Ivan Pavlov

By Alexander Miller

Birth and Death

Pavlov was born on September 14th, 1849 in Ryazan, Russia. Ivan was born into a large family, and his father struggled to provide for them. Pavlov grew up assisting his father and tended to the church property because his father was a priest. Many say Ivan has many of the same characteristics as his father, such as a strong will to succeed.

Brief Backround

The oldest sibbling, Ivan Pavlov was also among the healthiest. He began school at the Ryazan Ecclesiastical High School. Pavlov and his brothers eventually entered the Ryazan Ecclesiastical Seminary. At the Seminary, he planned to pursue a career in theology. However, after being introduced to the works of Charles Darwin and Ivan Sechenov, Pavlov decided to transfer to the University of St. Petersburg to gain knowledge about natural science. There, Pavlov gained great respect for a professor of physiology, Cyon. Due to Cyon's enthusiasm for physiology, he decided to become a physiologist during his third year. At that point, Pavlov started work as an assistant in a laboratory in which he earned 50 rubles a month.

Pavlov's Theory

Pavlov concluded that he was able to pair a neutral stimulus with an excitatory one and have the neutral stimulus eventually elicit the response that was associated with the original, unlearned reflex. In Classical Conditioning terminology, an unconditioned stimulus (US) is an event that causes a response to occur, which is referred to as the unconditioned response (UR). And, in Pavlov's study with dogs, the food within the dog's mouth is the US, and the salivation that results is the UR. Pavlov took a step further and added an element known as the non excitatory, conditioned stimulus (CS), which is paired with the US.

3 Facts


  1. Pavlov didn’t use a bell, and for his real scientific purposes, couldn’t. English-speakers think he did because of a mistranslation of the Russian word for zvonok (buzzer) and because the behaviorists interpreted Pavlov in their own image for people in the U.S. and much of the West.

  2. He didn’t use the term and concept “conditioned reflex,” either – rather, “conditional,” and it makes a big difference. For him, the conditional reflex was not just a phenomenon, but a tool for exploring the animal and human psyche – “our consciousness and its torments.”

  3. Unlike the behaviorists, Pavlov believed that dogs (like people) had identifiable personalities, emotions, and thoughts that scientific psychology should address. “Essentially, only one thing in life is of real interest to us,” he declared: “our psychical experience.”