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Pavlovian reactions aren't just for dogs - Benjamin N. Witts

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Dr. Ivan Pavlov’s groundbreaking work revealed that a dog will respond to neutral stimuli, such as a bell, in the same way that it will respond to, say, mouth-watering food. This research is widely applicable beyond a dog’s salivation. Benjamin N. Witts sketches a few situations in which people are conditioned to react in a Pavlovian way, from dating to parenting.

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  • Director Adam Taylor
  • Educator Benjamin N. Witts
  • Narrator Benjamin N. Witts

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Benjamin N. Witts is part of the University of Nevada's Behavioral Analysis Program.
Why is it that humans react to stimuli with certain behaviors? Can behaviors change in response to consequences? Peggy Andover explains how the brain can associate unrelated stimuli and responses, proved by Ivan Pavlov's famous 1890 experiments, and how reinforcement and punishment can result in changed behavior.
Reflexive Responses: The book Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor describes many great examples of this type of response, as well as providing introductory information on learning by consequences (see below). In addition, check out What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage, by Amy Sutherland.
Learning by Consequences: Operant conditioning, or learning by consequences, is another form of learning in animals and humans. The Science of Consequences: How They Affect Genes, Change the Brain, and Impact Our World is a book by Susan M. Schneider that offers a great introduction to this topic.
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We know from the video that being paired with good things can make someone good. In other words, people will like you and seek you out. We also know that some bad events, like undercooked food, can lead to the avoidance of that thing.
04/26/2013 • 
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TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Adam Taylor
  • Educator Benjamin N. Witts
  • Narrator Benjamin N. Witts

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