Conditioned Response

Most people have heard about the experiment in conditioned response carried out by the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936):

While feeding his dogs he rang a small bell.  After some time the dogs started producing saliva at the sound of the bell alone (in his novel Brave New World Aldous Huxley described a similar training which may take many courses).

Now the same method of conditioning has been tried in a Danish company, only this time the object was co-operation:

At a seminar that emphasized the importance of working together in teams where the individual worker is inspired by co-workers, co-operation was exemplified by a small jazz band playing together.  The collectively produced rhythmic quality of "swing" was pointed to as the result of co-operation.

All through the seminar the same record was played,
Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing."

Now, the interesting thing about the seminar is that it also served as a conditioning of the people involved.  By associating the music with the good feeling they had when working together at the seminar, the workers were being conditioned and to such an extent that upon hearing the music today they are reminded of the good effects of co-operarion and start consulting each other.  So they said in an interview on Danish radio.

The funny thing is that it really works - Pavlov was right (as if anybody ever doubted him); the scary thing is that God knows in how many other ways we are being conditioned to a certain response?

October 2000
Erik Moldrup