Ivan Pavlov And His Theory Of Classical Conditioning

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There are many great names in psychology. who became so by giving reason and name to everyday things that happen, through theories which needed them to do endless amounts of research and experiments. Those names cannot be mentioned without including Ivan Pavlov, the researcher of classical conditioning which is all about learned behaviour which paved the way for a multitude of behaviour theories. The first part of my assignment is an essay on his classical conditioning experiment, how it was carried out and its findings. As each human being grows up, they reach milestones and are constantly evolving, the same can be said career - wise. The second part of my assignment is about the four different stages of lifespan and career development and how they interlink.

Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning Process

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Nobel Prize winning Russian physiologist most famous for his discovery of the classical conditioning process. It is one of many perspectives used to explain the learning processes, discovered in 1897 and also known as the Pavlovian Theory (Wikipedia, 2019). In this essay, I will be going into detail about the experiment that served as proof of the classic conditioning process as well as its outcomes. Ivan Pavlov made use of dogs for his experiment to prove the classical conditioning process. The aim of the experiment was to associate an unrelated unconditioned stimulus with a conditioned stimulus to produce a conditioned response, which is a behavioural response (Lumen learning, n.d.). The experiment was carried out by using hungry dogs that when showed food, would salivate. During the experiment the dogs were restrained in an experiment chamber where they were given food in the form of meat powder. The dogs had a tube surgically implanted in their saliva glands and this is how their saliva was collected (Learning theories, 2014). The food is seen as an unconditioned stimulus and the saliva, an unconditioned reflex as it is involuntary and untaught. In the second stage a bell was rung whilst food was being served to the dogs, this was done multiple times to condition them and make them associate the ringing of the bell with eating time as that is not what they were accustomed to before, resulting, once again in them salivating. The third stage still showed use of the bell, this time without serving any food. Salivation continued as the dogs were conditioned to associate the sound of the bell with it being eating time. The bell is seen as a conditioned stimulus and saliva, the conditioned reflex (Bergh and Geldenhuys, 2013: 95) the dogs had made an association between the bell and it being eating time which is why they continued salivating even after no food was being served after the bell was rung. Once the dogs realised the ringing of the bell was no longer accompanied by food, they stopped salivating. An example of classical conditioning in human beings can be seen in phobias. If one had a bad experience from a certain stimulus, it will always trigger a negative reaction, which is the conditioned response. The person will react the same way to the stimulus until someone is able to convince them their fear is irrational, which is how that conditioned response will become extinct and no longer elicit a response. Bergh and Geldenhuys (2013) state that a traumatic experience can cause learned behaviour to become extinct which affects response to conditioned responses. If the person recovers from the traumatic experience, it is possible for the learned behaviour to return. It is evident that a conditioned response being extinct is not permanent.

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Lifespan development, career development and how they interlink

Lifespan development shows how one changes as they grow from conception all the way through to death. Developmental psychologists undertake this psychological field. They see one’s development as a continuous process that covers three areas of development, namely, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development. Physical development consists of growth and body, brain, senses, motor skills as well as health and wellness changes. Cognitive development consists of learning, attention, memory, language. Thinking, reasoning and creativity. Psychosocial development has to do with emotions, personality and social relationships (Lumen learning, 2019) Development can give one a range of capabilities such as knowledge, abilities, skills, behaviours, attitudes as well as values needed for every phase of life. The study of development equips people with the knowledge of pre-determined characteristics in terms of physical, cognitive and psychological behaviour they need to look out for in persons on order to know what stage of development they are in. There are four main phases of development: the early- life stage which covers infancy, childhood all through to adolescence, 0 – 22 years of age. The following stage is the young-adult stage ranging from 22 – 45 years old. Followed by the middle- adulthood stage which starts at 45 and ends at 60 years old. The final stage is the late-adulthood stage which is 60 years old until death. The final three stages are when career development come into play. (Bergh and Geldenhuys, 2013: 69). I will elaborate on each stage at a later point in the assignment.

Career development is a process through which one’s work identity is formed. It goes hand in hand with human development and much like it, in that it is a lifetime process. Career development happens as early as when a child realises that there are different jobs and each person does whichever one is to their liking. Once a child sees and is able to recognize different occupations, such as a nurse, policeman etc. that indicates the commencement of the career development process (The balance careers, 2019). The career development process involves managing learning, working, leisure as well as constant change that suits the future one has in mind for themselves (Wikipedia, 2019) The four life stages that are in lifespan development apply in career development as well. Below I will elaborate on each stage and how they interlink.

Early- life stage (0 – 22 years)

This is a very important period of development in anyone’s life as it forms the basis of many behaviours and events that will affect the type of person one will becomes well into their adulthood (Bergh and Geldenhuys 2013: 69). If a child grew up in a household with strict parents, that will affect the way they see the world and their relationships with people. Essentially it will have an impact on the psychosocial part of their development. He/she will have insecurities and fears because of believing the world is unsafe. This all might manifest itself into a fear of strangers accompanied by social anxiety (2knowmyself, 2017) At this point in one’s life leading up to career adjustment is the combination of an adolescent’s self – identity and career – identity. The adolescent should have the ability to carry out tasks and fulfil roles they are required to play. A vocational concept was put forth by Gottfredson (1981) to explain what shapes a child’s longing for a certain career. He found that the following for four orientations do:

  • At age 3 – 5 the child is interested in gender-based jobs as a sign of physical strength
  • At age 6 – 8 a child notices that certain jobs are dominated by a certain gender, this is the realisation of sex roles.
  • At 9 – 13 the child has a realisation of different classes in society and how one’s job contributes to what societal class they fall under
  • At 14 to adolescence is when self- awareness kicks in ad the ability to know one’s interests, abilities to see what job would suit those likes and dislikes (Bergh and Geldenhuys, 2013: 85).

Both forms of development are about finding oneself be it in life or in a career.

Young – adult stage (22 – 45)

This period is about adjusting into adulthood and its responsibilities. Entry into one’s career happens at this stage and with time establishing a place in their career after multiple career changes chasing fulfilment. This stage is characterised by changes from every sphere on one’s life as growth is happening. A young adult’s life starts to pick up, as usually marriage and children come into the picture. Self – identity has been established at this point. Any attachment or abandonment issues faced from the early – life stage will manifest themselves through unsuccessful relationships. Cognitively and physically the young adult is still very active (Bergh and Geldenhuys. 2013: 88). Physical abilities are better than they have ever been as they are fully developed. Both career development and human development are nearing a phase of being established fully (Lumen learning, 2019)

Middle – adulthood Stage (45 – 60 years)

From age 45 – 50 are stages of being settled down and stable. Followed by time to be mellow from 50 years old and beyond. This stage is mostly about maintaining and refining of one’s identity. Maintaining marriage, relationships in the family, being present for children transitioning into adulthood, upholding one’s role in society (Bergh and Geldenhuys, 2013: 88). At this stage the body is becoming tired due to health problems. There is a physical decrease in height and other general signs of aging are visible. Cognitive decline is expected affecting memory, rate at which tasks are performed and learning speed (Wikipedia, 2019). Career wise, it is all about improving oneself, improving their skills, adding to their knowledge and acting as a mentor to others with less experience. There is no change in one’s personality (Bergh and Geldenhuys, 2013: 88).

Late adulthood (60 years and beyond)

At this stage every part of development slows down. Both career and human development reach a stage of slowing down (Wikipedia, 2019). Memory loss is experienced, decreased use of intelligence and increase disease rate. There is a decrease in sharpness of one’s five senses (smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing) and a weakened immune system. Cognitively there is a decrease in brain function. Psychosocially, a great deal of loss is experienced as peers and family members pass away, this could result in feelings of loneliness (Lumen learning, 2019) the elderly may discover new hobbies as there is not much to do since they have retired from work at this point. Bergh and Geldenhuys (2013) state that retirement poses a lot of adjusting issues in terms of finances, relationships and idle hours.


By the end of this assignment the reader should have learnt all about Ivan Pavlov’s Classical conditioning process and how he taught his dogs to associate the sound of a ringing bell with it being eating time and how overtime the dogs realised the bell no longer signified feeding time so they no longer salivated. The second part of the assignment shows the four stages of career development and lifespan development, namely, early life, young childhood, middle adulthood and late adulthood and how they interlink and what takes place at each stage.

Reference list

  1. Aging: late adulthood. 2019. Available from: courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/aging-late-adulthood/ [16 August 2019]
  2. Bergh, Z. & Geldenhuys, D. 2013. Psychology in the work context. Cape Town: Oxford
  3. Career development. 2019. Available from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/career_development [16 August 2019]
  4. Classical conditioning (Pavlov). 2014. Available from: learning-theories.com/classical-conditioning-pavlov.html [13 August 2014]
  5. Classical conditioning. 2019. Available from: courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/classical-conditioning/ [13 August 2019].
  6. Early and middle adulthood. 2019. Available from: courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/early-and-middle-adulthood [16 August 2019].
  7. How childhood experiences affect adulthood. 2017. Available from: 2knowmyself.com/how_childhood_experiences_affect_adulthood [16 August 2019]
  8. Ivan Pavlov. 2019. Available from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Pavlov [13 August 2019].
  9. Middle age. 2019. Available from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_age [16 August 2019].
  10. Old age. 2019. Available from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/old-age [16 August 2019]
  11. What is career development? 2019. Available from: thebalancecareers.com/what-is-career-development-525496 [16 August 2019].
  12. What is lifespan development? 2019. Available from: courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-psychology/chapter/what-is-lifespan-development/ [16 August 2019].
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