Tag Archive | conditioning

In the End Pavlov Saw Only Bells and Saliva


Ivan Pavlov never used bells and he just as commonly used orphaned children as he did dogs to experiment on. After Pavlov won the Noble prize in 1904 the scientific community promoted the bells and dogs – rather than the drilling holes in children without complaining parents -angle.

             Pavlov had his own bell though. Pavlov carried around with him his wife’s shoe and later his dead wife’s shoe. Pavlov would look at the shoe, feel the shoe and smell the shoe when he didn’t want to feel insignificant and pointless. Pavlov wanted to discover the natural (eternal and internal) systems that determine human behaviour and human feeling. Pavlov and his assistants Vul’fon and Snarski were not just interested in the natural reflexes (salivation) and the conditioned stimuli (bells). Pavlovian conditioning is also about the learning of emotions, preferences and aversions and likes and dislikes and how these can be expressed (salivated) in many different ways.

     The most important outcome of Pavlovian conditioning was not the success of the fake stimulation (bells) but the capacity of the fake stimulations (bells) to change how the individual responds to the initial real stimulation – dog food. In Pavlov’s dog foodless world people would become attracted to only fake stimulations and then objects that stimulate a mere memory of or unconscious response to an already established fake stimulation of the first initial fake stimulation. In Pavlov’s dog foodless, saliva drenched world the initial real food or stimulation would be first ignored as regressive and then loathed as humiliating and then dissolved and disappeared all together.

Men in strip clubs respond to the fake stimulations of the lights; music, costumes, make up, podium and pole and the stimulation of the other men. Shoppers in a handbag shop respond to the brands, the photos of models, the celebrity endorsements and the stimulation of the other shopper’s stimulation. Politicians, artists and musicians must have the conditioned stimulation of an origin story to be understood as an authority and as worthy.

     Every living thing and every consumable object must be drenched in and floating on the saliva of newly trained fake stimulations in order to be reacted to and made visible. Pavlov dreamed of a world where saliva ran like water through all the pipes and gutters of the cities and irrigated all the farms in the country side. And saliva would drain through rivers into the seas and oceans and create new, ugly and completely inedible marine life.

MAIN PHOTO CREDIT ; Cameron Hayes In the End Pavlov Saw Only Bells and Saliva, 2007 oil on linen, 2 panels overall size: 82 x 100 inches Photo: Hermann Feldhaus Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Art, New York