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Friday, October 7, 2011

Pavlov's Dog

Most of us have heard about Pavlov's dog but, a quick run down. Pavlov created a situation in which he was able to study and condition a certain response from his dog. He was able to condition a dog to salivate by simply hearing foot steps . He did this through several steps. First he used an unconditioned stimuli (food) this caused an unconditioned response (salivation). 2nd a neutral stimulus (foot steps) was introduced with the Unconditioned stimuli (food) and we got the unconditioned response (salivation). Step three was to repeat step 2 over and over. Finally you get a conditioned stimuli (footsteps) that leads to the conditioned response (salivation).

Pavlov then applied this to human behavior to show that we have conditioned responses to certain stimuli. An example of this is when my father got home from Vietnam he was walking down the street and a car backfired sending him to the ground. People around him did not dive to the ground because they did not have the same conditioned response to a conditioned stimuli. Another part to this example is extinction. If a car backfired around him now he would not dive to the ground, he would flinch but not dive to the ground. If a conditioned stimuli is not reinforced then eventually it goes away.

When we are writing we need to understand the different unconditional responses and unconditional stimuli that are affecting our character as well as the neutral stimuli that may be turning into conditioned stimuli. An example of this would be that a character has just experienced a traumatic event in which he now cowers from events that are similar to the traumatic event. Eventually the character will get used to similar events (extinction) but in some cases they may never get used to it (PTSD).

What are some ideas you have about using this in a story?


  1. Writing poetry is a bit different than story writing but as I write mostly about myself and family I have had my share of traumatic events.

  2. I think too many authors forget this and a character will have no residual effect from a traumatic event. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. nice...i think this does add depth and provides opportunity to link events within a the thought sir.

  4. I like the idea of playing around with the different stimuli. Like it doesn't always have to be sound. Maybe we could have a character smell something or even touch something. This could be really fun in giving our characters a past but you don't have to tell the reader from the beginning it can be something that is figured out. Maybe even the character doesn't remember why. This goes back to one of your earlier posts on suppressed memories. So many great ideas. This is why I love reading your blog. Thanks.

  5. That would be interesting to use in a story--particularly in relation to how the other characters respond to the same event.

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