Does Pavlov Live on in DJ Casper? Convince Me I'm Wrong.

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Though it may seem ridiculous, I've had a theory for a long time that the best modern example of Ivan Pavlov's work is a line from DJ Casper's dance hit "Cha-Cha Slide." The whole song is just a series of instructions, but one line in particular sticks out (those who haven't attended an event with a DJ in the last six years can watch the video here). At about the 2:10 mark, DJ Casper calls out "Everybody clap your hands," which is followed by a steady rhythm of clapping from the crowd. Every time I've heard that line, be it at a dance, wedding or sporting event, it's followed by the same rhythm of applause. At the last baseball game I attended, they played that single line and all audible conversations stopped so people could concentrate on their clapping. I had always presented my theory about the hand clapping as our generation's classical conditioning (a la Pavlov's dogs) half-jokingly until last weekend. I was absent-mindedly driving when the "Cha-Cha Slide" came on the radio. Without thinking at all, I took my hands off the wheel (while I was still driving, mind you) to clap my hands. That just confirmed my belief that DJ Casper is Pavlov reincarnated.

pavlov2.jpgEven though evidence of conditioning is all around us, I found it a little (a lot?) depressing to think that my best example of Pavlov's legacy is a Bar Mitzvah staple dance track, so I've been looking into other good examples.

E-mail pings, The Office, and a chance to win a free t-shirt all after the break!

One that we're all familiar with is the email ping. In the early days of AOL, the dulcet tones of "You've got mail" were enough to cease any activity to check the mailbox with the expectation of some exciting correspondence. In fact, on this 12-step program for email addicts, step 6 is to disarm the chime. Shoppers at Kmart since 1965 have been conditioned by the store's on-again, off-again blue light specials. These brief sales were signaled by a flashing blue light, which would attract shoppers in search of discounted prices. Plenty of people are conditioned in college to switch songs for school spirit; growing up in Ohio, I can't help but think of shouting O-H-I-O during "Hang on Sloopy," and I don't even like Ohio State. I also can't think of anyone who hears "knock knock" and doesn't respond with "who's there?" Finally, it may not be an everyday example, but I'd still be remiss if I didn't pass on this hilarious clip from The Office about Pavlov in action.

One example I wasn't convinced by was this essay by Reverend David a Noebel from the 60's (scroll down). He contends that rock "˜n' roll, or as he calls it, Beatle-music, is full of stimuli designed to illicit delinquency in America's innocent teenagers.

"We contend that rock 'n' roll, certainly a strong external stimulus, is producing this artificial type of neurosis in our teenagers, and causing teenage mental breakdowns to reach an all time high.... Rock 'n' roll, with its perverted music form, dulls the capacity for attention and creates a kind of hypnotic monotony which blurs and makes unreal the external world."

Readers, I'm turning it over to you. I want to hear your non-dance track suggestions for the best examples of Pavlov's work in everyday life. In fact, I'm going to give out a Pavlov T-shirt from the mental_floss store to the best one, so write your answers in the comments section already!

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August 27, 2007 - 4:51am
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