Motivation Of Behavior Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Motivation in Behavior

a) What does Tolman's theory of animal learning tell us about the motivation for human learning?

Unlike John Watson, B.F. Skinner and the other strict behaviorists, or the Russian physiologists like Ivan Pavlov, Edward C. Tolman argued that the behaviorist theory that learning was a matter of stimulus-response (S-R) and positive and negative reinforcement was highly simplistic. Although he rejected introspective methods and metaphysics, he increasingly moved away from strict behaviorism into the areas of cognitive psychology. In short, he became a mentalist without actually using that term to describe himself and concluded that all behavior was "purposive" (Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 428). All of his experiments with rats moving through mazes at the University of Berkeley proved to his satisfaction that behavior was actually the dependent variable, with the environment as the independent variable, with mental processes as intervening variables. Tolman summarized this basic theory, which he applied to humans and rats, as "environmental experience gives rise to internal, unobservable events, which, in turn, cause behavior" (Hergenhahn, p. 431). Even rats in a maze could develop a cognitive map based on predictions, expectations, and trial and error, while learning could occur without positive or negative reinforcement. In fact, we are all learning constantly from our environment and continually updating our mental maps, which are far more complex and sophisticated than those developed by rats.

b) How does what we learn about motivation for human learning affect the way we should teach both formally and informally?

Tolman actually thought that rats were superior to human beings in many ways in that they were not racist, did not fight wars, building nuclear weapons or produce politicians, economists and psychologists. So carrying that thought to its logical conclusion, people have a great deal to learn from rats. In all seriousness, though, if rats with their relatively small brain pans and memories should evidence of thinking, cognition and other mental processes, then human beings obviously possess these as well. Even the dull-normal child is bound to have higher mental capacities...
...Tolman proved in the 1940s that rats could think and remember, and today MRIs and other brain scanning methods do indeed show that real mental processes are occurring all the time. He came to doubt that rewards and punishment really affected learning much at all, which means that grades, tests and diplomas seem somewhat irrelevant. If the rat mind and the human mind simply do not function in that way at all, then much of present-day teaching and learning are using incorrect methods. Whatever motivates the rat, it is not the reward of cheese at the end of the maze or the electric shocks that cause pain when it makes errors. Learners engage in purposeful, goal-directed behavior and form and test theories from experience, but learning itself does not occur because of rewards or punishments.

c) Are current views of human motivation consistent with Tolman's ideas? If current views are different, are they superior to Tolman's? Why or why not?

By the time of his death in 1959, Tolman realized that his views had evolved quite far away from classical behaviorism in the direction of the Gestalt, ego and humanistic psychology that have become dominant today. He anticipated the work of present-day cognitive psychologists and decision theorists, which now affect virtually every area in psychology. Even when dealing with severely autistic children, much less 'normal' learners, behaviorist learning methods have come in for severe criticism for their rigidity and stereotyped nature. Leaf et al. (2010) found that no-no prompting in Discrete Trial Instruction (DCI) was more effective than simultaneous prompting in teaching discrimination tasks to children with autism. This very small study consisted of three autistic children who were taught rote math skills, discrimination between two objects and the correct answers to wh- questions. DCI involves an instructor, a response and consequences to a response -- either positive reinforcement for a correct answer or negative reinforcement for an incorrect one.…

Sources Used in Documents:


Leaf, J.B. et al. (2010). "Comparison of Simultaneous Prompting and No-No Prompting in Two-Choice Discrimination Learning with Children with Autism." Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, No. 2 (Summer 2010), pp. 215-28.

Lerner, R.M. (2002). Concepts and Theories of Human Development, (3rd ed.) Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Lund, S.K. (2009). "Discrete Trial Instruction in Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention" in E.A. Boutot and M. Tincani (eds). Autism Encyclopedia: The Complete Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Prufrock Press, Inc.

Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009). An Introduction to the History of Psychology, (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth

Cite This Research Paper:

"Motivation Of Behavior" (2012, March 22) Retrieved March 1, 2021, from

"Motivation Of Behavior" 22 March 2012. Web.1 March. 2021. <>

"Motivation Of Behavior", 22 March 2012, Accessed.1 March. 2021,