Tolman and Honzik (1932)

The original behaviourist theories concerned what is known as 'classical conditioning.' Under normal conditions, the taste of food would make a dog salivate, but the sound of a bell would not. Pavlov showed that if a bell was sounded whenever a dog was offered food, the two stimuli would become paired, and in time, the dog would salivate when the bell was rung, without any food being present. The theory suggests, then, that a given response to a stimulus can be conditioned. The theory was extended to humans, as behaviourism, by Watson.

Skinner extended the theory by proposing what he called 'operant conditioning'. Whereas in classical conditioning, the stimulus and response were a pair of isolated events, operant conditioning deals with stimuli that occur as a result of random behaviours, and predicts that a given behaviour will be more probable if it produces a reward. In his book Walden Two he proposes a Utopian world in which everyone does what everyone else wants, because it is rewarding to them.

What both of these models proposes that one's mental structure is built up from a complex chains of responses following stimuli and forming associations. If laboratory rats are placed in a maze, and rewarded by finding food by following a given route, they will quickly learn that route.

The theory suggested that the stimulus of food led to a chain of responses. Moreover, it should be possible for each of these stimulus/response events to observed and measured

However, though a behaviourist, Tolman was having difficulty explaining his observations. He had divided his rats into three groups. The first group was rewarded whenever they found the food, the second were rewarded from day 11, the third were not rewarded at all.

In time, group one learnt the way through the maze, while group three continued to move about aimlessly. However, group two while moving about apparently aimlessly during the first 11 days, afterwards showed a rapid increase in ability, much more quickly than group one had done.

It appears, then, that learning can occur in the absence of an overt reward, the inference being that the group two's wandering, though apparently random, had improved its abilty to navigate towards the reward after the eleventh day.

Moreover, what was learnt was not a particular sequence of muscle movements, but things about the maze itself in the form of a mental map. Thus, having learnt the way to the food, they would follow the same route if it was flooded, and if a barrier was placed in the way, they would roll under it. Further, that internal systems and processes could not be ignored


Tolman and Honzik (1930) uncited reference in Gross.R.D.,(1987) Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour, (p66), Hodder and Stoughton.

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Bland. J. (2002) About Gender: Tolman and Honzik, 1932
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08.04.98 Last amended 01.01.02, 22.07.07