About me

Dr. P. Prince Dhanaraj

Ph.D. Education, Ph.D. Economics, Ph.D. Management

Educational Consultant,

Teaching, Research & International Collaboration
South India.

Theory of learning

The learning is the centre of purposive theory of Tolman.  He classified learning theory as trial and error, conditioning and Gestalt theory.  Tolman’s students conducted series of experiments to test his theoretical system of behavior.  Macfarlane trained some rats to swim across   a simple maze filled with water to reach the goal box.  Granted that the animals learned to each the food there remained the question of whether they had learned something cognitive about the maze or had learned a series of stimulus – Response(S-R) connections.  To clarify their problem he drained the water out of the maze.  Rats were put into maze so that they could run through instead of swimming to reach the goal box.  He found that the rats could reach the goal without committing any error.  He concluded that the animals learned the specific lay out of the maze.  In other words they have acquired a cognitive map of the maze.

Tolman- An evaluation

            Tolman was a firm believer integrating the various theories of learning, avoiding the extremes of both.  He never adhered to a single explanation of behavior.  His chief contribution is that behavior is purposeful.  He developed a cognate frame work for interpreting learning.  He stood outside the frame work of the main stream of behavioristic psychology.  He was against the mechanistic philosophy of life.  He made   an attempt to combine the two families of learning theory and succeeded to some extent.
            Tolman refers to cognition in a number of ways.  One of these is formation of cognitive map.   The organism forms map of the relationships between signs and goals.  Cognitive maps are intervening variables.  He discusses cognitive aspects of learning a great deal but his formulations are not precise to help prediction of objective behavior.  He only provides the frame work but not laws of learning.  The result is that Tolman is greatly admired and praised and respected but not widely followed.

Stimulus – Response Psychology:

            Since the turn of the century, many psychologists have been intrigued by the parallel between the reflex acts in neurology.  On the one hand and much of behavior on the other.  The neurologist can draw a diagram to show how the candle flame touching the finger (stimulus) leads to the rapid jerking back of the hand (response).  To explain this, he need not mention feelings, ideas or purposes.  He merely envisages a mechanical neural process.  Even in its complexities, this process seems to be vigorous bio-chemical actions.  This is in simple words stimulus-response psychology discussed in detail in the previous package.
            With in S-R camp there are several different sub approaches.  Some S-R psychologists take quite freely about mental stimulus or mental situations.  They think for instance that one idea (Father) act as a stimulus to evoke another idea (Mother) as a response.  Other behaviorists try to reduce all stimuli and responses to physical terms.  A third group represented by B.F. Skinner talks chiefly of responses.  They say less about stimuli.
            While explaining learning the S-R psychologists would use two principles- the principle of association and the principle of reinforcement.  In its extreme form the principle of association visualizes a child making a response like crying while some stimulus is acting on the child.  According to this principle the stimulus becomes attached to the response.  Here we have the well known conditioned reflex stressed by Pavlov and other.
            Few S-R psychologists of the present day rely exclusively on the principle of conditioned reflex.  But most of these psychologists make use of reinforcement.  To Skinner reinforcement is the most crucial overriding principle.  Reinforcement although easy to illustrate, is difficult to define.  Reacting to students ‘answer as good’ well done etc.  is one form of reinforcement.  As a result of continuous reinforcement, the organism tends to repeat the behavior.  When used in psychological theory, make that response more likely to occur in future.

Psychology concept: Experiment - 1

Psychology concept: Experiment - 2