When did Pavlov’s dogs start salivating? When they heard a bell, you say? Au contraire.
Pavlov’s dogs started salivating when they saw lab coats. Workers at a lab that studied digestion noticed that the dogs used in the experiments were drooling for seemingly no reason at all.
It was only Ivan Pavlov, a scientist working at the lab, who made the connection between the lab coats and the drool.
The dogs, Pavlov reasoned, knew that they were soon going to be fed whenever they saw a lab coat. What intrigued Pavlov was the fact that a physical response could be produced solely by way of a mental association.
The dogs couldn’t drool on command consciously, but they could be trained to do so just the same.
That’s when Pavlov went to work with meat, dogs, and bells, and did the controlled experiment that earned him fame and fortune. He won a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his research, but most of us hear about his famous experiment when we study psychology, not medicine.
Once the Pavlovian response became a metaphor for an unthinking popular response to stimulus, it was divorced, in the public consciousness, from the physical reality. It shouldn’t have been.
The mind, when exposed to certain input, can prime the body into a specific state of physical readiness. This has physical, not just social or psychological, consequences.