Skip to main content
Select Source:

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Behavioral psychology

Pavlov and American psychology

Social science implications

works by pavlov

works about pavlov

supplementary bibliography

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936), Russian physiologist, psychologist, and Nobel prize winner, was born in the city of Ryazan, the eldest in a family of ten. His father was a priest and teacher of Greek and Latin, his grandfather and greatgrandfather were sextons and produce farmers. His great-great-grandfather, Mokey Pavlov, was a freed serf, the son of a serf who had no surname and whose Christian name, Pavel, became the family name of succeeding generations. Pavlov’s mother was also the daughter of a priest, yet was herself illiterate; she was known in the vicinity for her ability to heal jaundice by having her patients gaze steadily at a pike swimming in a tank of water.

Pavlov was enrolled in the second grade of the First Ryazan Parochial School in 1860, at the age of 11 (an injury caused by a fall had delayed his formal schooling), and in the Ryazan Theological Seminary in 1864. He left the seminary a year before graduation to enter the division of natural sciences of the physicomathematical faculty of the University of St. Petersburg in 1870. The radical change in his outlook and career plans appears to have been brought about by his reading of Russian translations of Jacob Moleschott’s Physiologisches Skizzenbuch and G. H. Lewes’s Physiology of Common Life, as well as the writings of D. I. Pisarev, and particularly, I. M. Sechenov’s “Refleksi golovnogo mozga” (“Reflexes of the Brain”; 1863), which Pavlov had managed to digest in his seminary days.

Pavlov was graduated from the university in 1875 and became a student of the Imperial Medicosurgical Academy in the same year. As a university student, he had performed two original experiments, one with V. N. Veliky on “the effect of the laryngeal nerve on blood circulation” and “the afferent accelerators of tachycardia,” the other with M. Afanas’ev on “the nerve supply of the pancreas.” An abstract of the report of the first experiment was published in 1874 in the Transactions of the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists. Pavlov was awarded a gold medal for his second experiment, a full report of which was published in 1878 in the highly authoritative Pflugefs Archiv fiir die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere.These two experiments substantially foreshadowed Pavlov’s research interests for the next 16 years—innervation of the vascular and digestive systems.

As a student at the academy, Pavlov served first as a research assistant to K. N. Ustimovich in the veterinary division and later as an assistant to Sergei P. Botkin in the clinical division. He was graduated from the academy in 1879 with the unusual record of 11 scientific publications, only two of which were collaborations and seven of which appeared in Pflugefs Archiv. He stayed on at the academy for postgraduate research, continuing his work in the physiological laboratory of Botkin’s clinic. His 77-page doctoral thesis, “Tsentrobezhnye nervy serdtsa” (“Efferent Nerves of the Heart”), appeared in 1883. In 1884 he was accorded the rank of lecturer in physiology and awarded a twoyear foreign travel fellowship that he spent at the laboratory of C. F. W. Ludwig in Leipzig and at that of P. Haidenhain in Breslau (he had visited the latter laboratory earlier, as a student).

In 1890 Pavlov was made professor of pharmacology of the academy and director of the physiological laboratory of the newly founded St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine. He became professor of physiology in the academy in 1895, holding the post until 1924, when the Soviet Academy of Sciences established a special Institute of Physiology under his direction and began planning the transfer of its laboratories to the village of Koltushi (now named Pavlovo), about twenty miles from Leningrad. The compound of imposing buildings of the Institute was completed in 1935 and has since expanded. Comprising not only outstanding and interrelated research laboratories but also neuropsychic clinics and young children’s experimental schools, Pavlovo is a unique scientific community, centering on what is perhaps man’s leading life science—behavioral change (conditioning) and related neural action. Pavlov was elected a member of the Russian Imperial Academy in 1907, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1908, and a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1932. Hishonoris causa doctorates include those awarded by the universities of Geneva, Vienna, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Paris. In 1935, at the age of 86, Pavlov was honorary president of the Fifteenth International Congress of Physiology, held in Leningrad.

Behavioral psychology

Pavlov’s 62 years of almost unceasing experimentation (eight days before his death he discussed and directed the conduct of nine experiments on dogs and discussed and interpreted the behavior of five mental patients) illustrate well the scientist’s way of learning—by studying “more and more about less and less/’ His first 16 years of research centered on uncovering the neural mechanism of blood circulation and digestion; by 1890 he had restricted his research almost wholly to the mechanisms of digestion, a fact cited when he was awarded the Nobel prize; and after 1903 he concentrated almost entirely on the study of salivation. As early as his doctoral dissertation, Pavlov had begun to uphold Botkin’s view of nervism—the nervous system in some way affects both normal and pathological activities of the organism. (This doctrine continues to make Russian medicine and physiology distinctive by emphasizing the functional over the organic, becoming over being.) However, Pavlov went much beyond Botkin. He combined nervism with objective associationism,thereby founding a new life-science discipline—“higher nervous activity”—in his own country and laying a firm basis for objective and behavioral psychology and for behavioral sciences in general. His specific physiological discoveries and surgical innovations (e.g., the Pavlov pouch, permitting the collection of pure gastric juice) developed into a general, novel and, to a large extent, revolutionary system of studying normal and abnormal action in man and animals.

Objective associationism

In a more specific sense, one might say that almost all of Pavlov’s research revolved around the action of reflexes—in the nineteenth century, unlearned, or what he came to call “unconditioned,” reflexes and in the twentieth century, his famous “conditioned” reflexes [SeeLearning,article oninstrumental learning]. Here he was influenced by a distinctive feature of the life sciences in Russia: Sechenov’s concept of the reflex. Whereas in western Europe and in America the reflex denoted only a special reaction—peripheral, segmental, simple, quick, unconscious, involuntary—Sechenov had made it the essence of all reactions. As early as 1860, in his doctoral dissertation, Sechenov had declared that voluntary reactions are reflexive in nature. He developed this idea into an all-embracing and radical life-science philosophy in his classic “Refleksi . . .” (1863). All significant animal and human reactions, wrote Sechenov, are (a) determined and determinable, i.e., evoked by measurable and controllable physical stimuli and (b) mediated by the nervous system. Hence, they are all reflexes, whether they be simple or complex, peripheral or central, involuntary or voluntary, unconscious or conscious, physiological or psychical. The reflex was set forth not only as the unit of body action but also of body-mind or body-including-mind action. Indeed, present-day Soviet psychologists typically state that Sechenov uncovered the reflex nature of the psyche, meaning thereby that he upheld the materialistic—or physicalistic—philosophy that psychical reactions invariably originate in physical stimulation and invariably are mediated by neural reactions. [See the biography ofSechenov.]

Although Pavlov was fully familiar with Sechenov’s writings, he did not at first realize their full implication. In the 1890s, during his experiments with digestion, he ascertained that glandular secretion is by no means only a function of measurable physical stimulation. However, at that time, he freely used the concept of “psychic secretion,” which, as he wrote later, he had “then contrasted sharply with reflex secretion”; he also spoke of the experimental animals’ “thoughts, desires, and feelings” ([1897] 1955, pp. 83-85.) By 1898, however, Pavlov had deleted from the manuscript of his pupil’s, S. G. Wolfson’s, doctoral dissertation, “The Work of the Salivary Glands,” several paragraphs containing such sentences as the “role of the psyche in salivary secretion is of course undeniable” and the “psyche determines the work of the salivary glands, choosing between acceptable and rejectable substances.” And in 1901 he took similar exception to a psychic interpretation in a dissertation, entitled “Analysis (of the Normal Conditions) of the Work of Salivary Glands in the Dog,” by another of his students, A. T. Snarsky. Pavlov wrote that:

Dr. Snarsky clung to subjective interpretations of the phenomena, but I, taken aback by the fantasy and scientific barrenness of the approach, began looking for another way out of the difficult position. After persistent thought and mental conflict I finally decided that with regard to so-called psychic stimulation I must remain in the role of a pure physiologist, that is, of an objective external observer dealing only with external phenomena and their reactions. . . . The chief stimulus for my decision, although then an unconscious one, arose out of an impression made upon me in my youth by the brilliant monograph of I. M. Sechenov, father of Russian physiology, entitled Reflexes of the Brain (1863). ([1923] 1928-1941, vol. 1, pp. 38-39)

The decision in favor of the objective-physiological approach was fully realized in 1903 in an address before the Fourteenth International Medical Congress. Entitled “Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology in Animals,” the address put forward clearly and cogently the Pavlovian doctrine of unconditioned and conditioned reflexes, forever replacing psychic secretion with conditionedreflex secretion and declaring boldly that: “Vital phenomena that are termed psychic are distinguishable from pure physiological phenomena only in degree of complexity. Whether we call these phenomena psychical or complex-nervous is of little importance, as long as it is realized and recognized that the naturalist approaches them only objectively, leaving aside the question of their essence” ([1903] 1928, pp. 59-60).

This statement combines with two others—first, that “the physiology of the higher nervous system [read: the behavior] of higher animals can be successfully studied only if one completely renounces the indefinite formulations of psychology and stands wholly upon a purely objective ground” ([1904] 1928, p. 75), and second, that “the naturalist has no right to speak of higher animals’ psychic processes [Pavlov’s italics] without deserting the principle of natural science—which is the work of the human mind directed to nature through studies that derive their assumptions and interpretations from no other sources than nature itself” ([1906] 1928, p. 82). These statements were surely clarion calls to behavioral objectivism and were sounded in almost the same form a decade later by John B. Watson, the father of American behaviorism. Yet it must be made clear that Pavlov was not simply a “general behavioral objectivist” but a specific “objective associationist.” His historic contributions inhere not just in advocating the objectification of categories of the mind through behavior categories but in providing a specific objective method of studying the chief traditional explanatory principle of mind—associationism. What had, ever since Aristotle, been merely imaged and meditated on, Pavlov made to flow, so to speak, in capillary tubes and electric batteries. Through the conditioned reflex, the study of association became subject to all the refinements and measurements and means of verification of modern science and technology.

The conditioned reflex

In its original, classical paradigm the conditioned reflex demonstrates that a stimulus initially inadequate to evoke some reflex may become adequate after it has been administered one or more times together with a stimulus adequate to produce the reflex. Pavlov called the inadequate stimulus the conditioned or to-be-conditioned stimulus; the adequate stimulus was called the unconditioned stimulus; the reflex in response to the originally adequate stimulus, the unconditioned reflex; and the reflex in response to the originally inadequate and later adequate stimulus the conditioned reflex. Later, Anatolii G. Ivanov-Smolenskii (1927-1952), working in Pavlov’s laboratory, J. Konorski and S. Miller, in their own and in Pavlov’s laboratory (see Konorski 1948), and Starytsin in Bekhterev’s laboratory, modified the original Pavlovian paradigm. Similarly, in the United States the paradigm was modified and was called instrumental conditioning (Hilgard & Marquis 1940) or operant conditioning (Skinner 1938), and it stimulated a great deal of research and thought in the field. The modified paradigm, however, added little to Pavlov’s empirical laws of, and generalizations about, conditioning, its contribution being more in the realm of expanding theory.

Approximately six thousand successful experiments employing the exact Pavlovian paradigm of pairing unconditioned with to-be-conditioned stimuli have by now been reported. All kinds of organisms, from protozoa to men and from neonates (even fetuses) to the most advanced human and animal seniles, and all kinds of reflexes and stimuli have been used in these experiments. Moreover, conditioning has been related experimentally to almost all other known organismic changes, either as the changes affect the conditioning or as the conditioning affects the changes. To cite two out of hundreds of examples: data from eight experiments are available on the effects of “experimental clinical death” on conditioning, that is, on the fate of conditioned reflexes when an animal is experimentally put to death and then revived (Negovskii 1954); and data from 82 experiments are at hand on the effect of ionizing radiation on conditioning (Voprosy . . . 1962). Reports of conditioning experiments exist in 29 different languages, although the large majority are in Russian and English.

Early in his experimentation Pavlov noted that the study of conditioning yielded sets of interrelated functional laws or generalizations and suggested related sets of testable hypotheses for further laws or generalizations. On such a basis a complete systematic discipline could be erected, and Pavlov gradually proceeded to do so.

The chief functional laws or generalizations concerning empirical conditioned-reflex data established by Pavlov include: (a) extinction, the gradual diminution and final disappearance of a conditioned reflex, when the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly administered without the unconditioned stimulus; (b) spontaneous recovery, the partial reversal of the effects of extinction and regaining of the original conditioning in the course of time—a sort of forgetting of extinction that is greater than the forgetting of the original conditioning; (c) generalization, the partial transfer of a conditioned reflex to stimuli similar to the conditioned stimulus (stimulus generalization) and to reflexes similar to the conditioned reflex (reflex generalization); (d) differentiation, the training that involves alternating presentations of the conditioned stimulus, accompanied by the unconditioned stimulus, with presentations of related stimuli, unaccompanied by the unconditioned stimuli (differential conditioning); (e) higher-order conditioning,the formation of a conditioned reflex through pairing a to-be-conditioned stimulus with a previously conditioned stimulus (instead of an unconditioned stimulus); (f) dynamic stereotypy, the patterning of successively applied conditioned stimuli in such a way that the positional order of each stimulus rather than its specific nature determines the nature and magnitude of the conditioned reflex evoked by the stimulus; (g) disinhibition, the partial regaining of conditioning, when a partially or totally extinguished conditioned stimulus or a partially or totally differentiated similar stimulus is applied together with some new or extra stimulus—putative indication that extinction and differentiation are inhibitory processes that may themselves be inhibited (i.e., disinhibited) by the action of an extra stimulus. Obviously these generalizations are basic to the understanding of the mechanisms of change in human and animal behavior—ways through which the change occurs in normal (and abnormal) life situations, methods and techniques for its full analysis in the laboratory, and means of producing and controlling it through special education.

In the main, Pavlov’s formulations—although not necessarily his whole system—have been verified and accepted. In a glossary in a recent standard textbook on conditioning and learning (Hilgard & Marquis [1940] 1961) 36 terms are attributed to Pavlov and only 25 to all other students of the field combined. A perusal of the two current official periodicals of American experimental psychology—the Journal of Experimental Psychology and theJournal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology—reveals that their contributors are still very much concerned with Pavlov’s work, perhaps more so than with the work of any other physiologist or psychologist. A recent survey of members of the American Psychological Association placed Pavlov second only to Freud in the members’ estimate of who most influenced contemporary psychology. And there is no doubt that Pavlov would have ranked first, had the survey been confined toexperimental psychologists.

Conception of higher nervous activity

Pavlov named the new life-science discipline of the formation and disruption of conditioned reflexes “higher nervous activity,” and in his first book on the topic (1923) he added to it the term “behavior” in parentheses. This addition indicated both Pavlov’s realization that others—notably American psychologists—saw the new discipline as the study of behavior and also his intention to convey that, while conditioned reflexes become manifest in behavior, their interpretation inheres in higher-nervous or cortical action—indeed, that they reveal this action and have no real systematic or scientific import without it. Since, however, no technique for directly probing higher-nervous or cortical action was as yet known in Pavlov’s day, he proceeded to develop a hypothetical, yet highly comprehensive, system of such action: a postulated complex interplay of neural excitation and inhibition, their irradiation, concentration, and induction, underlying all behavioral conditioned-reflex manifestations.

The Pavlovian neuroconditioning system was often called by others a conceptual (i.e., inferential) nervous system: a system based only on inferences—which is all that it originally was. Modern research, however, with its direct electroencephalographic, microelectrodic, and even biochemical probing of neural action during conditioning, seems to show that Pavlov’s inferences were for the most part correct. In any event, his original conditioning scheme, which was like the modified paradigm, provides complete information on dependent and independent variables—control and measurement of both the conditioned and the unconditioned stimuli and measurements of conditioned reflex, unconditioned reflex, and original reflex in relation to conditioned stimulus—and has in recent years become the most serviceable means of correlating direct neural action and conditioned action, thus unveiling the true physical basis of learning. This enterprise, one of the most challenging in our age, is also one in which the contact between research workers in the East and West has been very close, a fact witnessed by the Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous Activity in Moscow in 1958, the Macy Conferences on the Central Nervous System and Behavior in 1958, 1959, and 1960, the Montevideo Conference on Brain Mechanism and Learning in 1959, the New York Pavlovian Conference on Higher Nervous Activity in 1961, the California Conference on Brain and Behavior in 1961, and several others.

While a system of behavior based wholly on conditioned reflexes might be expected, at least superficially, to be highly mechanistic and reductionistic and not to draw a basic distinction between animal and human learning, Pavlov had, in his later years, prevented his system from having these defects. In 1927 he wrote: “Of course a word is for man as much a real conditioned stimulus as are other stimuli common to men and animals, yet at the same time it is so all-comprehending that it allows no quantitative or qualitative comparisons with conditioned stimuli in animals” ([1927] 1960, p. 407). In 1932 Pavlov asserted that speech, and especially the kinesthetic stimuli to the cortex from the speech organs, are second signals—signals of signals. These second signals are in essence abstractions of reality and means of generalization uniquely characteristic of human higher thought ([1932a] 1941, p. 69); and, similarly, also in 1932: “In man there comes to be .. . another system of signalization, a signalization of the first system . . . a new principle of neural action is [thus] introduced” ([1932b] 1941, p. 113). This is the Pavlov “second-signal system” principle that distinguishes verbal conditioning, or language acquisition, in man from first-signal conditioning in men and animals. And it is a principle that is clearly broader than that of most American behaviorists, for whom language is either a mediator operating essentially according to the laws of the reactions that it mediates or is merely a conditioned vocal reaction.


From the very beginning Pavlov was concerned with the relation of conditioning to psychopathology (as indicated in the title of his 1903 address)—an unusual concern for that time. His interest continued, and in 1920, in Pavlov’s laboratory, N. R. Shenger-Krestovnikova demonstrated empirically how a conditioned reflex produces experimental neurosis. Thereafter Pavlov devoted a large portion of his experimental research and thought to this topic, supplementing his laboratory work with frequent visits to mental clinics. He postulated the “clash” of excitation and inhibition as the general cause of psychological disturbances and “protective inhibition” as a corrective cure. He assumed the existence of special psychopathological forms of neural action, which he termed “paradoxical,” “ultraparadoxical,” “totalinhibitory,” and “egalitarian”; he investigated them through unconditioned and conditioned behavioral manifestations. In the early 1930s K. M. Bykov, and E. Sh. Ayrapet’yants and V. L. Balakshina, began a stimulating series of experiments on interoceptive conditioning (conditioning in which direct stimulation of an internal organ is the conditioned stimulus). These experiments, which suggest promising leads to a fully objective science of psychopathology and of psychosomatics, are only now beginning to be duplicated in American laboratories. M. K. Petrova (1925) was an early pioneer in drug and sleep therapy, while a number of Pavlov’s other students made both diagnostic and therapeutic use of concepts based on interaction between the patients’ first-signal and second-signal systems.[See alsoNeurosis; Psychosomatic Illness.]

Pavlovian psychology, indeed learning psychology in general, has become so replete with tempting interpretations of psychopathology that unfortunately a good deal of uncritical writing has been published both in the United States and in the Soviet Union. Yet there is no denying the worth and soundness of the approach. In the Soviet Union it is the only one in existence, and in the United States it is gaining adherence in the face of competing approaches—notably psychoanalysis; there continue also to be many efforts to synthesize Pavlov with Freud.

Pavlov and American psychology

As already indicated, Pavlov, Bekhterev, and the earlier work of Sechenov had in essence set forth the requisite principles for an objective and behavioral psychology a number of years before Watson launched behaviorism. However, while Watson was generally apprised of the “Pawlow method” through a short English summary in 1909, he learned of the Russians’ systematic principles only in 1914, when as he stated himself, he read the 1913 French and German translations of Bekhterev’s Objective Psychology. Watson’s 1913 article, “Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It,” in which behaviorism was first promulgated, mentions nothing of Russian research, and there is no doubt that he developed his system wholly independently. Yet Watson related himself unequivocally to the Russian enterprise afterward. When he was elected president of the American Psychological Association, the title of his presidential address was “The Place of the Conditioned Reflex in Psychology” (Watson 1916). He continued to uphold the conditioned reflex as the high hope for a true science of man and society and to produce challenging Pavlov-like and Bekhterev-like laboratory experiments. Yet Watson’s conditioned-reflex edifice—and that of early classical behaviorism in general—was in the main only programmatic and general, lacking both Pavlov’s well-knit system and its abundance of empirical material. Between 1916 and 1930 American behaviorism dealt with a single “law” of conditioning rather than with system-forming interrelated “laws,” and the number of American experiments in the area was only 16 compared to the Russians’two hundred.

The development of systems of behavior based predominantly on the conditioned reflex was begun in the United States in the early 1930s, a few years after the English translations of Pavlov’s two major books on the topic. This period marked the rise of American neobehaviorism—primarily the work of C. L. Hull, B. F. Skinner, E. R. Guthrie, and E. C. Tolman. Roughly, the two systems, Pavlovian and American, differ in that Pavlov’s is a neurobehavioral, or S-N-R (stimulus → neural process → response), system, while American neobehavioristic systems are in the main positivistic, or autochthonous-behavioral, systems: S-R (stimulus → response) or S-O-R (stimulus → organism → response), where O is a postulated matrix of mediating variables. Yet it is also true that in significant respects the difference between the Pavlovian system and the American neobehavioristic systems may well be less than the difference among the American systems themselves. Each American neobehavioristic system is broadly based on Pavlov-established conditioning laws or generalizations, plus its own superstructure.

In the United States and elsewhere outside the Soviet sphere, Pavlov has influenced all concepts of modifiable behavior or learning—what are known as the vertical dimensions of mind. However, in the Soviet Union itself his influence has also extended to mind’s horizontal dimensions—through the doctrine of types of nervous systems based on alleged genotypic individual differences in five phases of neural action (strength of excitation and of inhibition, mobility of each, and balance between the two). Roughly speaking, the doctrine posits that individual variations in unconditioned and conditioned effector reactions—in recent years also in electroencephalographic and biochemical reactions—demonstrate that the nervous systems of men and animals fall into several specific genetic types that most clearly differentiate all phases of living and behaving: from susceptibility to disease (and to ionizing radiation) and life expectancies, to work styles, motor deftness, modes of thinking, and of course temperament, personality, and emotional balance. Even variation in general intelligence—“general ability” in Russian terms—is held to be a function of the type of nervous system. To American researchers the doctrine seems hardly credible, yet it has not been tested in any significant manner outside the Soviet Union. [SeeGenetics, article onGenetics and Behavior.]

As of today one might argue with good reason and abundance of evidence that Pavlov’s neurobehavioral S-N-R system is gaining the upper hand over American pure behavioral systems—S-R andS-O-R. Recent spectacular advances in techniques of neural recording and interpretation of the information thereby obtained stress the need for integrating neural and behavioral data and relating the latter to the former. The earlier American view that the neural has no information significant to the analysis of the behavioral no longer holds. Modern psychology demands that the neural level have, and continue to have, an important role in behavioral analysis as neo-behaviorism is gradually being replaced by brain-behaviorism, which is in essence identical with Pavlovian higher nervous activity. There is also strong evidence that Pavlov was on the right track when he accorded true verbal conditioning, or language acquisition—what he called the second-signal system—a higher ontological status and when he refused to class it as merely a conditioned vocal reaction, thereby upholding the qualitative distinctness of man. Consider the clinical-neurological evidence that the human speech area is found in the associational cortex, while the mechanisms of mere vocalization—animal and human—are imbedded in the deep-lying mesencephalon. Moving away rightly from anthropomorphizing animals, psychology need not bounce to the other extreme—human zoomorphism.

Social science implications

In general terms Pavlov expressed a “deep, irrevocable and uneradicable conviction that this path [study of conditioned reflexes] is the path of the final triumph of the human mind over its last and uppermost problem—full knowledge of the laws and mechanisms of human nature and thus full, true, and permanent happiness . . . deliverance from present gloom and the purge of present-day shame in interhuman relations” ([1923] 19281941, vol. 1, p. 41). He did not specifically attempt to extend his principles to any system—or indeed any analysis—of social and societal behavior, holding social science to be embryonic. But Pavlov’s students and particularly Bekhterev and his students did thus utilize conditioning concepts. However, in the middle 1930s, sociology and social psychology ceased to be independent fields of study in the Soviet Union, and the entire approach lay fallow. The two fields are now being revived and, by all tokens, so is a Marxist-Leninist and Pavlovian approach to them. In the United States the systematization of social phenomena in terms of conditioned reflexes met with considerable approval in the 1920s and early 1930s, as witnessed by the influence of Allport’s Social Psychology. But in the mid-1930s phenomenology and psychoanalysis became dominant in both sociology and social psychology, presumably because they could more readily be applied to immediate social problems. There can be no doubt, however, that ultimately, as in the case of psychopathology, societal and individual social-attitudinal changes are intimately related to learning processes and conditioning principles. Thus, a Pavlovian social psychology and sociology that is critical, comprehensive, and well systematized may well re-emerge with the ongoing rapid development of psychophysiology in the United States.

Gregory Razran

works by pavlov

1874 O vliianii gortannykh nervov na krovoobrashchenie; O tsentrostremiternykh uskoriteliakh serdstebieniia (The Effect of the Laryngeal Nerve on Blood Circulation; The Afferent Accelerators of Tachycardia). S. Peterburgskoe Obschestvo Estestvoispytatelei, Trudy 5:lxvi-lxvii.

1878 Pavlov, Ivan P.; and Afanas’ev, M. Beiträge zur Physiologie des Pancreas. Pflüger’s Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere 16, no. 2-3:173-189.

1883 Tsentrobezhnye nervy serdtsa (Efferent Nerves of the Heart). Arkhiv kliniki vnutrennykh boleznei 8: 645-719.

(1897) 1955 Lectures on the Work of the Principal Digestive Glands. Pages 83-148 in Ivan P. Pavlov, Selected Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published as Lektsii o rabote glavnykh pishchevaritel’nykh zhelez.

(1903) 1928 Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology in Animals. Volume 1, pages 47-60 in Ivan P. Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York: International Publishers. → First published as “Eksperimental’naiia psikhologiia i psikhopatologiia na zhivotnykh.” The translation of the extract in the text was provided by Gregory Razran.

(1904) 1928 The Psychical Secretion of the Salivary Glands. Volume 1, pages 61-75 in Ivan P. Pavlov,Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York: International Publishers. → First published in French in Volume 1 of the Archives internationales de physiologie.

(1906) 1928 Scientific Study of the So-called Psychical Processes in the Higher Animals. Volume 1, pages 81-96 in Ivan P. Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York: International Publishers. → First published in Lancet.

(1923) 1928-1941 Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes: Twenty-five Years of Objective Study of Higher Nervous Activity (Behaviour) of Animals. 2 vols. New York: International Publishers. → First published as Dvadtsatiletnii opyt ob’jektivnogo izucheniia vysshei nervnoi deiatel’nosti (povedeniia) zhivotnykh. The translation of the extracts in the text was provided by Gregory Razran.

(1927) 1960 Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. New York: Dover. → First published as Lektsii o rabote bol’shikh polusharii golovnogo mozga.(1929-1936) 1949 Pavlovskie sredy (Pavlov’s Wednesdays). 3 vols. Moscow and Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk SSSR. -* Stenographic records of Pavlov’s informal talks.

(1931-1936) 1954-1957 Pavlovskie klinicheskie sredy (Pavlov’s Clinical Wednesdays). 3 vols. Moscow: Akademiia Nauk SSSR.

(1932a) 1941 Physiology of the Higher Nervous Activity. Volume 2, pages 60-70 in Ivan P. Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York: International Publishers. → First published as “Fiziologiia vysshei nervnoi deiatel’nosti.”

(1932b) 1941 Essays on the Physiological Concept of the Symptomatology of Hysteria. Volume 2, pages 102116 in Ivan P. Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York: International Publishers. First published as Proba fiziologicheskogo ponimaniia simptomologii isterii. The translation of the extracts in the text was provided by Gregory Razran.

Polnoe sobranie trudov (Complete Works). 5 vols. Moscow and Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk SSSR, 1940-1949.

Selected Works. Edited by J. Gibbons under the supervision of K. S. Koshtoyants. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955.

works about pavlov

Akademiia Nauk Sssr, Institut Fiziologii Imeni I. P. Pavlova 1954 Bibliografiia trudov I. P. Pavlova i literature o nem (Bibliography of the Works of I. P. Pavlov and of Works About Him). Moscow and Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk SSSR.

Anokhin, P. K. 1949 Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Moscow: Akademiia Nauk SSSR.

Babkin, B. P. 1949 Pavlov: A Biography. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Carpenter, H. C. H. 1936 Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Royal Society of London, Obituary Notices of Fellows 2:1-24.

supplementary bibliography

Hilgard, Ernest R.; and Marquis, Donald G. (1940) 1961 Hilgard and Marquis’ Conditioning and Learning. Revised by Gregory A. Kimble. 2d ed. New York: Appleton. → First published as Conditioning and Learning.

Hull, Clark L. 1943 Principles of Behavior: An Introduction to Behavior Theory. New York and London: Appleton.

Ivanov-Smolenskii, Anatolii G. (1927-1952)1954 Essays on the Patho-physiology of the Higher Nervous Activity According to I. P. Pavlov and His School.Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published in Russian.

Konorski, Yerzy 1948 Conditioned Reflexes and Neuron Organization. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Negovskii, Vladimir A. 1954 Patofiziologiia i terapiia agonii i klinicheskoi smerti (Pathophysiology and Therapy of Agonia and Clinical Death). Moscow: Medgiz. → Published in German in 1959 by the Akademie Verlag.

Petrova, M. K. 1925 Curing Experimental Neuroses in Dogs. Arkhiv biologicheskikh nauk 35:3-16. → First published in Russian.

Razran, Gregory 1961 The Observable Unconscious and the Inferable Conscious in Current Soviet Psychophysiology: Interoceptive Conditioning, Semantic Conditioning, and the Orienting Reflex. Psychological Review 68:81-147.

Razran, Gregory 1965 Russian Physiologists’ Psychology and American Experimental Psychology. Psychological Bulletin 63, no. 1:42-64.

Sechenov, Ivan M. (1863)1935 Reflexes of the Brain. Pages 263-336 in Ivan M. Sechenov, Selected Works.Moscow: State Publishing House for Biological and Medical Literature. → First published as “Refleksi golovnogo mozga” in the journal Meditsinskii vestnik.

Skinner, B. F. 1938 The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York: Appleton.

Voprosy neuroradiologii. 1962 Akademiia Nauk SSSR, Institut Vysshei Nervnoi Deiatel’nosti, Trudy Pathophysiological Series 10. → The whole volume is devoted to the problems of neuroradiology. An English translation is available from the Office of Technical Services, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Watson, John B. 1913 Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It. Psychological Review 20:158-177.

Watson, John B. 1916 The Place of the Conditioned Reflex in Psychology. Psychological Review 23:89-116.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich


(b. Ryazan, Russia, 27 September 1849; d. Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 27 February 1936),

physiology, psychology

Pavlov was the son of a priest, Pyotr Dmitrievich Pavlov, and his wife, Varvara Ivanova. He was sent at the age of eleven to the religious school in Ryazan and , after graduating, entered the seminary of that town, where he studied the current literature on natural science, including I. M. Sechenov’s Refleksy golovnogo mozga (“Reflexes of the Brain”) and the popular works of D. I. Pisarev. He did not complete his studies there, but in 1870 entered the natural sciences section of the Faculty of physics and Mathematics at St. Petersburg University. While he was a third-year student the lectures and experimental work of E. F. Cyon decisively stimulated his interest in physiology and he carried out experimental research on the influence of the nerves on the circulation of the blood. Pavlov was awarded a gold medal for a student work on the nerves that govern the pancreas (1875), written with M. I. Afansiev.

To broaden his knowledge of physiology Pavlov entered the third-year course at the Military Medical Academy after graduating from the university in 1875. His studies were directed primarily toward theoretical medicine. In the physiology laboratory of the veterinary section of the academy, directed by K. N. Ustimovich, Pavlov conducted the research on the physiology of the circulation of the blood that brought him into contact with S. P. Botkin. He subsequently organized and headed the physiology laboratory of Botkin’s clinic (1878–1890) and conducted investigations on the physiology of circulation and of digestion. On 19 December 1879 he received the degree of doctor of medicine; in 1881 he married Serafima Vasilievna Karchevskaya.

In Botkin’s laboratory Pavlov was exposed to an atmosphere of “nervism”, which “extended the influence of the nervous system to the greatest possible amount of an organism’s activity.” 1 During this period Pavlov wrote his doctoral dissertation, on the efferent nerves of the heart, which he defended on 21 May 1883. In 1884–1886 he worked in the laboratories of Karl Ludwig in Leipzig and Rudolf Heidenhain in Breslau and, at the latter, carried out his only research in the physiology of invertebrates, published in 1885.

In 1883 Pavlov became Privatdoxent in physioglogy at the Military Medical Academy and in 1890 was appointed professor in the department of pharmacology. At the same time he became director of the physiology section of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and conducted research on the physiology of digestion that was summarized in a work published in 1897. In 1895, after the retirement of I. R. Tarkhanov, Pavlov moved to the department of physiology, which he headed until 1925. For the rest of his life his activity was concentrated at three institutes: the Institute of Physiology of the Soviet Academy of Sciences that now bears his name, the Institute of Exeriementl Medicine, and the biological station at Koltushy (now Pavlovo), near Leningrad.

Pavlov’s scientific work received worldwide recognition. In 1904 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his research on digestion. In 1907 he was elected an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In August 1935 he presided over the Fifteenth International Physiological Congress, held at Leningrad and Moscow.

Pavlov enriched physiology and the natural sciences with a new method and a new methodology. The latter derived from his general biological thought, which was directed toward the study of the whole organism under the conditions of its normal activity. For Pavlov the living organism was a complex system, the study of which—like that of any system—demanded the use of both the analytic and synthetic methods of scientific research. He considered the main problem of experimental research in physiology to be the study of reciprocal influence and reciprocal action within the organism, and the relation of the organism to its environment. In his first study of circulation he emphasized that such work was possible only by a method that allowed the systematic investigation of “those mutual relationships in which the separate constituent parts of the complex hemodynamic machine are found during its life activity.” 2 Research must be conducted under normal conditions on unprepared animal specimens.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century the essential problem of physiology was becoming the replacement of the traditional, vivisectional method with a long-term, environmental one. Such replacement was called for by the logic of the development of physiology; a vast amount of data had been accumulated by means of the vivisectional method, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that the entire organism must be studied in its natural conditions. On the limitations of vivisection Pavlov said:

Strict experiment . . . can serve the aims of physiological analysis—that is, the general clarification of the functions of a given part of an organism and its conditions—more successfully. But when, how, and to what degree the activity of the separate parts is connected . . . constitutes the content of physiological synthesis, and . . . is frequently difficult or simply impossible to deduce from the data of strict experiment, for the setting of the experiment (narcosis, curarization, operations) is inevitably linked to a certain amount of destruction of the normal processes of the organism3

Pavlov conceived the method of long-term experiment, which he introduced into the laboratory, not only as a technique of experimental research but also as a way of thinking. The continuous method inaugurated a new era in the physiology of digestion and led to new work and concepts, especially in experimental surgery and in the physiology of the brain. In his first lecture on the physiology of digestion, Pavlov said, “Science moves in spurts, depending on progress made in its methods. With each step forward in methods we rise, so to speak, to a higher step, from which a wider horizon opens to us, with subjects previously unseen.” 4 He therefore developed a synthetic physiology designed to “determine precisely the actual course of particular physiological phenomena in a whole and normal organism.” 5

The object of Pavlov’s research was both the organism as a system and any of its separate organs that fulfilled a definite function. He was not concerned with the basic principles and foundations of life, believing them to be the proper subjects of not physiological but rather physicochemical research. Characterizing his approach, he wrote:

I would prefer to remain a pure physiologist, that is, an investigator who studies the functions of separate organs, the conditions of their activity, and the synthesis of their function in the total mechanism of a part or in the whole of the organism; and I am little interested in the ultimate, deep basis for the function of an organ or of its tissues, for which primarily chemical or physical analysis is required.6

His devotion to the synthetic approach did not, however, hinder Pavlov from analytical study of the organism, “going into the depths of cellular and molecular physiology.” 7 Emphasizing the problems and goals of physiological analysis, he pointed out its role in elucidating the functional mechanisms of the organs. He distinguished four levels, or degrees, of experimental physiological research—organismic, organic, cellular, and molecular—all of which must, in the final analysis, reflect the properties of a living substance. Pavlov was well aware of the necessity of a definite, regular relationship between the holistic and analytical (or organicist and reductionist) approaches of scientific research. As a founder of organicism he clearly foresaw the advent of the cellular and molecular physiology that would greatly alter the course of organic physiology.

Pavlov stated his notion of the levels of physiological research in a speech dedicated to the memory of Heidenhain (1897), in which he said that “organic physiology . . . began its study with the middle of life; its principle, the basis of life, is in the cell.”8 He considered Heidenhain “a cellular physiologist, a representative of that physiology which must replace . . . contemporary organic physiology and which must be considered the forerunner of the last step in the science of life—the physiology of the living molecule.” 9

The greatest part of Pavlov’s research is devoted to three major areas: the physiology of the circulation of the blood (1874–1888), the physiology of digestion (1879–1897), and the physiology of the brain and of higher nervous activity (1902–1936). His earliest research in the physiology of circulation was devoted to the mechanisms that regulate blood pressure. He described the role of the nerve mechanism in the adaptive activity of the blood vessels, specifying the role of the vagus nerve as a regulator of blood pressure. In his doctoral dissertation he showed that cardiac function is governed by four nerves which respectively inhibit, accelerate, weaken, and intensify it. (Prior to his work and that of Gaskell it was believed that the influence of the nerves on the heart was limited to changing its rhythm.) Pavlov’s research in this area culminated with the publication in 1888 of his work on the intensifying nerve, in which he proposed that its influence be understood as trophic. In the 1920’s he returned to trophic innervation, the idea upon which L. A. Orbeli had based his theory of the adaptive trophic role of the sympathetic nervous system.

Pavlov’s research on the physiology of digestion (1897, 1906, 1911) required him to devise new techniques and thereby marked a turning point in his work. His method for studying the action of the digestive organs involved surgical intervention on the entire digestive tract, performed under conditions of strict asepsis and antisepsis, which allowed him to observe the normal activity of a particular digestive gland in a healthy animal. (A mastery of surgery was, for Pavlov, as necessary to the physiologist as a knowledge of physical and chemical methods of research.) His surgical procedures included the formation of various types of fistulas from the salivary glands, the stomach, and the pancreas to the body surface, known as esophagotomy; “imaginary feeding,” carried out with E. O. Shumova-Simanovskaya (1889); the operation on the small ventricle of the stomach, formed with P. P. Khizhin (1894); and the severing of two branches of the vagus nerve and the application of the fistula of Eck (1892). He was thus enabled to investigate, more or less directly, the mechanisms governing the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines.

Pavlov’s experiments proceeded from contemporary ideas about the neural and humoral regulation of the digestive process and of its consequences in various parts of the digestive tract. He showed that there is a close connection between the properties of salivary secretion and the kind of food consumed (the Pavlovian curves of salivary secretion). He elucidated the role of enzymes in digestion and, with N. P. Shepovalnikov, discovered enterokinase—which he called “the enzyme of enzymes”in the intestinal secretion (1894). His theoretical conclusions were of broad biological significance. His theory of specific irritability was of particular importance—in showing that the concept of general irritability is scientifically untenable, he demonstrated specific irritability in various parts of the digestive tract. The Pavlovian theory of digestion was of great value in the clinical pathology of the stomach and intestines.

Following his work on the physiology of digestion, Pavlov turned to the physiology of behavior. By the beginning of the twentieth century many physiologists, zoologists, and psychologists had already undertaken experiments to study the function of the brain, but had assembled only fragmentary data. Pavlov drew upon Darwin’s theory of evolution—which stressed psychological as well as physiological continuity—and Sechenov’s reflexology to create his own theory of behavior. Pavlov thus described the genesis of his behaviorism: “The time is ripe for the transition to experimental analysis of the subject from the objective, external side, as in all the other natural sciences. This transition has made possible the recently born [study of] comparative physiology, which itself arose as one of the results of the influence of evolutionary theory.”10

Pavlov investigated the activity of the cortex and the cerebral hemispheres, basing his work on fundamental facts, concepts, and terminology of the physiology of the nervous system. He chose to approach these areas through studying the salivary glands, which had attracted his attention because of their modest role in the organism and because their activity could be subjected to strict quantitative measurement. He had, moreover, already encountered the phenomenon of “psychic” salivation in the course of his investigations on the physiology of digestion, and wished to study it further. Subjective psychology held that saliva flowed because the dog wished to received a choice bit of meat, but Pavlov, ’an experimenter from head to foot,” rejected this method as fallacious and chose to pursue the investigation objectively.

Pavlov could not help but see the “psychic” stimulation of the salivary glands as a phenomenon analogous to the normal digestive reflex. Both digestion and salivation were reflexive; only the external agents that evoked the reflexes were different. The digestive reflex was triggered by the essential mechanical and chemical properties of the food; the salivary by nonphysiological “signals” including the form and odor of the food. Using the concept of the reflex as an elementary response of the organism to external stimulus, Pavlov termed the normal digestive reaction an unconditioned reflex, and the activity of the salivary glands, stimulated by various environmental agents, a conditioned reflex.

Pavlov described the formation of the conditioned reflex, showing it to be based, like the unconditioned reflex, on the innate activity of the organism. He demonstrated that any environmental factor can enter into a temporary relation with the natural activity of the organism through combination with the unconditioned reflex. He noted that the chief characteristics of conditioned reflexes are that they are developed throughout the life of an organism (and are therefore extraordinarily subject to change, depending on the environment) and that they are provoked by stimuli that act as signals. Taken together, these qualities ensure the organism a completely individual adaptive activity. Pavlov saw in the conditioned reflex a mechanism through which the ameliorative potentialities of the organism are increased.

Pavlov made his first public statement on the conditioned reflex in 1903, in a paper presented to the Fourteenth International Medical Congress in Madrid. He expanded upon the subject three years later, when he wrote that

. . . with the general biological point of view before us we find in this conditioned reflex an improved adaptive mechanism or, in other words, a more precise mechanism for counterbalance with the environment. The organism reacts with natural phenomena that are vital to it in the most sensible and most precautionary way, since all other, even the smallest phenomena . . ., although accompanying the first only temporarily, present themselves as signals of the first—signals of the stimulus. The subtlety of the procedure makes itself known in the formation of the conditioned reflex as well as in its suppression, when it ceases to be a correct signal. Here, we must think, lies one of the main mechanisms of progress in the more finely differentiated nervous system.… The concept of the conditioned stimulus must be seen as the fruit of the previous work of biologists.… 11

Pavlov found in the conditioned reflex a mechanism of individual adaptation which, he held, exists throughout the entire animal world. “A temporary nervous connection is a universal physiological phenomenon in the animal world and exists in us ourselves.” 12

Pavlov localized conditioned-reflex activity in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, demonstrating that the center for such activity is to be found in the cortex, among the cortical agents of innate reflexes. Pavlov considered the possibility that subcortical formations may be responsible for the placement of the conditioned-reflex centers, but did not offer any direct evidence for this. He showed that with the formation of conditioned reflexes in the functional state of nerve centers displacements occur in the form of increases in irritability. The cells of the higher sections of the central nervous system, and their branches, he suggested, must therefore undergo definite subtle structural and physicochemical changes. “The lockingin, the formation of new connections", he wrote, “we relate to the function of the separating membrane, if it exists, or simply to the fine branching between neurons [that is], between the separate nerve cells.” 13 Pavolov’s hypothesis has been verified by more recent neurophysiological data, which have demonstrated the plastic character of the changes in the synactial apparatus as a result of excitation. Through work on the conditioned reflex investigators were able to establish that the activity of the cerebral hemispheres is based on the processes of excitation and inhibition. Further experiments, designed to elucidate the dynamics and mutual relationships of these processes, revealed a definite regularity in their development.

An important concomitant of Pavlov’s experimental work was his creation of experimental neuroses, which arose when contradictory stimuli were offered the subject. Such neuroses may serve as a rough model for functional disease of the human nervous system; Pavlov and his co-workers attributed them to the disturbance of balance between the cortical processes of excitation and inhibition. In 1924, in Pavlov’s laboratory, I. P. Razenkov, investigating the induced conflict of basic nerve processes in the activity of the cerebral cortex, observed the same phase states as N. E. Vvedensky had observed in the nerve fiber. It was shown that disturbance of cortical activity passed through four stages: inhibiting, characterized by the absence of all reflexes; paradoxical, in which strong stimuli produce little or no effect, while weak stimuli induce greater effects; equalizing, in which all conditioned stimuli, regardless of their intensity, produce the same effect; and intermediate to the norm, in which stimuli of average intensity produce the greatest effect, and strong or weak conditioned stimuli induce little or no effect. Pavlov applied Razenkov’s work, which provided the first description of phase states of the central nervous system, toward understanding the nature of human psychic illness. From 1918 on, he regularly visited a psychiatric clinic in Udelnaya, near Leningrad, to study the patients.

A. G. Ivanov-Smolensky, V. V. Rikman, I. S. Rosenthal, I. O. Narbutovich, and L. N. Fedorov were active in the creation of the theory of experimental neuroses. Pavlov’s student M. K. Petrova was able to induce deliberately various specific neuroses in animals and subsequently to suppress them. This study of experimental neuroses was closely related to the development of the theory of types of behavior. In 1909 Pavlov reported his pioneering work on behavior to the Society of Russian Physicians in St. Petersburg; his paper Dalneyshie shagi obektivnogo analiza slozhnonervnykh yavleny (“Further Steps in the Objective Analysis of Complex Nerve Phenomena”) discussed carefully conditioned, “weak-nerved” dogs, in which it was difficult to induce inhibition.

In addition to studying animal behavior and the accumulating experimental material, Pavlov and his co-workers made the first attempt to provide a scientific basis for the ancient Hippocratic classification of temperaments. They established the existence of four basic types of behavior, which they classified according to the strength, mobility, and constancy of the basic nerve processes.

During the 1920’s two ramifications emerged from Pavlov’s basic theory: the study of comparative physiology of behavior and the theory of human behavior. Pavlov had experimented on dogs, mice, and monkeys’ his students expanded the range of animal subjects, E. M. Kreps working with Ascidia, Y. P. Frolov with fish, N. A. Popov and B. I. Bayandurov with doves, P. M. Nikiforovsky and E. A. Asratyan with amphibians and reptiles, and G. A. Vasiliev and A. N. Promptov with birds. In the next decade Pavlov himself took up the idea of the genetic study of behavior; a biological station was established for this purpose at Koltushy, near Leningrad. On the basis of comparative physiological data an attempt was made, chiefly by Pavlov’s student L. A. Orbeli, to create an evolutionary physiology of behavior.

Pavlov attributed decisive importance to the signals that characterize conditioned-reflex activity. He assumed the existence of two signal systems, of which one, the primary system, is found in both animals and man, whereas the secondary system is peculiar to man, and it is this system that makes possible the distinctively human activities of abstract thought and speech. In recent years he has come to be regarded as a mechanist who saw complex behavior as the sum of individual conditioned reflexes. This is a profound error, since in Pavlov’s view the brain, through its capacity for subtle analysis and complex synthesis, integrates a vast range of conditioned reflexes into coherent behavior corresponding to the specific circumstances and needs of the organism. If in the early stages of his work Pavlov and his students were chiefly concerned with the study of elementary conditioned reflexes, they later turned to purposeful study of the more complex forms.

A distinguished scientific administrator, Pavlov created a large research school that, at various times, employed about 300 physiologists and physicians. He also organized a number of major research centers, including the physiological section of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, the Institute of Physiology of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and the biological station at Koltushy. With Pavlov’s active cooperation the Russian Physiological Society (now the I. P. Pavlov All-Union Physiological Society) was organized in 1917. He was an active member of the Society of Russian Physicians in St. Petersburg, and his services were highly valued by the Soviet government.


1. I. P. Pavlov, Polnoe sobranie sochineny (“Complete Collected Works”), 2nd ed. (Moscow–Leningard, 1951–1952), I, 197.

2.Ibid., I, 82.

3.Ibid., VI, 321.

4.Ibid., II, bk. 2, p. 22.

5.Ibid., 36.

6. A. F. Samoylov, Izbrannye trudy (“Selected Works”), V. V. Parin, ed. (Moscow, 1967), 301.

7. I. P. Pavlov, Polnoe sobranie sochineny, I, 574.

8.Ibid., VI, 104.

9.Ibid., 107.

10.Ibid., IV, 19.

11.Ibid., II, bk. 1, p. 71.

12.Ibid., II, bk. 2, p. 182.

13.Ibid., II, bk. 2, p. 61.


I. Original Works. Pavlov’s writings were collected as Polnoe sobranie trudov (“Complete Collected Works”), 5 vols. (Moscow, 1940–1949). The 2nd ed. is Polnoe sobranie sochineny (“Complete Collected Works”), 6 vols. (Moscow–Leningard, 1951–1952). There is a German trans. of this ed., Säamtliche Werke, L. Pickenhain, ed., 6 vols. (Berlin, 1953–1956).

Works referred to in the text are O nervakh, zavedyvayushchikh rabotoy v podzheludochnoy zheleze (“On the Nerves That Govern the Pancreas”; 1875), written with M. I. Afanasiev’ O isentrobezhnykh nervakh serdtsa (“On the Efferent Nerves of the Heart”; St. Petersburg, 1883), his doctoral diss.; “Kak bezzubka raskryvaet svoi stvorki” (“How the Anodonta Opens Its Valves”; Polnoe sobranie sochineny, 1 , 466–493, also in Pflugers Archiv, 37 [1885], 6–31); Lektsii o rabote glavnykh pishchevaritelnykh zhelez (“Lectures on the Function of the Main Food-Digesting Glands”; 1897); Eksperimentalnaya psikhologia i psikhopatologia na zhivotnykh (“Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology in Animals”; 1903), his first public statement on the conditioned reflex; “Vneshnyaya rabota pishchevaritelnykh zhelez i ee mekhanizm” (“The External Function of the Digestive Glands and Its Mechanism”), in W. Nagel, ed., Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, Ii (Brunswick, 1907), 666–743; “Operativnaya metodika izuchenia pishchevaritelnykh zhelez” (“An Operative Method of Studying the Digestive Glands”; in Tigerstedt’s Handbuch der physiologischen Methodik, Band II, IH, Leipzig, 1911); Dvadtsatiletny opyt obektivnogo izuchenia uysshey nervnoy deyatelnosti (povedenia) zhivotnykh (“Twenty Years of Experiments in the Objective Study of Higher Nervous Activity [Behavior] of Animals”; Moscow–Petrograd, 1923); and Lektsii o rabote bolshikh polushary golovnogo mozga (“Lectures on the Function of the Cerebral Hemispheres”; Moscow, 1927), Pavlov edited vols. 1–6 (1924–1936) of Trudy fiziologicheskikh laboratorii imeni I. P. Pavlova.

Important English translations of his works include The Work of the Digestive Glands, W. H. Thompson, trans. (London, 1902; 2nd ed., 1910); Conditioned Reflexes, G. V. Anrep, trans. and ed. (London, 1927; repr. New York, 1960), a trans. of the 1923 work cited above; and Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, W. H. Gantt, trans. (New York, 1928).

II. Secondary Literature. On Pavlov’s life and work, see P. K. Anokhin, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov Zhizn, deyatelnost i nauchnaya shkola (“. . . Life, Work, and Scientific School”; Moscow-Leningard, 1949); E. A. Asraty; Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov, Work (Moscow, 1974), in English B. P. Babkin, Pavlov (Chicago, 1949); Y. P. Frolov, Pavlov and His School (London, 1937), written by a student of Pavlov; and E. M. Kreps, ed., I. P. Pavlov v vospominaniakh sovremennikov (“Pavlov Recalled by His Contemporaries”; Leningard, 1967).

N. A. Grigorian

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich


(b. Ryazan, Russia, 27 September 1849; d. Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 27 February 1936), physiology, psychology. For the original article on Pavlov see DSB, vol. 10.

Near the end of his long productive career, Pavlov mused that the life’s work of a scientist consisted in the writing of “only a single book,” by which he meant the development of a single set of basic themes through a consistent set of scientific practices. That was certainly true of Pavlov himself: an unvarying scientific style united his Nobel Prize-winning research on digestion with his renowned investigations of higher nervous activity. This research prospered under czarism and then gained fulsome levels of support from Russia’s Communist leaders despite Pavlov’s frequent bitter criticism of their policies.

Research Style Pavlov’s scientific style represented a layering of experiences and attitudes from his youth in Ryazan in the 1860s, his studies at St. Petersburg University in the 1870s, his stay in the laboratories of Rudolf Heidenhain and Carl Ludwig in the 1880s, and the institutional circumstances from the 1890s through the 1930s that allowed him to refine and practice his conception of good science. That conception and those practices remained remarkably consistent during more than fifty years of scientific work.

As a teenage seminarian Pavlov fell under the spell of Russia’s “men of the sixties” and their vision of curing Russia’s backwardness through the ideological clarity and technological progress resulting from the practice and popularization of materialist natural science. As a student at St. Petersburg University (1870–1875), however, his beloved mentor in physiology was the politically conservative Ilya Tsion. Tsion taught him a Bernardian style of physiology and the surgical skills to practice it. According to this style, the physiologist sought determined, purposive patterns in the activity of organ systems (which were “high” enough to capture the vital qualities the physiologist studied, while “low” enough to establish the determined relations governing their activity). In one respect, Pavlov would go Claude Bernard one better: From the 1880s onward, he insisted upon studying intact, “normal” organisms in order to examine physiological processes in an undistorted state. As a visitor in Ludwig’s lab in Leipzig and Heidenhain’s in Breslau (1884–1886), Pavlov appreciated Ludwig’s insistence upon quantitative results but preferred Heidenhain’s more supple and specifically physiological interpretive style. These various experiences framed what Pavlov would call “physiological thinking.” For him, good physiology must both study the intact normal organism (in which, Pavlov knew, uncontrolled variables always abounded) and also establish the precise, determined, repeatable results that characterized any true science.

Pavlov’s tenure with Heidenhain and Ludwig also impressed upon Pavlov the advantages of the larger lab enterprise that was beginning to replace the Bernardian-style single investigator and led him to reflect upon the spiritual and organizational attributes of a scientific manager. He was able to put these into effect only in 1890–1891 when, at age forty-one, a set of unlikely circumstances transformed him from a floundering, part-time lecturer and lab assistant into the master of Russia’s largest physiological laboratory at Prince Ol’denburgskii’s new Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg. Here Pavlov coordinated the labors of about twelve co-workers annually, the great majority of whom were physicians untrained in physiology and seeking a quick doctorate. During the last decade of czarist rule, women entered this laboratory work force. Pavlov’s lab featured an authoritarian structure and cooperative ethos that allowed him to use co-workers as extensions of his sensory reach while enabling him constantly to monitor the work process, to control the interpretive moments in experiments, and to incorporate results into his developing ideas. His laboratory enterprise expanded in pre-revolutionary years to include also smaller labs at St. Petersburg’s Military Medical Academy and Academy of Sciences.

Scientific Research In the years 1891–1903, Pavlov concentrated on the studies of the digestive system that were systematized in his Lectures on the Work of the Main Gastric Glands (1897) and won him a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1904). In this research, Pavlov’s “physiological thinking” was embodied in the “chronic experiment,” and his analysis of data was structured by his metaphor of the digestive system as a precise and purposive “chemical factory.” For the chronic experiment, experimental dogs were prepared surgically with an operation designed to give the experimenter access to a digestive gland. Experiments began only after the dog had recovered and regained a “normal” state. These operations included the esophagotomy, which separated the cavities of the mouth and stomach, allowing Pavlov to use sham-feeding experiments to demonstrate the centrality of a psychic actor, appetite, in the first phase of digestive secretion. To study the second, nervous-chemical phase of digestion, he developed an innervated version of Heidenhain’s “isolated stomach.” In Pavlov’s isolated sac, the main stomach remained continuous with the digestive tract, but a smaller pouch, isolated from food by a mucous membrane, maintained its nervous connections to the larger stomach. For Pavlov, as a nervist, the innervation of the isolated sac assured that its glandular reactions would mirror those in the main stomach. Inserting a fistula in this small stomach, Pavlov and his co-workers measured the quantity and quality of its glandular secretions, which Pavlov analyzed in his “characteristic secretory curves.” For Pavlov, these curves reflected the precise and purposive action of the glands as they processed different foods.

Pavlov constantly sought to link his laboratory findings to clinical concerns. The results of his digestive research ranged from specific discoveries (for example, the central role of the vagus nerve) to clinical innovations (for example, the use of the “natural gastric juice” drawn from lab animals as a scientific remedy for dyspepsia) to an all-encompassing nervist analysis of the factorylike functioning of the digestive glands.

By the time Pavlov received the Nobel Prize for this research, he was moving his lab group on to the use of conditional reflexes as a method to investigate the principal actor in the first phase of digestion, the psyche. The dogs used in chronic experiments often lived for years in the lab, and experimenters were familiar with their differing moods and personalities (which Pavlov often invoked to explain discrepancies in experimental results). Now that psyche itself, under the rubric of “higher nervous activity,” became Pavlov’s investigative target. Here, too, Pavlov relied on chronic experiments with intact dogs (usually fitted with a salivary fistula) to produce quantitative data (saliva drops); and here, too, he attempted to reason from that data to the determined physiological processes that had produced them.

Like Darwin, Pavlov assumed that dogs were conscious beings with thoughts and emotions, and unlike the behaviorists of his day, he considered the explanation of such subjective states the proper province of science. The iconic image of a Pavlovian dog salivating to the sound of the buzzer captures not the end point, but rather the point of departure for Pavlov’s investigations. Lay observers, animal trainers, and physiologists had long noticed that a hungry dog salivates at the sight of food, its food bowl, or the person who usually fed it. Pavlov always viewed his particular achievement as the transformation of this familiar “psychic secretion” into a reliable laboratory phenomenon and its use as a method for understanding the unseen processes in the brain that produce thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

His research strategy from 1903 to 1936 involved three basic, and constantly interacting, steps: (1) establish experimentally the fully determined regularities in the salivation elicited by highly varied experiments on conditional reflexes; (2) use these regularities to develop a model of the unseen processes in the brain that might have produced them; and (3) use this model to explain the behavior, affect and personality of his experimental animals.

From 1903 to 1936 Pavlov employed conditional reflex experiments in elegant analyses of the sensory abilities of the dog (for example, its ability to distinguish between colors, shapes, and time intervals) and to develop a schematic map of higher nervous processes that featured the interplay of the two basic processes of inhibition and excitation and their movement and complex interaction in the cerebral cortex. His determination that a balance between excitation and inhibition was necessary to a dog’s ability to perceive accurately and respond to its environment—and his awareness that identical experiments produced varying results in different dogs—encouraged his interest in “nervous types” among dogs, people, and peoples. In keeping with his lifelong determination to link laboratory studies to the clinic, research on nervous types generated a line of investigation on “the pathology and therapeutics of higher nervous activity”—involving the creation and treatment of “experimental neurosis” in lab animals—and then on psychiatry.

By the late 1920s Pavlov concluded that the explanation of a dog’s performance in experiments required not just an understanding of its inborn nervous type, but also of the influence upon its nervous system of upbringing, training, and the “social exciter.” In the late 1920s and 1930s these became research subjects at his rural science village in Koltushi, some twelve miles (twenty kilometers) outside of Leningrad. At this Institute of the Experimental Genetics of Higher Nervous Activity, Pavlov and his co-workers also studied the chimpanzees Roza and Rafael and launched an attempt to develop an “improved nervous type” through selective breeding. Long concerned about the weaknesses of the “Russian type”—which he believed to be badly imbalanced toward excitation— Pavlov announced that this eugenics project was “for the use and glory, most of all, of my homeland.”

Political and Cultural Figure The construction of Koltushi—which began in earnest as an eightieth birthday present from the Communist Party—represented the culmination of a long process of struggle and accommodation between Pavlov and the Bolsheviks. Pavlov’s political views had always revolved around his scientism and contradictory patriotism (on the one hand, concern about the “Russian type,” on the other, a deep cultural pride and identification with the power and prestige of the Russian state). Before 1917 he had supported Russia’s gradual evolution toward a constitutional monarchy and stood unsuccessfully for the Duma in 1907 as a candidate of the center-right Octobrist Party. Appalled by the Bolshevik seizure of power, he seriously considered emigration before reaching an uneasy accommodation with the Communist Party in 1921. He received virtual carte blanche from the state, and his scientific enterprise expanded far beyond that of czarist days; in his final years he was coordinating the scientific work of about fifty co-workers annually. With the booming support for science of the Soviet state, the new

generation of co-workers in his labs were no longer the mere “skilled hands” of czarist days, but rather professional physiologists who often remained in the lab long enough to contribute research ideas of their own.

Pavlov excoriated the Communist Party throughout the 1920s, when he became a rare public voice of dissent. Yet he enjoyed good working relations with Communists in his lab and the state apparatus. By the 1930s he had been successfully cultivated by several national Communist leaders, most notably Nikolai Bukharin. Pavlov continued to denounce the regime’s incompetence, dishonesty, suppression of dissent, ideological dogmatism, and persecution of religion. (This latter position encouraged the erroneous rumor that he was himself a believer.) Yet he also praised Soviet achievements, most importantly the support for and popularization of science. As a lifelong adherent of scientism, Pavlov believed the development of Russian science would eventually moderate and improve the regime itself. In addition, the Nazi seizure of power encouraged him to close ranks behind his country’s leadership. In 1935 he rewarded the Bolsheviks by using his influence to bring the Fifteenth International Congress of Physiologists to Russia and by toasting his country’s “great experimenters” before the audience there. At that meeting and elsewhere he used his access to high state officials to save co-workers and acquaintances from the gulag.

Merely famous as a Nobelist in the early twentieth century, Pavlov achieved iconic status in the late 1920s as an international symbol of the power of experimental biology to understand and control human nature. Yet he was disappointed by the failure of scientists, particularly in the west, to adopt his approach and methodologies.

Western studies of Pavlov were long hampered by Soviet state control of Pavlov’s rich archival legacy and by the language barrier. The standard English translations of his works do not capture the metaphorical resonance of his language and are sometimes misleading—for example, in their rendering of the Russian uslovnyi refleks as “conditioned reflex” rather than “conditional reflex.”

Furthermore, because Pavlov’s reports and publications synthesized his co-workers’ experiments, his reasoning can be understood only by reading his works (and lab notebooks) alongside their dissertations and articles. In Russia, Pavlov scholarship was initially dominated by his admiring disciples and then, until the fall of Communism, by physiologist-historians constrained by the official image of this national hero and trained in the combination of positivism and wooden Whig Marxism (teleological interpretations of the past from the perspective of the present) that dominated the history of science during the Soviet era.


Gray, Jeffrey. Ivan Pavlov. New York: Viking Press, 1979.

Joravsky, David. Russian Psychology: A Critical History. Oxford; Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1989.

Nozdrachev, Aleksandr Danilovich, Poliakov, E. L., Kosmachevskaia, E. A., et al., eds. I. P. Pavlov: Pervyi Nobelevskii Laureat Rossii. 3 vols. St. Petersburg, Russia: Gumnistika, 2004.

Rütting, Torsten. Pavlov und der Neue Mensch: Diskuse uber Disziplinierung in Sowjetrussland. Munich, Germany: R. Oldenbourg, 2002.

Todes, Daniel. “Pavlov and the Bolsheviks.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 17, no. 3 (1995):379–418.

———. Pavlov’s Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Daniel P. Todes

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

The Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) pioneered in the study of circulation, digestion, and conditioned reflexes. He believed that he clearly established the physiological nature of psychological phenomena.

Ivan Pavlov was born in Ryazan on Sept. 26, 1849, the son of a poor parish priest, from whom Pavlov acquired a lifelong love for physical labor and for learning. At the age of 9 or 10, Pavlov suffered from a fall which affected his general health and delayed his formal education. When he was 11, he entered the second grade of the church school at Ryazan. In 1864 he went to the Theological Seminary of Ryazan, studying religion, classical languages, and philosophy and developing an interest in science.

Making of a Physiologist

In 1870 Pavlov gained admission to the University of St. Petersburg (Leningrad), electing animal physiology as his major field and chemistry as his minor. There he studied inorganic chemistry under Dmitrii Mendeleev and organic chemistry under Aleksandr Butlerov, but the deepest impression was made by the lectures and the skilled experimental techniques of Ilya Tsion. It was in Tsion's laboratory that Pavlov was exposed to scientific investigations, resulting in his paper "On the Nerves Controlling the Pancreatic Gland."

After graduating, Pavlov entered the third course of the Medico-Chirurgical Academy (renamed in 1881 the Military Medical Academy), working as a laboratory assistant (1876-1878). In 1877 he published his first work, Experimental Data Concerning the Accommodating Mechanism of the Blood Vessels, dealing with the reflex regulation of the circulation of blood. Two years later he completed his course at the academy, and on the basis of a competitive examination he was awarded a scholarship for postgraduate study at the academy.

Pavlov spent the next decade in Sergei Botkins laboratory at the academy. In 1883 Pavlov completed his thesis, The Centrifugal Nerves of the Heart, and received the degree of doctor of medicine. The following year he was appointed lecturer in physiology at the academy, won the Wylie fellowship, and then spent the next 2 years in Germany. During the 1880s Pavlov perfected his experimental techniques which made possible his later important discoveries.

In 1881 Pavlov married Serafima Karchevskaia, a woman with profound spiritual feeling, a deep love for literature, and strong affection for her husband. In 1890 he was appointed to the vacant chair of pharmacology at the academy, and a year later he assumed the directorship of the department of physiology of the Institute of Experimental Medicine. Five years later he accepted the chair of physiology at the academy, which he held until 1925. For the next 45 years Pavlov pursued his studies on the digestive glands and conditioned reflexes.

Scientific Contributions

During the first phase of his scientific activity (1874-1888), Pavlov developed operative-surgical techniques that enabled him to perform experiments on unanesthetized animals without inflicting much pain. He studied the circulatory system, particularly the oscillation of blood pressure under various controlled conditions and the regulation of cardiac activity. He noted that the blood pressure of his dogs hardly varied despite the feeding of dry food or excessive amounts of meat broth. In his examination of cardiac activity he was able to observe the special nerve fibers that controlled the rhythm and the strength of the heartbeat. His theory was that the heart is regulated by four specific nerve fibers; it is now generally accepted that the vagus and sympathetic nerves produce the effects on the heart that Pavlov noticed.

In the course of his second phase of scientific work (1888-1902), Pavlov concentrated on the nerves directing the digestive glands and the functions of the alimentary canal under normal conditions. He discovered the secretory nerves of the pancreas in 1888 and the following year the nerves controlling the secretory activity of the gastric glands. Pavlov and his pupils also produced a considerable amount of accurate data on the workings of the gastrointestinal tract, which served as a basis for Pavlov's Lectures on the Work of the Principal Digestive Glands (published in Russia in 1897). For this work Pavlov received in 1904 the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

The final phase of Pavlov's scientific career (1902-1936) was primarily concerned with ascertaining the functions of the cerebral cortex by means of conditioned reflexes. Prior to 1900, Pavlov observed that his dogs would secrete saliva and gastric juices before the meat was actually given to them. The sight, odor, or even the footsteps of the attendant were sufficient to trigger the flow of saliva. Pavlov realized that the dogs were responding to activity associated with their feeding, and in 1901 he termed such a response a "conditioned reflex," which was acquired, or learned, as opposed to the unconditioned, or inherited, reflex. He faced a dilemma: could he embark on the study of conditioned reflexes by applying physiological methods to what was generally viewed as psychic phenomena? He opted to follow Ivan Sechenov, who considered that, in theory, psychic phenomena are essentially reflexes and therefore subject to physiological analysis.

The important lectures, papers, and speeches of Pavlov dealing with conditioned reflexes and the cerebral cortex are presented in Twenty Years of Objective Study of the Higher Nervous Activity (Behavior) of Animals: Conditioned Reflexes (1923) and Lectures on the Work of the Cerebral Hemispheres (1927). He not only concerned himself with the formation of conditioned responses but noted that they were subject to various kinds of manipulation. He discovered that conditioned responses can be extinguished—at least temporarily—if not reinforced; that one conditioned stimulus can replace another and yet produce identical conditioned responses; and that there are several orders of conditioning. In time Pavlov developed a purely physiological theory of cortical excitation and inhibition which considered, among other things, the process of sleep identical with internal inhibition. However magnificent his experiments were in revealing the responses of animals to conditioning stimuli, he encountered difficulty in experimentally proving his assertion that conditioned responses are due to temporary neuronal connections in the cortex.

In 1918 Pavlov had an opportunity to study several cases of mental illness and thought that a physiological approach to psychiatric phenomena might prove useful. He noted that he could induce "experimental neuroses" in animals by overstraining the excitatory process or the inhibitory process, or by quickly alternating excitation and inhibition. Pavlov then drew an analogy between the functional disorders in animals with those observed in humans. In examining the catatonic manifestations of schizophrenia, he characterized this psychopathological state as actually being "chronic hypnosis"—chiefly as a consequence of weak cortical cells—which functions as a protective mechanism, preserving the nerve cells from further weakening or destruction.

In Pavlov's last scientific article, "The Conditioned Reflex" (1934), written for the Great Medical Encyclopedia, he discussed his theory of the two signaling systems which differentiated the animal nervous system from that of man. The first signaling system, possessed both by humans and animals, receives stimulations and impressions of the external world through sense organs. The second signaling system in man deals with the signals of the first system, involving words, thoughts, abstractions, and generalizations. Conditioned reflexes play a significant role in both signal systems. Pavlov declared that "the conditioned reflex has become the central phenomenon in physiology"; he saw in the conditioned reflex the principal mechanism of adaptation to the environment by the living organism.

Philosophy and Outlook

Pavlov's endeavor to give the conditioned reflex widest application in animal and human behavior tended to color his philosophical view of psychology. Although he did not go so far as to deny psychology the right to exist, in his own work and in his demands upon his collaborators he insisted that the language of physiology be employed exclusively to describe psychic activity. Ultimately he envisioned a time when psychology would be completely subsumed into physiology. Respecting the Cartesian duality of mind and matter, Pavlov saw no need for it inasmuch as he believed all mental processes can be explained physiologically.

Politically, most of his life Pavlov was opposed to the extremist positions of the right and left. He did not welcome the Russian February Revolution of 1917 with any enthusiasm. As for the Bolshevik program for creating a Communist society, Pavlov publically stated, "If that which the Bolsheviks are doing with Russia is an experiment, for such an experiment I should regret giving even a frog." Despite his early hostility to the Communist regime, in 1921 a decree of the Soviet of People's Commissars, signed by Lenin himself, assured Pavlov of continuing support for his scientific work and special privileges. Undoubtedly, Soviet authorities viewed Pavlov's approach to psychology as confirmation of Marxist materialism as well as a method of restructuring society. By 1935 Pavlov became reconciled to the Soviet Communist system, declaring that the "government, too, is an experimenter but in an immeasurably higher category."

Pavlov became seriously ill in 1935 but recovered sufficiently to participate at the Fifteenth International Physiological Congress, and later he attended the Neurological Congress at London. On Feb. 27, 1936, he died.

Further Reading

Still the finest biographical study of Pavlov is the one produced by his senior surviving student, Boris P. Babkin, Pavlov: A Biography (1949). Also useful are Ezras A. Asratian, I. P. Pavlov: His Life and Work (1953), and Harry K. Wells, Ivan P. Pavlov: Toward a Scientific Psychology and Psychiatry (1956). For the influence of Pavlov on Soviet psychology see Raymond A. Bauer, The New Man in Soviet Psychology (1952), and A Handbook of Contemporary Soviet Psychology, edited by Michael Cole and Irving Maltzman (1969). An early history of Russian physiology is in Alexander S. Vucinich, Science in Russian Culture: A History to 1860 (1963). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ivan Petrovich Pavlov." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Ivan Petrovich Pavlov." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (December 11, 2017).

"Ivan Petrovich Pavlov." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich


(18491936), Russian physiologist and Nobel Prize winner.

Ivan Pavlov was born in Ryazan. His father, a local priest, wanted him to attend the theological seminary, but Pavlov's interest in natural sciences led him to enroll in St. Petersburg University in 1870. In 1883 he completed his doctoral dissertation and in 1890 became professor and head of the physiology division of the St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine, where he remained until 1925. Pavlov's work on the functioning of the digestive system earned him the Nobel Prize in 1904. His originality lay in his approach to physiology, which considered the coordinated functioning of the organism as a whole, as well as his innovative surgical technique, which allowed him to observe digestion in live animals.

Pavlov's most well known research involved the study of conditioned reflexes. In his famous experiment, he placed a dog in a room free of all distractions. He found that the dog, accustomed to hearing a bell ring when being fed, would eventually salivate at the sound of the bell alone. Pavlov also applied his findings to the human nervous system. His work advanced the understanding of physiology and influenced international developments in medicine, psychology, and pedagogy.

Pavlov did not support the Bolshevik Revolution and in 1920 asked for permission to leave with his family. Vladimir Lenin, aware of the international prestige Pavlov brought to science in the Soviet Union, personally intervened to guarantee the resources for Pavlov to continue his research. In 1935, the International Congress of Physiologists awarded Pavlov the distinction of world senior physiologist. He died of pneumonia in Leningrad at the age of eighty-seven.

See also: education


Joravsky, David. (1989). Russian Psychology: A Critical History. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Porter, Roy, ed. (1994). The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sharon A. Kowalsky

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (ēvän´ pētrô´vĬch päv´ləf), 1849–1936, Russian physiologist and experimental psychologist. He was professor at the military medical academy and director of the physiology department at the Institute for Experimental Medicine, St. Petersburg, from 1890. Pavlov was a skillful ambidextrous surgeon; using dogs as experimental animals, he established fistulas from various parts of the digestive tract by which he obtained secretions of the salivary glands, pancreas, and liver without disturbing the nerve and blood supply. For his work on the physiology of the digestive glands he received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Using the same technique to create an artificial exterior pouch of the stomach, he experimented on nervous stimulation of gastric secretions and thus discovered the conditioned reflex (see behaviorism), which has had widespread influence in neurology and psychology. He also demonstrated that specific areas in the cerebral cortex are concerned with specific reflexes and based on these findings conceived of a mechanistic theory of human behavior that found political favor; in 1935 the government built a laboratory for him. His chief work was Conditioned Reflexes (1926, tr. 1927).

See biographies by B. P. Babkin (1949) and D. P. Todes (2014); studies by E. Strauss (1963), H. Cuny (tr. 1965), and I. P. Frolov (tr. 1937, repr. 1970).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936) A Russian physiologist who is renowned for his research into blood circulation, digestion (for which he was awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize), and conditioned behaviour in animals. From 1928 until his death he concentrated on the application of the principles of conditioning to psychiatric therapy. His approach to his behavioural work was based on the application of objective experiment to mental processes and the rejection of the mind-body dualism characteristic of earlier psychological studies.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Zoology. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Zoology. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936) Russian physiologist, who became professor of physiology in St Petersburg in 1886. While working on the physiology of digestion he discovered that the mere sight of food stimulates the production of digestive juices. For this work he was awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. Pavlov went on to demonstrate operant conditioning in dogs and other animals. See also learning.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Biology. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Biology. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Biology. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936) Russian neuro- physiologist. His early work centred on the physiology and neurology of digestion, for which he received the 1904 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Pavlov is best known for his studies of conditioning of behaviour in dogs. His major works include Conditioned Reflexes (1927).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." World Encyclopedia. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." World Encyclopedia. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936) Russian physiologist; discovered conditioned reflexes, e.g. dogs salivating in anticipation of food; Nobel Prize 1904 for his work on the physiology of digestion.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . (December 11, 2017).

"Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from