Psychology is a science. It aims to understand the behavior of others and gather information about the way the brain works in order to better serve humanity. By observing different human behaviors, psychologists determine what is normal and healthy and what is unhealthy. Psychology analyzes the thoughts, feelings, actions and goals of people through the help of various case studies, observations and surveys.
Have you ever heard of Pavlov’s dogs? Pavlov noticed that his dogs were salivating as the result of a stimuli – the lab assistant approaching – before food was even presented to them. This observation acted as a description of what was happening. Once psychologists can describe a behavior or phenomenon, they can use that as a basis for learning more about that behavior. And yes, many psychologists have studied animals in order to learn more about human behavior! You’d be surprised how many similarities there are.
Why does this behavior occur? Under what circumstances will it occur again? In order to explain a behavior, psychologists must conduct experiments to ensure that the behavior is not an anomaly. If there’s only one person (or animal) exhibiting this behavior, it certainly isn’t a cultural norm. In the case of Pavlov, he was able to conduct an experiment using multiple dogs that all seemed to behave in the same way. Through this experiment he was able to notice a handful of important things about the behavior of others. And thus, classical conditioning came to be.
When presented with an unconditioned stimulus (the food), the dogs began to salivate – which is the unconditioned response. When presented with delicious food, humans tend to salivate, right? After the dogs were fed for a period of time, Pavlov began to notice that even the presence of his lab assistant, who fed the dogs, caused them to salivate. Once he noticed this was happening, he realized that he had come across a wonderful psychological discovery. The lab assistant, which was once a neutral stimulus, had become a conditioned stimulus. To further his experiment, Pavlov introduced a bell as a neutral stimulus.
Based on past observed behavior, a psychologist aims to predict how that behavior will appear again in the future and if other people will exhibit the same behavior. Pavlov predicted that the new neutral stimulus – the bell – would become a conditioned stimulus if he presented it with food enough times. Sure enough, after presenting the dogs with food at the same time the bell was sounded, he was able to condition the dogs to salivate when the bell rang even when they weren’t presented with food. This discovery held a lot of importance in the world of psychology and allowed many people to influence the behavior of others.
What did Pavlov’s discovery mean for the future of psychology? It meant that teachers could take control of their classroom easier, parents could teach their children to exhibit good behavior, and manipulative older siblings could control the behaviors of their younger siblings. In other areas of psychology, experiments are used to train new employees faster, increase the success of students and reduce drug addiction.
As someone who enjoys psychology, this thread is is awesome. Great information written concisely.