Pavlov as a psychophysiological scientist

Pavlovian Research Laboratory, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Perry Point, MD 21902.
Brain Research Bulletin (Impact Factor: 2.72). 06/1990; 24(5):643-9. DOI: 10.1016/0361-9230(90)90002-H
Source: PubMed


It is suggested that Pavlov was not only a famous physiologist, but due to his work on the conditional reflex, he could be considered a behavioral scientist. In addition his work on experimental neurosis gives him the distinction of being a pioneer investigator in the area of psychological stress. Pavlov's research is viewed against a background of primitive research tools and unproductive subjective theories. Nineteenth century scientists who influenced Pavlov included Darwin, Botkin, Heidenhain, Gaskell and Bernard. Pavlov's research on the digestive system emphasized the role of the nervous system, launched the field of gastroenterology, and emphasized the concept of the conditional reflex. Pavlov's conditional reflex formulations were based on the theoretical formulations of Sechenov, and possibly the work of David Hartley. The discovery of secretin, by Bayliss and Starling, and its influence on the stomach led Pavlov to diminish his work on the digestive system and to focus his research on the conditional reflex phenomenon. Arguments which suggest that Pavlov worked as a behavioral scientist include his conceptual formulations, his research on traditional psychological topics and his investigation of psychiatric disorders. His conditioning research emphasized the individual differences of his animal subjects which led to his research on typology and experimental neurosis which formed the basis for his work on environmental stressors and psychopathology.

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    ABSTRACT: This work presents a critical analysis of Pavlov's influence that goes beyond the conventional view: that which reduces his influence in American psychology to the behaviorism of Watson and Hull. In order to understand the nature of the Russian physiologist's influence in American psychology, we propose a distinction between three approaches to it: 1) the symbolic approach, on representing a model of the possibility of constructing an objective psychology; 2) the methodological approach, given the importance of the technique of conditional reflexes; and 3) the theoretical approach, which is derived from his theory of higher nervous activity. This perspective permits us to suggest that most of Pavlov's influence on behaviorism was of a symbolic and methodological nature--though the methodological influence also reached other authors that did not belong to the behaviorist traditions, as was the case of Mateer. As far as the theoretical influence is concerned, our work proposes that it is more visible in authors such as Gantt and Liddell, or even in authors such as Boldirev, Director of the Pavlovian Laboratory at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. The case of Gantt is especially interesting because, in addition to his important contributions, he played an essential role in the foundation of the Pavlovian Society, and the journal Conditional Reflex. What our work proposes is that to understand the nature of Pavlov's influence in American psychology it is necessary to take into account the very characteristics of that psychology: its pragmatic interests, its methodological rigor, the dominant systems of neo-behavioral theory and the changes that occurred after the Second World War.
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