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Pheromones and embodied cognition vs pet tricks

Posted on May 4, 2013 by James Kohl.

Glen Sizemore wrote: “In short, “recognition” is “just” stimulus control and all behavior (and its controlling variables) is “outside of awareness” until contingencies make one aware.”

My comment: You realize, of course, that you now contradict what you exemplified as Pavlovian conditioning (i.e., tone and foot-shock pairing). Pavlovian conditioning occurs via molecular mechanisms that are obviously “outside of awareness.” Therefore, the contingencies of tone and foot-shock pairing clearly distinguish epigenetically-effected classical (Pavlovian) conditioning from the “recognition” you attribute to operant conditioning.

For example, in our award-winning review, Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, we portrayed what you infer is “recognition” as a form of adaptively evolved embodied cognition. Clearly, the molecular mechanisms of stimulus control (the biological basis for all behavior) are epigenetically effected by food odors and social odors. Epigenetic effects occur long before any contingencies make any organism aware of anything that occurs in the context of nutrient-dependent pheromone controlled adaptive evolution.

Aanimal trainers (e.g., behaviorists) have helped to prevent our understanding of embodied cognition and how it leads to re-cognition (i.e., recognition of unconscious affects due to the effects of hormones on mammalian behavior). Those who disagree may need to examine the reality of Hypothalamic programming of systemic ageing involving IKK-b,NF-kB and GnRH, because GnRH is the central feature of my model.

If my antagonists can introduce operant conditioning into their reconceptualization of what I first presented in 1995 as “Olfactory-genetic-neuronal-hormonal reciprocity in learning, memory, behavior and in immune function,” they might also be able to convince others that tone and foot-shock pairing exemplifies Pavlovian conditioning. If not, they will continue to exemplify the lack of understanding of the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization that most people intuitively understand in the context of linking sensory input directly to behavior.

Food odors are essential to Pavlovian conditi0ning and so are pheromones because both types of odors epigenetically effect GnRH secretion. Moreover, the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input help to explain the adaptive evolution of embodied cognition via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction.

Tone and foot-shock pairing does not epigentically effect GnRH secretion from nerve cells in the hypothalamus. That’s why it cannot exemplify Pavlovian conditioning. The animal is aware of both the tone and the shock, which by the explanation above makes tone and foot-shock pairing an example of operant conditioning. Without knowing the difference between Pavlovian and operant conditioning, people are not likely to understand embodied cognition. Therefore, it is good to know that most people will not ask animal trainers (behaviorists) to help them understand anything other than pet tricks.

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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