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Psych 635 Ethics In Conditioning Research

Psych 635 Ethics In Conditioning Research

When doing research, there must be ethical principles and guidelines that need to be followed to uphold what we value. To avoid unethical mistakes, researchers must consider all ethical issues that may arise and carefully study them. The experiments of Pavlov on conditioning produced plenty of understanding of the psychology field. One of Pavlov’s most famous experiments involved dogs. According to Schunk, “while experimenting with dogs, he discovered that the dogs developed a conditioned response (salivation) to the unconditioned stimulus (meat powder)” Furthermore, Pavlov discovered that when dogs receive food, they salivate, which encouraged Pavlov to coach other responses. Learning Team “B” will discuss ethical violations in Pavlov’s experiment as well as an alternative approach in this paper.

Statement of the Problem

Pavlov’s Conditioning Experiment demonstrated that humans could be conditioned just as easily as dogs. Many ethical violations occurred during these arduous experiments on children. Some of the experiments required painful surgeries and inhumane restraints, and they harmed the children who took part. In one of the experiments, a surgical implant was inserted in the child’s mouth to gather saliva as the child ate. In another experiment, a young child was strapped down and force-fed food as part of a reflex experiment (Into the mind: Mind control, 2010). To protect participants, researchers must follow ethical guidelines when conducting research on human subjects. According to the preamble of the American Psychological Association Scientific (APA), “researchers assume responsibility to conduct research with concern and sensitivity for the welfare and dignity of all human participants, and to conform to all professional standards and all state and federal guidelines regarding research with human participants” (2014). Scholars must take precautions to protect participants’ rights, protect members from physical and mental harm, and determine whether the procedures will put members in danger. Pavlov’s experiments violated all of the above ethical guidelines because the children were harmed and treated inhumanely (APA, 2014).

The Goal of the Research

Pavlov’s study on dogs and children was designed to demonstrate the relationship between environmental stimuli and behavioral responses. Pavlov decided to conduct an experiment on dogs after observing them anticipating salivation, demonstrating how the environment can produce negative or positive behaviors in both. Another goal of Pavlov’s research was to demonstrate how the digestive and gastric processes work in mammals and children. Pavlov’s experiment included measuring and analyzing saliva produced before and after feeding. Pavlov referred to the dogs’ behavior as classical conditioning or unconditioned response.

The Importance of Research

Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov noticed a strange occurrence during his early experiments. There appeared to be a psychological component to dogs’ saliva reflex: the dogs would start salivating simply because they thought they were about to be served food. After witnessing this, he decided to conduct additional research. He decided to test various stimuli on dogs to determine what caused their saliva secretion if it was not a simple automatic reflex. To ensure that his experiments were true and real in time, he operated on the dogs, allowing their saliva to pass through a hole on the outside of their cheek and then into a pouch where saliva production could be measured (Butler-Bowdon, 2015). He stimulated the dogs with buzzers, bells, the beat of a metronome, heat, touching the dog in various places, bubbling and crackling noises, as well as the display of a black square and intermittent flashes of a lamp (Butler-Bowdon, 2015). These stimuli were introduced to the dogs prior to food delivery so that when the dog encountered one of them, it began salivating even if the food had not yet appeared. There were no physiological differences between the dog’s reaction to stimuli and what happened when it saw food. The stimuli, not the food itself, came to mean food for the dog. This is significant in demonstrating how this type of conditioning works. Pavlov’s dog is often the most cited form of research in the realm of training or conditioning.

Alternative Strategy

Ivan Pavlov wanted to broaden his conditioning research to include human subjects as well as animals. He was aware that his experiment had limitations because his subjects were dogs rather than humans. He decided to broaden his learning and conditioning experiment by conducting additional research on children. However, if his approach were implemented today, it would be a violation of ethical standards for both animal and human subjects, which is why an alternative approach should be provided. According to Kopaladze (2000), “whenever possible, living animals are replaced by non-sentient material such as tissue cultures and computer models; mammals are replaced by animals with less well-developed nervous systems; whole animals are replaced by decerebrate ones, or isolated organ systems” (P. 268). The wording is a little different, but it’s the same idea. If the use of human subjects cannot be avoided, he must devise an alternative method that employs no unnecessary force on his test subjects. When conducting experiments on test subjects, researchers have an obligation to do no harm, so alternative methods should be sought to meet that obligation.


In conclusion, Pavlov’s approaches shaped psychology, but the growths mentioned above could be used in an alternative approach. While Pavlov’s experiments with children did not adhere to modern ethical standards, they did not exist at the time. In addition, his research combined knowledge and understanding of unconditioned responses via unconditioned stimulus.


Butler-Bowdon, T. (2015). Psychology classics: Who we are, how we think, what we do. Retrieved from—conditioned- reflexes.html

(2014). American Psychological Association. Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from

“Into the Mind: Mind Control.” Films Media Group, 2010, wID=18566&xtid=43512. Accessed 1 Apr. 2018.

Kopaladze, R. A. (2000). Ivan P. Pavlov’s View on Vivisection. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Sciences: The Official Journal of the Pavlovian Society, 35(4), 266-270.

Schunk, D. H. (2016). Learning theories: An educational perspective (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.


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Complete Parts 1 and 2 for this assignment.

Part 1

Watch “Pavlov’s Experiments on Dogs” and “Pavlov’s Experiments on Children” in the Week Two Electronic Reserve Readings.

Psych 635 Ethics In Condiditoning Research

Psych 635 Ethics In Conditioning Research

Part 2

Prepare a research proposal for one of Pavlov’s research experiments involving children, adjusting it for current principles of ethical guidelines

  • Read the article “The General Ethical Principles of Psychologists”
  • Identify one of the ethical violations and propose an alternative approach that would meet current ethical standards.

Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines.

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