1. How does practice influence learning?
2. Can learning take place without practice? Can learning occur after just one trial?
3. Are the concepts of mind and cognition necessary to an explanation of learning? Does insight aid learning? Can learning be explained simply by mechanical terms? Do behaviorists entertain such notions as thinking and perception?
4. Is motivation necessary for learning? Do rewards and incentives improve learning?

Thorndike and Watson made behaviorism both popular and practical -- popular, because both men wrote in terms that the layman could understand; practical, because their explanations were extended to areas of living where persons most needed help -- in the home, rearing a family; in schools, educating children; and in the world of work, earning a living.

After the work of both Thorndike and Watson, there was an increase in both the number and complexity of learning theories and their related studies. By the 1930's, behaviorism or learning theory was clearly the entrenched psychology in the United States. Theories ranged from the simple to the complex. One of the simplest theories was that constructed by Guthrie of the University of Washington.

GUTHRIE (1886-1959)

Guthrie used one explanatory concept for all learned behavior. His one principle was contiguity. He found no need to introduce elaborate learning laws. Contiguity of time and space was sufficient as an explanation. Any two elements occuring together at the same time and place would be learned. These elements might be two responses, two stimuli, or a stimulus and a response.

Guthrie discarded both the law of exercise, as envisioned by Thorndike, and the law of effect. Practice was not an essential condition of learning. At least the kind of practice as proposed by Thorndike that meant repeating the same response was not part of Guthrie's theory. Guthrie advocated a one trial learning theory. The first association produced a connection; and learning thus occurred. Secondly, it was not necessary, as with Thorndike, that some kind of resulting satisfying state of affairs occur in order for the association to be stamped in. Sheer association among the elements was all that was necessary.

Guthrie attracted numerous supporters by his simple form of behaviorism. The principle of contiguity is easy to understand and is comprehensive. However, common sense dictates that learning does not always occur on the first trial. Repetition or reinforcement seemed needed as additional principles. Obviously, new learning is soon forgotten, a fact which Ebbinghaus had conclusively proved. While contiguity is clearly acceptable, one trial learning was difficult to explain. Guthrie managed a simple explanation, however, by suggesting that we do learn something the first time around.

What we learn involves a very specific context. Specific stimuli are associated with specific responses. For example, we meet a woman in the classroom. She introduces herself as Sue Smith, and we repeat her name. We have learned to associate the name with the image of her face. We have learned to say "Sue Smith" to the figure which we see. But we will never see that identical figure again. A fraction of a second later she has turned her head to adjust her hat. The amount of light that previously played upon her face changes; she looks more tired and more old. A week later, in another section of town, under the moon rather than the sun, a different light reflects from a different dress and hat. Not surprising, it is almost impossible to recall her name. The name has escaped us. We have "forgotten" it. According to Guthrie's theory, however, we simply did not originally associate that particular arrangement of stimuli in that particular context.

Learning, therefore, does require repetition. The practice is not for the purpose of stamping in, reinforcing, or increasing the probability of a response. Rather, the additional practice provides opportunity for additional learnings. The many small associations which we learn are always in varied contexts. There is a "Sue Smith" when her head is to one side and there is a "Sue Smith" with the head turned to the other side. There is a Sue with her hat on and one with her hat off. And another Sue when the sun is up and when it is down. With a sufficiently large number of associations we eventually increase the probability that one of these Sue smiths is the one which will be present at some later day, or at least a sufficiently large number of learned stimuli will trigger off the response associated with them.

Guthrie's system has practical applications which are obvious. Every school teacher knows that while children learn in one context, they must function in still different ones. Further, they know that creating a large number of associations to a new concept or word will create a more permanent learning. Transfer of learning, then, is merely increasing the probability that a similar response will be made on a subsequent occasion. Learning can then prepare one for the necessary adjustments in a changing world and a changing period in one's life.

CLARK L. HULL (1884-1952)

It was obvious that Guthrie's rather simple theory could not solve complex problems generated by the expanding experimental literature in the 1930's. Clark L. Hull, working at Yale University, developed a more sophisticated system. Hull had obtained a Ph.D. in 1918 from Wisconsin and stayed on to become an instructor and eventually a professor. He was director of the laboratory there for several years. In 1929, he departed for Yale. The following year, Harry Harlow came to Wisconsin with a fresh Ph.D. from Stanford and stayed on as director of the Primate Laboratory. And so it was Hull and then Harlow at Wisconsin. And that is what Wisconsin was pretty much about.

Hull went to Yale the year that the International Congress of Psychology met there and the year when the Institute of Human Relations was founded. He stayed there until his death in 1952. During this time he attracted a steady stream of persons who became eminent psychologists which included, along with Harlow, names such as Dollard, Miller, Spence, Miles, Sears, Mowrer, Osgood, Mussen, Kelley and others. Hull became the focal point for American psychology during those war years. The books which he published in 1940 and 1943 became classics. As a contributor to psychological theory, he ranks second only to Freud. He tried and nearly succeeded in placing psychology on a par with the physical sciences. He brought to psychology the mathematico-deductive methodology of Newton. His whole approach was the formulation of hypothetical statements from which could be deduced certain propositions later tested out in the laboratory. If a proposition was negated, the theory would be revised and newly generated deductions would in turn be experimentally tested. This rigorous approach dazzled most psychologists. Hull's skillful and vigorous attack on psychology's most difficult problems was obviously admired and widely emulated by others.

Hull gave concrete meaning to some of the traditional issues in learning theory -- transfer of training, reinforcement, and stimulus generalization. But he did not stop there. He extended his thinking to include individual differences, motivation, and inhibition. The core concept and major independent variable of Hullian psychology is reaction potention -- a function of habit strength, drive, and other stimulus variables. Habit strength, in turn, was a function of the number of times of reinforced trials. These, along with certain inhibitory tendencies, permitted one to predict the resulting response.

Hull's system included a number of corollary principles: a) primary drives (unlearned needs) and secondary drives (learned needs and drives); b) primary reinforcement and secondary reinforcement; and c) primary stimulus generalization and secondary stimulus generalization. His system, then, comprehensively covered both the innate and the learned aspects of behavior. Hull's system was surely the most comprehensive system of any within psychology.

B.F. SKINNER (1904- )

The one major system most like and yet least like Hull's was that of B. F. Skinner. Skinner's theory, like that of Hull's, was a reinforcement theory. But Skinner did not follow Hull in postulating innate drives, reward, and negative reinforcement. Reinforcement, according to Skinner, was any situation which tended to increase the probability of responding at a later time. Skinner did not pretend to know the nature of a drive and he questioned whether any internal force was operating at all. He preferred to explain behavior as a function of the contingencies of the situation. Skinner did not assume that the physical environment got transformed into some internal or intervening variable. There was no absolute reality. Different kinds of realities exist for different kinds of persons . To say that a distorted room is not a reality is, according to Skinner, absolute nonsense .

Contiguity does not prominently figure in Skinner's system. He prefers to use the term "contingency," referring to the conditions present at a particular time. Those conditions which increase the probability that a response will be repeated are called reinforcements. Those conditions which are sought by the organism are positive reinforcements. Negative reinforcement in Skinner's theory also increases behavior; it is the disappearance of aversive contingencies which will make the organism do the same thing again the next time. This is contrary to negative reinforcement in Hullian psychology where the aversive stimuli tend to "stamp out" behavior.

Skinner argues against physiological explanations. Unconcerned with biological substratums, he is intrigued with the behavior itself rather than the duplication of the environment. A search for traces of the environment in the nervous system has led only to failure. He rejects the proposal that copies of nature get projected onto the brain.

Skinner's major thrust is the analysis of those reinforcing affairs which mold or shape behavior. Pavlovian classical conditioning, what Skinner calls respondent behavior is a basic form of learning; it is a response to rather than an initiation of something. Thorndikian instrumental conditioning, on the other hand, yields a response which affects the environment. These voluntary responses are what Skinner calls "operant" behavior. He thereby avoids the connotation that "instrumental behavior" serves some goal and he avoids the dilemma posed by Hume, that antecedent causes cannot be thought of as causes of other phenomenena. He avoids deciding which events are causes and which are effects by suggesting that "operant" behavior is that which, when repeated, tends to be followed by contingencies which reinforce or increase the probability of the response occuring again the next time.

EDWARD TOLMAN (1886-1959)

The behaviorist who is least like the others is Tolman, a theorist who attempted to develop a reapproachment between Gestalt psychology and behaviorism, by including these two schools of thought in his system. Tolman was born in West Newton, Massachusetts, attended M.I.T. and then Harvard University, where he was awarded the Ph.D. the same year that Burtt and Pressey were awarded the M.A. degree. Tolman presumably received his degree under E. B. Holt, a professor who had received his Ph.D. in 1901 from Harvard and then joined the faculty and remained there until he left in 1926 for a visiting professorship at Princeton.

Tolman went to Northwestern where he taught until 1918, when he was f ired for his pacifist leanings. He went to the University of California in Berkeley where he remained until his death, and where one of the newest buildings on campus, the center for the departments of education and psychology, constructed in 1958 was named in his honor. It was a fitting tribute to a great scholar, a kindly teacher, and an inspiring colleague . Apparently few faculty persons at Berkeley were significantly influenced by Tolman's theory, according to an undergraduate student paper written on this topic . His selection of good people, however, helped to build a department of eminent faculty. Tolman attempted to combine behaviorism and Gestalt psychology into what he called "purposive behaviorism." Behavior was more than a blind reaction; it contained direction and purpose. Behavior was not necessarily future directed, in the teleological sense, but it was meaningful, a point of view apparently inspired by E. B. Holt during the time that Tolman was a graduate student at Harvard. Holt apparently influenced Tolman's thinking, even though Tolman worked mostly with Munsterberg. Holt was an erratic member of the Harvard University faculty and was the first academic psychologist to write about Freud, which he did in his 1915 book entitled, The Freudian Wish. Holt introduced the concepts of drive, wish, and motivation into academic psychology. His became a goal directed psychology, following the tradition of Spencer and Lamarck. Holt, along with McDougall and other vitalists advocated a purposive psychology; Watson, however, and the other behaviorists, ridiculed it.

Tolman needed new concepts for his purposive behaviorism. One of his concepts was VTE -- vicarious trial and error. Animals, he said, learned by observation and anticipation. VTE was said to operate for those animals that had opportunity to wander through the maze; they performed better than those naive animals who were permitted to run the maze with no previous contact or experience with it.

Animals were said to learn the maze through a kind of passive observation rather than because they were rewarded for their behavior. When permitted to wander around and examine the maze, these animals, at a later time, exhibited a high level of performance when given a chance to choose the shortest path to the goal. Mere exposure to a new environment, rather than actual practice of a specific response, produced latent learning. This could be demonstrated on a critical test, where the conditions of risk or reward yielded improved performance.

Tolman was interested in explaining purpose. To this end he employed several experiments by Kuo and Blodgett. In the experiment by Kuo, the animal had a choice of going into one of four cages. In the first cage was a shock; in the second cage, the animal was locked inside; the third cage led to a lengthy route to the goal box; and the fourth cage led to a short route to the goal box. Tolman showed that the animals rather quickly displayed preferences. The first rejected the shock box, then they rejected the confinement box, and last was the rejection of the long route to the goal box. Traditional behaviorism explains preferences by the law of exercise -- the more frequent the practice the stronger the preference. But, as Tolman pointed out, each animal began the experiment with equal exposure, or number of trial to each box. Eliminating the shock box as a possible choice was not a function of differential numbers of responses. The responses could be understood only in the context of some meaning, that rats "simply do not like" to be shocked nor contained.

The Blodgett experiment was similar. Tolman used the experiment to explain how latent learning occurs when there is no reward. Animals placed in a maze explored both the long and the short of the two routes leading to a food box. No food was available in the boxes during the exploratory period. hen the critical period of testing began, the goal boxes were filled with food. Those animals who had explored the maze earlier displayed a noticeably greater preference for the shorter rather than for the longer of the two routes. Tolman explained this improved performance as a product of latent learning, a phenomenon not readily observable during those earlier periods when the animal was simply meandering around through the maze.

Tolman's most widely quoted phrase, "cognitive maps," refers to cognitive representations of situations with which the organism has had some experience. This is true for animals no less than for humans. The studies actually show that when original routes are blocked, animals choose alternate routes which get him to a goal box. Experiments with a fan shaped maze demonstrate that there are preferences for direct geographical routes rather than the more practiced routes.

Tolman's learning theory is similar to Gestalt theory in at least three important respects. First, it is a cognitive psychology; i.e., learning is mental rather than observable responses. Second, learning proceeds in a discontinuous fashion. That is, learning occurs through insight or intuition rather than from stamping in of the correct response. This emphasis upon the cognitive is what makes Tolman a centralist -- alone among the many behaviorists who are peripheralists. Third, Tolman opposed the analysis of wholes into parts. In his own terms, psychology should be a study of molar, not molecular, behavior. Molar behaviors are those large patterns of response which are wholes, rather than the simple reflexes or glandular secretions as proposed by elementaristic theorists, which are molecular.


A word should be said about behavior modification, which applies the principles of behaviorism. Psychologists in this area use Hullian and Skinnerian principles to solve practical problems. The problems of most interest to behavior modification psychologists are problems found in clinical settings. For example, cases of chronic bed wetting or temper tantrums, or behavior of danger to oneself or others can be helped with such techniques. Cases of neurosis, such as where an adult may be paralyzed by an obsession or a phobia or where chronic alcoholism or compulsive smoking may create health problems or a strong desire to change, can be assisted in finding a different life style by therapists skilled in behavior modification techniques.

These techniques employ traditional forms of conditioning. One form is aversive control, by using respondent or Pavlovian classical conditioning. A neutral stimulus, e.g. a bottle, might be paired with a noxious stimulus such as a chemical inducing vomiting. The subject eventually develops avoidance reactions whenever a bottle is seen. Another approach is the use of systematic desensitization, where a phobia may be treated by gradually and almost imperceptively increasing the presence of the feared object during a period of quiet, pleasantness, and security, so that there is a gradual desensitization of the feared stimulus.


The neo-behaviorists who followed Watson were the major American theorists during the middle half of the twentieth century. All agreed on observable responses as the subject matter of psychology. The British empiricists were their philosophical models -- i.e., mental stuff originated from sense experiences and complex ideas resulted from association of primary elements. Thus, behaviorists are sensationists, elementarists, associationists, empiricists, and experimentalists. For the most part, behavioristic principles were based on Thorndike. The law of exercise and the law of effect were a part of most theories. Guthrie believed that at least one exercise, but no effect, was a necessary and sufficient condition for learning to take place. Skinner believed that both exercise and/or repetition were necessary. Hull included both and added others. Tolman, in a sense, rejected both by arguing for the importance of cognitive concepts such as insight and awareness.



Now test yourself without looking at the reading.

1. Guthrie maintained that all learned behavior could be explained by which of the following principles?
a. reinforcement
b. cognitive mapping
c. latent learning
d. none of the above

2. The difference between primary and secondary drives is that primary
a. innate
b. learned
c. necessary for social coherence
d. unique to each individual

3. Hull claimed that a response depended upon:
a. habit strength
b. drive
c. number of reinforced trials
d. none of these

4. Skinner's respondent behavior is contrasted to:
a. Pavlovian conditioning
b. contiguity theory
c. trial and error learning
d. Thorndikian theory

5. The behaviorist who was basically anti-physiological was:
a. Skinner
b. Hull
c. Watson
d. Thorndike

6. In writing about molar behavior rather than molecular behavior, Tolman was most influenced by:
a. the act psychologists
b. Wundt's elementism
c. Watson's behavior
d. Gestalt psychology

7. The terms which represent Tolman's brand of psychology are which of the following?
a. purposive behaviorism
b. operant conditioning
c. latent learning
d. vicarious trial and error

8. The oldest of the behaviorists and the one who believed that responses were whole and purposive was:
a. Holt
b. Watson
c. Skinner
d. Weiss

9. Molecular behavior was:
a. coined by Tolman
b. considered by Tolman as significant for study.
c. simple responses such as reflexes
d. complex forms of behavior such as problem solving behavior.




1. Guthrie claims that one trial learning exists. The reason many trials are necessary, however, is because:__________________________.

2. Matching:
a. Guthrie ______ 1. drive reduction
b. Thorndike ______ 2. effect
c. Hull ______ 3. operant conditioning
d. Skinner ______ 4. contiguity
5. exercise
6. reinforcement schedules

3. The degree to which the learning in one situation can be generalized to another situation might be answered by studies in the transfer of training. The fact that such transfer takes place is dependent upon the degree of stimulus generalization and response generalization, major concepts in Hull's theory. If the conditions in real life require reactions essentially similar to those used in training, ________________ generalization will occur, and this will facilitate transfer even though _________________ generalization may be high or low.

4. Skinner's operant behavior is similar to instrumental conditioning; and respondent behavior is similar to ________________ conditioning.

5. Below is a list of some of the "laws" of association as identified by E.S. Robinson some years ago. Which one would appear to be a law in the theory of the person at the left?

a. Hull ______ 1. contiguity
b. Pavlov ______ 2. assimilation
c. Guthrie ______ 3. frequency
d. Tolman ______ 4. intensity
e. Skinner ______ 5. context
6. individual differences
6. Kohler's experiments with apes convinced him that apes could mentally work out solutions to problems and, upon discovering the solution, would then behave differently. This process is called "insight" and, while not characteristic of most behaviorists, it was part of the theory of _________________.

7. "Vicarious trial and error" (VTE) refers to a mental evaluation of a task in which no actual muscle movements are involved. This concept was proposed by _____________________.

8. Molar behavior refers to:
a. the elements that make up behavior
b. consciousness
c. those factors that contribute to improved learning
d. purposive acts


6. Tolman
5. a-1,6; b-1, c-1, d-5, e-1,3
3. response, stimulus
2. a-4 b-2,5; c-l, d-3,6
1. learning in different contexts is required
8. d
4. Pavlovian (classical)
7. Tolman.



Guthrie's system is based on a modified form of the law of:
a. readiness
b. exercise
c. effect
d. excluded middle

2. Hull made a distinction between what two kinds of drives?
a. operant
b. respondent
c. primary
d. secondary

3. Hull is associated with a large number of behaviorists who are sometimes identified with which institution?
a. Harvard
b. Yale
c. Princeton
d. Columbia

4. Tolman's brand of behaviorism is called "purposive behaviorism," illustrating how he attempted to find an accommodation between two theories -- behaviorism and:
a. psychoanalysis
b. Gestalt
c. transactional analysis
d. cognitive psychology

5. Respondent behavior refers to:
a. responses related to external stimuli
b. responses having no external stimuli
c. responses in instrumental conditioning
d. responses which occur as a function of some drive or need

6. Tolman:
a. agrees with purposive psychology
b. uses observation, as do the other behaviorists
c. does not agree with either McDougall or with the behaviorists
d. both a and b


Unit Test

MORE THAN 1 WRONG, instructor conference

Now take the True False Questions. Remember to change the false statements to true after you score yourself.

Unit 7 Table of Contents

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