The Pavlov’s reflexes at the heart of interactions


What is the PAVLOV reflex?

How does Pavlov’s reflex affect personality and our interactions?

Comment le réflexe de Pavlov joue sur la posture des managers ?

What is the PAVLOV reflex?

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian doctor and physiologist, carried out fabulous research and discoveries with his dogs, which shed light on the way we are conditioned.

The Pavlov reflex

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian doctor and physiologist, has carried out fabulous research and made discoveries with his dogs that shed light on the way we are conditioned… This is known as the Pavlov reflex.

Pavlov conditioned his dog by associating the sound of a bell with feeding his dog. So every day, he prepared his dog’s bowl, activated the bell, called his dog who then saw that the food was there.

Then, one day, he activated the doorbell that his dog was used to. Even though there was no food in the bowl, his dog salivated, because he had made an association in his brain.

Hence the concept of Pavlov’s reflex, which is a form of conditioned reflex.

Pavlov’s reflex can also be referred to as a somatic marker, which sheds light on our personality and the way it is shaped from childhood, and throughout life, by our reactions and interactions. In particular, the Assess Manager test assesses the impact of significant professional experience on ways of doing things that become Pavlov reflexes, and which have a profound impact on the individual’s personality.

What does the Pavlov reflex tell us about our personality?

When a manager gives feedback to an employee, he may take a factual and constructive approach. However, if the person they are talking to has a somatic marker linked to the criticism, their reaction may resemble a Pavlov reflex.

Faced with this criticism, the emotional landscape experienced by the employee is familiar, reactivating a past history in the unconscious. Their subconscious recognises the situation and sends out a signal that generates a “remote-controlled” reaction.

In this way, the employee’s response is not a rational response but an unconscious emotional reaction due to the activation of a buried emotional landscape from the past that is suddenly reactivated.

I’m sure we’ve all had the surprise of reacting in a surprising and disproportionate way to a minor event, or of experiencing a surprising and disproportionate reaction from someone to something we said that seemed harmless to us. This is the result of the activation of a Pavlov reflex set up in the past, which was the best possible response at the time, and which is reproduced here and now, when the reaction is no longer appropriate.

Emotional intelligence, which is measured in the Assess Manager management test, shows the extent to which a person’s level of awareness is sufficiently developed to become aware of the emotions at play in a given situation, to welcome this emotion and take the time to readjust their reaction so that it is not a Pavlovian reflex but an appropriate response to the situation in hand.

The Assess Manager test also measures personality traits that have developed over time, particularly Pavlovian reactions.

Let’s take another example. A person is promoted to a managerial position, and this is their first experience. He has no managerial reflexes because this experience is new to him. However, he has been with the same company for 20 years, and the management culture is very paternalistic.

Faced with his colleagues, he will put in place this familiar landscape and activate an unconscious mimicry, which in the same way will be similar to a Pavlov reflex.
Education has taught us not to say too much about our emotions, and not to show them too much: “Don’t cry” – “Don’t be afraid” – “You’re not going to get angry, are you?

What is a somatic marker?

It’s a sort of Proust’s madeleine.

A memory, triggered by a story or the memory of a meaning, which triggers the emotional memory and impacts our decision-making and the nature of our interactions, by recalling memories, whether positive or negative, conscious or unconscious.

In this way, decisions and emotions are intimately linked.
A person with a phobia of spiders demonstrates low emotional intelligence in the face of a problematic and unresolved somatic marker. The sight of a spider triggers an uncontrolled emotional reaction, recalling a trauma to the body’s memory. The reaction is epidermal. It may be linked to the history of the phobic, or inherited from a parent, for example.

Our hot emotions exist, they have a right to exist, but they are not our best allies. If I react to an emotion in the heat of the moment, or if I react in the cold, i.e. at least after 5 minutes, and ideally the next day, but after 21 days at the latest, I will be able to use my emotions in a more appropriate way.

NLP certainly has certain theoretical sources in Pavlov’s reflex.

Other useful links

To go further with Assess Manager