In the article entitled “The Kingdom of Dogs,” Adams (2020) offers a different perspective on Pavlov’s experiments with dogs that led to the discovery of classical conditioning. The author suggests that animals should be viewed not as passive research objects but as active subjects, possessing distinctive characters and developing relationships with laboratory workers. Adams (2020) describes several of Pavlov’s experiments to show that this scientist objectified dogs and considered them interchangeable. For example, Adams (2020) notes that many animals were sacrificed while Pavlov was conducting numerous operations that involved creating fistulas in the dogs’ digestive system. Yet, the author emphasizes that his aim is not to condemn Pavlov for his cruel experiments but to offer a different perspective on them.
To make his point, Adams (2020) sheds light on the life of dogs in Pavlov’s laboratory. He mentions that the experiments became longer when the study of saliva drops began. Therefore, each dog was assigned to Pavlov’s coworkers, thus enabling the establishment of relationships between animals and humans. Further, Adams (2020) notes that every dog has its character. This hindered Pavlov from making generalized conclusions because animals responded differently to stimuli. The author states that Pavlov sometimes interpreted dogs’ characters in a way that would make them conform to the experiment’s purpose and obtain data. This information is not usually mentioned when Pavlov’s classical conditioning is discussed, which is why Adams (2020) has decided to raise this issue. The author’s main point is that animals are not merely passive objects that can be used to generate hard-set laws.
Pavlov’s classical conditioning is an important concept because it explains a basic learning mechanism characteristic of humans and animals. It occurs when a neutral stimulus is combined with an unconditional response. For example, people are scared when hearing silence in horror movies because they learned to be afraid through classical conditioning. Silence is a neutral stimulus in this case; fear is an unconditional response manifested by increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, and other physical signs. Once people see a scary scene after a moment of quietness in a horror movie, they will begin to anticipate fear in the future when hearing silence under the same circumstances.
From the article, I learned that Pavlov’s dogs responded to stimuli differently. It implies that basic learning through classical conditioning may bring varied results in living beings. Indeed, taking horror movies as an example, one may notice that individuals experience different emotions when watching such films. Some of them fearfully shut their eyes while others laugh or remain calm. It seems that one’s response to a stimulus depends to a certain degree on one’s characteristics and preferences. Therefore, it is difficult to establish hard-set laws that unambiguously explain behavior.
One final important concern raised in the article is the ethics of experimenting on animals. I agree with the author that animals should not be considered passive objects. I had a dog named Stella, and I am confident she had a distinct character and was not interchangeable. She preferred cheese over meat, and I successfully used this preference to train her. I think the same is true about other animals; they have their own identity, so they should not be treated as things. Therefore, I think it would be more ethical to use means for experiments other than animals whenever a replacement is possible.
Adams, M. (2020). The kingdom of dogs: Matthew Adams revisits Pavlov’s labs from a dog’s perspective. The Psychologist, 33, 76-79. Web.