Classical Conditioning was accidentally discovered in the 1890s. By a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. Earning him the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1904. Even in Ivan’s childhood he demonstrated an interest in research and development. Something he referred to as “the instinct to research’. Known as the father of Russian physiology, a man who completely dedicated his life to science.
During the 1890’s Ivan became interested with the salvation of mammals. By inserting test tubes into the dog’s salivation glands. The amount of salvation would be measured during the digestion period during & after eating.
Dogs were completely isolated from human or any other interaction. Essentially solitary confinement. The only interaction the dog would have. Was when Ivan or one of his assistants would feed the dogs. With a powder made from meat substance.
Upon research they discovered that the dogs began to salivate before eating. Salvation would start when the dog simply seen the food dish. Additional research showed that salvation began when the dogs would hear the footsteps of humans approaching. Which brings us to the topic of conditioned and unconditioned reinforcers.
Unconditioned reinforcers can best be explained as something a living organism does not have to be taught to enjoy. As an example you do not have to be taught on how to breath air. It comes very natural to us. If one does not breath the individual will experience discomfort until the next breath is taken. Or someone eats food because it makes the pain In the stomach go away. Other common unconditional reinforcer’s can be food, water, sex, air & etc. This is considered to be where the most basic form of learning occurs.
Conditioned reinforcers on the other hand are more complex and complicated. Lets take working a job for example. Most people do not enjoy working some may even hate it. But working will usually reward one with money. What good does’ money do you can’t drink or eat it. But you can use it to buy food and water. Long story short this is how we teach animals or humans to complete complicated unnatural tasks.
Later Ivan would introduce a ticking metronome right before and during the times of feeding. As time goes on. The dog will associate the ticking with food. When the dog was presented with the metronome it would beginning to salivate. Similar to the food dish and hearing of footsteps.