Theorists and their Contributions

Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov “Science demands from a man all his life. If you had two lives that would not be enough for you. Be passionate in your work and in your searching.” – Ivan Pavlov

 Best Known For:

  • Classical conditioning
  • Research on physiology and digestion.
  • 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology.

Career:

Pavlov’s primary interests were the study of physiology and natural sciences. He helped found the Department of Physiology at the Institute of Experimental Medicine and continued to oversee the program for the next 45 years.

While researching the digestive function of dogs, he noted his subjects would salivate before the delivery of food. In a series of well-known experiments, he presented a variety of stimuli before the presentation of food, eventually finding that, after repeated association, a dog would salivate to the presence of a stimulus other than food. He termed this response a conditional reflex. Pavlov also discovered that these reflexes originate in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

Pavlov received considerable acclaim for his work, including a 1901 appointment to the Russian Academy of Sciences and the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology. The Soviet government also offered substantial support for Pavlov’s work, and the Soviet Union soon became a well-known center of physiology research.

 

 

B.F. Skinner

B.F. Skinner

“The consequences of behavior determine the probability that the behavior will occur again” –B. F. Skinner

 

Best Known For:

  • Operant conditioning
  • Schedules of Reinforcement

Career:

In 1945, Skinner moved to Bloomington, Indiana and became Psychology Department Chair and the University of Indiana. In 1948, he joined the psychology department at Harvard University where he remained for the rest of his life. He became one of the leaders of behaviorism and his work contributed immensely to experimental psychology. He also invented the ‘Skinner box,’ in which a rat learns to obtain food by pressing a lever.

 

 

Edward L. Thorndike

 Edward Thoendike

Best Known For:

  • The Law of Effect
  • Often called the father of modern educational psychology
  • Animal research
  • Trial-and-error theory of learning

 

Career:

Thorndike is perhaps best-known for the theory he called the Law of Effect, which emerged from his research on how cats learn to escape from puzzle boxes. According to the Law of Effect responses that are immediately followed by a satisfactory outcome become more strongly associated with the situation, and are therefore more likely to occur again in the future. Conversely, responses followed by negative outcomes become more weakly associated and less likely to reoccur in the future.

 

John B. Watson

John B Watson

 

“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select–doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years.” –John B. Watson, Behaviorism, 1930

 

Best Known For:

  • Behaviorism
  • Little Albert Experiment

Career:

Watson began teaching psychology at John Hopkins University in 1908. In 1913, he gave a seminal lecture at Columbia University titled Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It, which essentially detailed the behaviorist position.

According to John Watson, psychology should be the science of observable behavior. “Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness,” he explained (1913).