Tantrums in the Grocery Store – Part 2

Let’s examine some information on behavioral modification.  If you study psychology, you will learn of a man named Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in behavioral conditioning (Pavlov’s dogs).  His conditioning program, sometimes referred to as “Pavlov’s reflex”, showed that behavior could be conditioned through a series of applied stimuli.  Based on his observations of dogs, Pavlov suggested that the salivation was a learned response.  Dogs responded to the sight of his research assistants’ white lab coats, which the animals had come to associate with the presentation of food.  Later, just the appearance of the assistants in their white lab coats was sufficient to cause the dogs to salivate.

Later, he again tested this theory by associating the sound of a metronome with food.  The dogs would first be exposed to the sound of the ticking metronome, and then the food was immediately presented.  Once the dogs made the association of the metronome ticking sound with food, just the sound of the metronome alone caused the dogs to salivate.

In recent years, scientists have used this same theory to affirm learned behavior relating to rewards and punishment.  For example, mice placed in a maze learn that, when they push a red button at the end of a specific corridor, they receive a reward.  Later, even if the reward is denied, the mice continue will continue to search out that same corridor and begin pushing the red button.  The scientists created a conditioned behavioral in the mice.

Pavlov’s discovery of behavioral conditioning remains one of the most important in psychology’s history.  In addition to forming the basis of what would become behavioral psychology, the conditioning process remains important today for numerous applications, including behavioral modification and mental health treatment.  Classical conditioning is often used to treat phobias, anxiety and panic disorders. [Reference credit to Kendra Cherry, “Pavlov’s Dogs – How Ivan Pavlov Discovered Classical Conditioning”, http://psychology.about.com/od/classicalconditioning/a/pavlovs-dogs.htm]

So, how did we handle this behavior issue in our kids?  Stay tuned to Part 3.