Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Psychologists' Work Term Paper

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Pavlov and Skinner

Comparing the Works of Pavlov and Skinner

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) and Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) are related to each other as their works were foundational in the development of behavioral science in the twentieth century. There are similarities and differences in their lives as well as their scientific approaches and conclusions. Pavlov had a difficult childhood and wanted to become a priest but after reading Darwin decided to become a medical scientist. Skinner had a happy childhood and received a BA in English but later began to study psychology. In their works, both gave credit to the work of Descartes and while Pavlov studied conditioned reflexes, Skinner appropriated Pavlov's technique to study behavioralism. Both theorists studied how reinforcements affected behavior and used stimuli and responses method. The theorists also differed as Pavlov studied physiology while Skinner studied psychology. Pavlov largely focused on studying reflexive responses of organisms, whereas Skinner believed that organisms were controlled by external factors such as the environment and nurturing.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Psychologists' Work Assignment

Pavlov's key contribution to psychology was his study of conditioned reflexes. He observed that dogs could secrete saliva involuntarily when food was placed in their mouths. This was a natural response of the digestive system in the dogs and Pavlov called this unconditioned reflex. No training or teaching was needed to achieve this reflexive behavior. But Pavlov noticed that dogs sometimes secreted saliva even before the food was placed in their mouths. For instance, at the sight of food or when the light was on or when the attendant's footsteps were heard, dogs could involuntarily secrete saliva. Pavlov called this conditioned reflex. He understood that through time and experience, dogs began to respond to the stimuli: the sight of the food, the light, the sound of the attendant. This kind of reflex was not natural but needed to be learned through training. This was conditioned because dogs needed to learn to associate the stimuli (for example, the sight of the food) with actual eating.

Pavlov experimented with hundreds of dogs and for him this reflexive behavior was a physiological response rather than a psychological response. The latter in his opinion was not really an exact science. Pavlov ignored the mentalistic behavior. Like Pavlov, Skinner also ignored mentalistic behavior. He thought that mental states were not observable. He believed that an outsider could not know the inner state of one's mind. While Pavlov initially focused on the mentalistic behavior of animals, interpreting their will, judgment, and desires in human and subjective terms, and later dropped this kind of approach in favor of an objective and descriptive studies, Skinner focused on the latter from the very beginning. Skinner widely read Pavlov's works, citing the Russian scientist in his works and was certainly influenced by him. Skinner, like Pavlov, also used the method of stimuli and response. But he took Pavlov's study further, stating that behaviors involved are unconditioned, unlearned reflexes. Skinner argued that behaviors involved are voluntary acts performed by the subjects, and that behaviors are controlled by their consequences.

Pavlov's guinea pig was the dog because he believed that dogs were closer in intellect to humans than any other animals. Skinner mostly experimented with rats and pigeons since he believed that external factors influenced animals and humans in the same manner. He experimented on rats and pigeons to develop theories for understanding stimulus-response reactions in humans. Whereas Pavlov saw the dog's reaction as a reflexive reaction of the organism, Skinner tried to understand the psychological behavior. Skinner used a box to experiment with rats. He called it "operant conditioning chamber" but later it became known as the "Skinner box" although Skinner himself never liked the term. The Skinner box contained… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Psychologists' Work.  (2011, April 28).  Retrieved February 25, 2020, from

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"Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Psychologists' Work."  28 April 2011.  Web.  25 February 2020. <>.

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"Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Psychologists' Work."  April 28, 2011.  Accessed February 25, 2020.