Association Theory

The first type of learning in the Behaviorist Tradition

Ivan Pavlov and Classical Conditioning

Over one hundred years ago, there was a man in the Russian Empire named Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist studying the digestive system of dogs. Pavlov noticed that when the hungry dogs would see his assistants (who usually fed them), they would begin to salivate. Salivation was the normal reaction when the dogs were presented with their food, yet here they were salivating when food was not present. Pavlov determined that the dogs had made an association between the assistants and the food. Pavlov determined that:

UNCONDITIONAL STIMULUS (something that causes an involuntary response)= UNCONDITIONAL RESPONSE (the reflexive response, always occurs as result of US.)

US (Food) =UR (Salivation)

The Experiment

Pavlov noticed that when the dogs were presented with a NEUTRAL STIMULUS, something that did not produce a response (the ringing of a bell) paired with a UNCONDITIONAL STIMULUS (the food), after numerous times the dogs began to salivate at the presentation of the NEUTRAL STIMULUS alone. Pavlov had conditioned the dogs to create a response to a stimulus that was not originally there.


Bell ringing+Food=Dogs salivating

Ivan Pavlov

Can you think of examples where conditioning is used in the classroom?