The Ivan Pavlov dog experiment is one in which the scientific community finally developed an understanding of learned responses. This is now known as “classical conditioning” in the scientific community. Its impact on our understanding of biology and psychology are virtually unstatable. So, what exactly is the Ivan Pavlov dog experiment?
Pavlov performed these experiments in the late 19th century, finally publishing his results in 1897. This resulted in his receipt of the Noble Prize in 1904. The experiments involved presenting a dog a bowl of food and ringing a bell at the same time. When the food was presented the dog would begin to salivate. This was an entirely unconscious and physiological reaction.
Eventually, the bowl of food was removed, but the bell was still rung. It was found that the dog would still begin to salivate. The brain had made a connection between the concept of food, which originally caused the salivation, and the bell. The bell had become equally associated with the impending act of eating.
First, since it was found that uncontrollable physiological responses could be initiated with an alternate stimulus, the experiment led to a number of interesting applications. For instance, the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies can be used to create a psychological response similar to returning home. How this works is rather easy to understand.
If, as a child, one experiences the smell of their mother’s freshly baked cookies, they will come to associate the concept of “home” with the smell. Thinking of home can lead to a flood of chemical activities in the brain causing the feeling of nostalgia. Because of this, the smell of freshly baked cookies becomes a stimulus for the condition of experiencing nostalgia. Many real estate agents use this knowledge to increase the likelihood that a potential home buyer will feel attached to a property, increasing their chances of making a sale.
Real estate agents aren’t the only ones to use operant conditioning to improve their ability to sell, though. Many large corporations employ advertisements that leave the viewer with a certain, visceral feeling, regardless of how it relates to the brand or product being advertised. It is the Ivan Pavlov dog experiment that explains why so many ads are frequently repeated. The more we see them, the more likely we are to associate the product with the feelings presented by the advertisement.
Once this connection is made, we’re likely to have those same feelings resurface when we encounter the product. Those who want to feel happy are likely to purchase products frequently advertised as being in the presence of happy people. Those who want to feel more sexually attractive will do the same.
Pavlov didn’t anticipate that the research coming from his experiments would be used in this manner. He only sought to prove that it was possible to cause dogs to salivate when conditioned with an additional stimulus. Nevertheless, his experiments have had profound implications on many aspects of our daily lives.