Recent Experiments in Psychology

By Leland W. Crafts; Theodore C. Schneirla et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
CONFLICT AND EXPERIMENTAL NEUROSES IN CATS

INTRODUCTION

One of the most important types of research in the fields of animal and abnormal psychology is the investigation of the effects of conflict on animals, with particular emphasis on the appearance of abnormal behavior. This abnormal behavior frequently reaches the degree of "experimental neurosis," a term which means behavior disturbances, produced in an animal by experimental procedures, which resemble the symptoms of human neuroses.

The significance of this type of study to psychology and psychiatry is evident. Controlled experimentation enables us to find out what kinds of situation will bring about behavior disorders in animals. Since human beings are similar to dogs, rats, pigs, sheep, goats, etc., in many important respects, such discoveries may be of aid to us in understanding the causes of similar disorders in ourselves.

The first investigator to produce an experimental neurosis was Pavlov.1 In the study most often cited, a dog was repeatedly shown a luminous circle, immediately following which it was always fed. It also was repeatedly shown a luminous ellipse, after which no food was ever given. It soon mastered the required discrimination, learning to salivate (and get ready for food) whenever it saw the circle, and not to salivate, to remain "indifferent," whenever it saw the ellipse. Then the experimenter presented a series of ellipses, in which the figures became progressively more and more like circles. Eventually the figure became too ambiguous for the discriminative capacity of the animal. The dog became unable to react to it either as to a circle (and thus a food signal) or as to an ellipse (and thus a stimulus for a negative response). Furthermore, the dog was held on a platform by a harnesslike contrivance, so that no escape from the predica

____________________
1
Pavlov I. P. Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. New York, International Publishers, 1928.

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