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 232 et sec. ISBN 0801866901. 
  8. ^ Anrep (1927) p142
  9. ^ Catania, A. Charles (1994); Query: Did Pavlov's Research Ring a Bell?, PSYCOLOQUY Newsletter, Tuesday, June 7, 1994
  10. ^ Littman, Richard A. (1994); Bekhterev and Watson Rang Pavlov's Bell, Psycoloquy, Vol. 5, No. 49
  11. ^ Thomas, Roger K. (1994); Pavlov's Rats "dripped Saliva at the Sound of a Bell", Psycoloquy, Vol. 5, No. 80 (accessed 2006-aug-22)
  • Boakes, Robert (1984). From Darwin to behaviourism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-23512-9. 
  • Firkin, Barry G.; J.A. Whitworth (1987). Dictionary of Medical Eponyms. Parthenon Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85070-333-4. 
  • Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. Translated and Edited by G. V. Anrep. London: Oxford University Press. Available online
  • Todes, D. P. (1997). "Pavlov's Physiological Factory," Isis. Vol. 88. The History of Science Society, p. 205-246.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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Don't become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin.

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


  • The Sun-Paul must consider only one thing: what is the relation of this or that external reaction of the animal to the phenomena of the external world?
    • Scientific Study of So-Called Psychical Processes in the Higher Animals (1906)
  • Mankind will possess incalculable advantages and extraordinary control over human behavior when the scientific investigator will be able to subject his fellow men to the same external analysis he would employ for any natural object, and when the human mind will contemplate itself not from within but from without.
    • Scientific Study of So-Called Psychical Processes in the Higher Animals
  • Learn the ABC of science before you try to ascend to its summit.
    • Bequest to the Academic Youth of Soviet Russia (1936)
  • Learn, compare, collect the facts!
    • Bequest to the Academic Youth of Soviet Russia

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