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This Day in History

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Friday, September 14, 1849. :   Ivan Pavlov, discoverer of the conditioned or learned reflex, is born.

     Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born on 14 September 1849, in Ryazan, Russia. After studying medicine in Russia and Germany, he became a professor in pharmacology and physiology. Pavlov's famous work with dogs actually started as a study of digestion. It was while performing experiments on dogs to show how digestive secretions are regulated that he discovered they are influenced by the sensory stimuli of sight, smell and taste.

Further experimentation proved that other stimuli could produce the same response; for example, Pavlov began ringing a bell at the same time as any of the other three stimuli were introduced. Thus, the dogs soon connected the sound of the bell with the appearance of food, and began to salivate accordingly. In 1903 Pavlov published his results, calling this a "conditioned reflex", meaning it was learned, rather than innate, or instinctive. Although Pavlov won the 1904 Nobel Prize for his work on digestive physiology, he is better known today as an early influence on behavioural psychology.

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