October 19, 2006

Pavlov Response In Reverse

Ivan Pavlov's research centered around conditional reflexes, most notably for his work on dogs' anticipation of feeding, and how they would drool at the sounds associated with dinner, even if the food had not been presented. As a result, something can be called "Pavlovian" if you respond immediately to a sound in anticipation of what will come next.

In our home, our 16 year-old beagle thinks she has us mastered. Her mealtimes are fairly regular, as soon as I get up in the morning, and around 5:30 in the evening. My wife and I work together to make sure somebody gets home around 5:30, and at latest, six, to get the beagle her dinner, and as far as the dog is concerned, the rest of the day should be focused on an intermittent schedule of napping and snacking. Yet, despite her inability to master the English language, she can communicate quite well, and has discovered a way to summon our attention through a Pavlov-like action.

If her water dish runs low, whether intentionally or not, her drinking the lowest levels of the water causes her dog tags to hit the side of the metal bowl with a "ding, ding, ding!" While she won't directly tell us that her water is low, and she would like a refill, the bell-like "ding, ding, ding!" stops me from what I am doing, forcing to me to walk into the kitchen and fill her water dish, as expected. In effect, that turns our roles in reverse, with her using a bell to manipulate me.

It may be time for some experimentation of our own. What if we changed the bowl to plastic? How would she tell us then?

Listening to ''The Great Escape'', by BT (Play Count: 6)