Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Pavlov's Reflex before Pavlov: Early Accounts from the English, French and German Classic Literature

Pavlov's Reflex before Pavlov: Early Accounts from the English, French and German Classic Literature. S Jarius S, B Wildemann. European Neurology, 2017;77:322-326. https://doi.org/10.1159/000475811

Abstract: The concept of classical conditioning (CC), strongly connected with the name and work of the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936), has become the foundation of the modern science of learning and, in particular, of the influential theories of Watson and Skinner and the entire school of behaviourism. In this paper, we give a number of forgotten accounts of CC in the English, French, and German classic literature that pre-date Pavlov's reports by decades or even centuries. These instances are taken from works of the 16th, 18th, and 19th centuries - authored by some of the finest writers of England (Sterne, Locke), France (Rabelais), and Germany (Jean Paul) - and indicate that the psychological mechanisms now described as CC were known long before Pavlov and his successors elaborated on them in a systematic way.