Friday, May 9, 2008

Ode to Baikal...

Here we see the taxidermied remains of Baikal, one of Pavlov's dogs on display at the Pavlov Museum in Ryazan, Russia. Note the saliva catch container and tube surgically implanted in the dog's muzzle. In studying the way in which dogs responded to certain food-related stimulus, Pavlov discovered that certain animal behaviors or responses could be conditioned. His findings would later inform the foundations of Behavioral Psychology and the practice of Behavioral Modification.

Baikal and her canine associates were important players in the evolution of 20th Century psychology. Their widely publicized contributions led to some nice and not-so-nice developments in human conditioning. Unfortunately, the phrase "Pavlov's dog" is often used in a derogatory sense implying someone who simply reacts rather than thinks when confronted with new stimulus. Wouldn't it be better to imply someone who knew and appreciated when a good meal was on its way?

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