Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936)

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Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the Russian physiologist and originator of conditioned-reflex method and theory, was born the eldest son of a priest in Riazan'. After home tutoring, church school, and theological seminary (where he read G. H. Lewes's Physiology), he entered the University of St. Petersburg, where I. F. Tsyon confirmed his physiological interests. At the Military Medical Academy, as assistant to Tsyon and later to S. P. Botkin, the experimental pharmacologist, he excelled in surgery and in experimental physiological research, which he continued in Botkin's laboratory after qualifying as an approved physician in 1879. In 1881 he married a fellow student, and despite desperate financial struggles, he received his MD in 1883 with a dissertation on the heart's innervation. With a traveling fellowship, he worked in Leipzig with Karl Ludwig and in Breslau with Rudolf Heidenhain; he returned to Botkin's laboratory in 1886 to continue research on nervous control of circulation and digestion. In 1888 he discovered the secretory nerves of the pancreas, and the following year he wrote on "sham feeding" and gastric "psychic secretion" (at sight of food).

In 1890 he became professor of pharmacology at the Military Medical Academy and director of the physiological department of the new Institute of Experimental Medicine donated by the prince of Oldenburg. In 1895 he was named professor of physiology at the Military Medical Academy, although the rector, Pashutin, delayed confirmation of the appointment till 1897. The Work of the Digestive Glands (1897), which reported the research that won Pavlov the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1904, was widely translated. Next he investigated salivary "psychic" secretion, devising a neat surgical technique to enable collection and measurement of the saliva of dogs. Reflex salivation was measured upon ingestion (natural stimulus) and sight ("psychic" stimulus) of food, and also upon application, to hungry dogs before feeding, of artificial ("conditioned") stimulivisual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile. The "conditioned reflex"a term coined by I. E. Tolochinovwas thus a simple unit of acquired behavior, as involuntary as salivation itself; its formation, persistence, and disappearance followed rules that Pavlov elucidated in meticulous experiment for more than thirty years, gradually constructing a neurophysiological theory of behavior and learning. Pavlov's work attracted pupils and collaborators, produced a plentiful literature, and continued without significant interruption through World War I and the Russian Revolution.

A reflex theory of behavior accorded well with Marxist dialectical materialism, and Pavlov's researches received governmental encouragement and financial support. Pavlov was never a Marxist or a communist; he resigned his professorship in 1924 in protest against anticlerical discrimination at the academy, but he continued to enjoy state support, including new laboratories, and official foreign-language publication; his research village, Koltushy, was even renamed Pavlovo. When conditioned-reflex theory was extended to human behavior, Pavlovian doctrine became the Soviet Union's official "psychology," basic to psychiatry, pedagogy, industrial research, and other fields ranging from criminal reeducation to space exploration.

Pavlov's collected lectures appeared in English, French, and German translations in the 1920s, with a further volume, Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry, in 1941. He observed that a conditioned reflex might comprise excitation (secretory or motor) or inhibition, both processes located in the cerebral cortex. Concentration and irradiation of excitation, enabling discrimination and generalization of response, followed laws of induction, conceived as resembling ionic polarization, with excitation and inhibition spreading wavelike over a largely unspecialized cortex. Specialization occurred in the analyzers, or cortical receptor areas (visual, auditory, etc.), which sorted stimulus signals and regulated responses.

Pavlov found that for permanence a conditioned reflex required reinforcement with the unconditioned stimulus. Disturbance of an already established temporal or spatial pattern of stimuli, including excessive requirement of discrimination, produced disordered responses in the three successive phases of (a ) equalization of response to all stimuli, (b ) paradoxical responses, and (c ) ultraparadoxical responses, involving reversal of positive and inhibitory responses. Ultimate derangement ("neurosis") was behavioral breakdown in uncontrolled excitement or complete inhibition, depending upon the type of the nervous system. An increasing preponderance of inhibition was evident in the progression from (a ) controlled activity, to (b ) delayed activity, corresponding to deliberation or thought, to (c ) hypnotic states with concentrated activity bounded by general inhibition, to (d ) sleep considered as generalized inhibition. Nervous systems were classified as strong excitable, weak inhibitable, and two central "balanced" types, lively and stolid, analogous to the "Hippocratic temperaments," choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic, respectively. Conditioned reflexes were most stable in the two more inhibited types of dog (and probably of humans).

From 1928 until his death Pavlov surveyed human psychology and psychiatry, drawing bold analogies between psychiatric syndromes and the reactions of dogs to experimental laboratory situations. Manic-depressive psychosis was viewed as an excitation-inhibition disorder and paranoia as a pathologically persistent excitatory process in a circumscribed cortical area. Later work by others has shown the value of conditioning theory for a "how" explanation and for an empirical treatment for certain phobias and compulsions, but Pavlov's formulations, without direct experimental or adequate clinical basis, are subjective intuitions clothed in pseudophysiological vocabulary. His experimental observations were objective and sound, and his apparently prosaic method allowed repeatable exact measurement, although what else was being measured by measuring saliva remains unclear. When he wrote of "reflexes" of freedom and slavery in dogs and humans, or of an animal's "strong" or "weak" cortex, or of ripples of excitation or inhibition, he failed to recognize the subjective nature of his interpretations. Insight was hindered by his premature oversimplification and an increasingly militant materialist monism.

Pavlov's was the principal and most developed of the several physiopsychologies of his time. His priority was disputed by V. M. Bekhterev, a neurologist whose "reflexology" of "associated reflexes" was developed simultaneously although independently in the same academy; Pavlov undoubtedly published first, however. Pavlov yielded experimental priority to the American E. L. Thorndike and admitted the theoretical influence of I. M. Sechenov, a former professor of physiology in St. Petersburg, whom Pavlov styled "father of Russian physiology." Sechenov's Reflexes of the Brain (1863, in Selected Physiological and Psychological Worts, Moscow, 19521956) followed his studies in Berlin, where Wilhelm Griesinger taught a psychology of temperamental types and psychic reflexes that was philosophically based upon Arthur Schopenhauer and René Descartes (Mental Pathology and Therapeutics, Berlin, 1845 and 1861; translated by C. L. Robertson and J. Rutherford, London, 1867).

Pavlov's influence continues paramount in Russia. Elsewhere it is an important component in behavior theory and therapy, but with a strong admixture of Bekhterev and John B. Watson in practical techniques and a preponderance of C. L. Hull's learning theory in vocabulary.

See also Behaviorism; Descartes, René; Dialectical Materialism; Induction; Marxist Philosophy; Schopenhauer, Arthur.


works by pavlov

The Work of the Digestive Glands. Translated by W. H. Thompson. London, 1902.

Conditioned Reflexes; an Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. Translated and edited by G. V. Anrep. London: Oxford University Press, 1927; New York: Dover, 1960. The best English translation of the early papers.

Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. Vol. I: Twenty-five Years of Objective Study of the Higher Nervous Activity (Behavior) of Animals. Translated and edited by W. Horsley Gantt, with G. Volborth. New York: International, 1928. Vol. II: Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry. Translated and edited by W. Horsley Gantt. New York: International, 1941.

Selected Work. Translated by S. Belsky, edited by J. Gibbons under the supervision of K. S. Koshtoyants. Moscow: Foreign Languages, 1955.

Experimental Psychology and Other Essays. New York: Philosophical Library, 1957; London, 1958. A reprint of Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, omitting Pavlov's patriotic and political speeches.

Essays in Psychology and Psychiatry. New York, 1962. A selection from Experimental Psychology and Other Essays in paperback.

Psychopathology and Psychiatry; Selected Works. Compiled by Y. Popov and L. Rokhin, translated by D. Myshne and S. Belsky. Moscow: Foreign Languages, 1962.

Conditioned Reflexes, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, and Selected Works contain some of the same papers in different translations. Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes and Selected Works have some later "psychiatric" papers, and Selected Works has some early papers on circulation and digestion preceding Pavlov's work on conditioned reflexes. Psychopathology and Psychiatry is selected entirely from his "psychiatric" work.

works on pavlov

Asratyan, E. A. I. P. Pavlov, His Life and Work. English ed., Moscow: Foreign Languages, 1953. An early and approved biography.

Babkin, B. P. Pavlov: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949 and 1960; London: Gollancz, 1951.

Cuny, H. Ivan Pavlov: The Man and His Theories. London: Souvenir Press, 1964. Brief, semipopular outline of Pavlov's life and work.

Frolov, Y. P. Pavlov and His SchoolThe Theory of Conditioned Reflexes. Translated by C. P. Dutt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1937.

Gray, J. A., ed. and tr. Pavlov's Typology. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 1964. Includes a detailed authoritative survey of this field by B. M. Teplov.

Platonov, K. I. The Word as a Physiological and Therapeutic FactorThe Theory and Practice of Psychotherapy according to I. P. Pavlov. Translated by D. A. Myshne. Moscow: Foreign Languages, 1959. This work applying Pavlov's teachings openly acknowledges a debt to Bekhterev's.

Scientific Session on the Physiological Teachings of I. P. Pavlov. Moscow: Foreign Languages, 1951.

Simon, B., ed. Psychology in the Soviet Union. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957.

Todes, P. Ivan Pavlov: Exploring the Animal Machine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Todes, P. Pavlov's Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Wells, H. K. Pavlov and Freud. 2 vols. New York: International, 19561960; reprinted 1962.

J. D. Uytman (1967)

Bibliography updated by Vladimir Marchenkov (2005)