10) John Garcia: Taste Aversion

With the mention of John Garcia, we move into the 1950s.  It was another era booming with psychological innovations. Further on in the series, under Developmental Psychology Studies, we’ll be looking at Harlow’s landmark work (segment 13), but what really sets apart this decade is the Social Psychology expansion, with a number of classical experiments (Asch’s Conformity (segment 19), Sherif’s Robbers’ Cave experiment (segment 20). We also have progress in the cognitive and ethological fields, by Leon Festinger (segment 24), and Tinbergen (segment 25) respectively.

Garcia is most known for his research in taste aversion, which drew primarily on Classical Conditioning. In Pavlov’s experiment, we saw the unconditioned stimulus and the neutral stimulus in a relatively positive context, a dog salivating for food. But could we use these in a negative context, to make a subject respond with disgust or “aversion” to something it would generally desire?

Content Warning for Mild Gore: The following clip shows Actual wolves being conditioned to dislike Actual sheep meat, graphically depicting the wolves hunting sheep, the process of inserting lithium chloride in the sheep’s carcass, and a wolf consuming it. If you think scenes such as these will make you uncomfortable, please feel free to proceed to the next segment.
The following clip explains how conditioned aversion can be used to make wolves feel disgusted by a sheep’s carcass:

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