Now that I have your attention with a picture of puppies. . .
Do you remember Pavlov’s dogs? Anyone? Buehler, Buehler, Buehler?
Well, if you need a refresher, Ivan Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion. His interest in physiology in general led him to extensive studies of the nerves. That led to his eventual discovery that the nervous system plays a dominant part in regulating the digestive process, leading to the basis of the modern understanding of the physiology of digestion.
This led him to create a science of conditioned reflexes, and so here we have finally arrived at the point.
Habits are conditioned reflexes! You do a thing, and then you do it again, and again, and again, and it becomes a habit.
To greatly simplify some of his work on conditioned reflexes, Pavlov discovered that by ringing a bell and giving the dog food, he was eventually able to show that the dog’s salivary glands began secreting digestive enzymes when the bell was rung – not when he was actually eating. His work showed that conditioned reflexes (habits) are physiological as well as psychological.
My Dog Captain
I noticed how conditioned my sweet dog, Captain has become to sounds. I have a recurring alarm on my phone set for 5:55 am – those with an iPhone should recognize the “harp” ringtone.
Anyway, when this alarm sounds, I get up from the piano, refill my coffee and water, and head upstairs to my office to clock in for work. I’ve noticed that my puppy is so accustomed to that ringtone, that he gets up from his cozy place on the couch, crosses the living room and waits at the bottom of the stairs.
I find that interesting, because I go the other direction – to the kitchen first, and then through the living room to the stairs. He waits to make sure I’m going up, and then he follows. This is a newer conditioned reflex of his. He used to hear it and bound up the stairs ahead of me, but a few times recently, I have been off work but forgot to turn that alarm off. On those days, I stayed in my spot on the loveseat and continued my early morning reading, or went to the yard to fill the birdbaths.
Is “Remember Pavlov” Predictable?
My dog Captain learned that I’m not as predictable as I once was, and so now he waits to see if I’m really going up or not. I suppose he doesn’t want to expend all the energy to climb up and then down the stairs.
I wish it were that easy for us to create a new habit (conditioned reflex). I wonder if we can use a sound to create a new healthy habit. If we want to stop between-meal snacking, can we program our kitchen to sound an alarm when we breach the threshold?
I think instead of investing in high-tech gear to rig our house, maybe just “remember Pavlov” and use the power of our minds as we are learning to do in the Master Key Experience! I like that plan better! What do you think?