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Edward Chance Tolman. Tolman’s Purposive Behaviorism. Born in Newton, Mass. April 14, 1886 Died Nov. 19, 1959. 1911: Earned BS from Mass. Institute of Tech. in electrochemistry 1912: Introduced to Gestalt psychology 1915: Earned Doctorate from Harvard-retroactive inhibition.

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edward chance tolman

Edward Chance Tolman

Tolman’s Purposive Behaviorism

time line of tolman s life
Born in Newton, Mass. April 14, 1886

Died Nov. 19, 1959

1911: Earned BS from Mass. Institute of Tech. in electrochemistry

1912: Introduced to Gestalt psychology

1915: Earned Doctorate from Harvard-retroactive inhibition

Time Line of Tolman’s Life
tolman s career
1915: Began teaching at Northwestern Univ.

1918: Began teaching at Univ. of Calif. Berkeley.

1923: Returned to Giessen in Germany to study Gestalt psychology.

1930: Studied the role of reward in experiments of maze running with rats.

1932: Wrote Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men.

1937: Presented Presidential address to APA. Pres. Of APA.

1940: Chairman of Lewin’s Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

1942: Published Drives Toward War

Tolman’s Career
tolman s career con t
1946: Tolman’s latent learning experiments criticized by Spence and Lippitt.

1948: Wrote “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men”

1949: Wrote “There is More than One Kind of Learning”.

1957: Received APA award for distinguished scientific contributions.

1958: Wrote Behavior and Psycholgidcal Man; Essays in Motivation and Learning

1959: Received honorary LL.D.-Univ. of Calif.

Tolman’s Career con’t.
the blocked path study
Rat is released into maze.

Has several routes in which to choose from.

Allowed to run freely until it has learned maze.

Barriers are placed in some paths.

Paths vary in length.

Conclusions is that learning involves

development of cognitive maps.

Cognitive maps look at relationships between goals and behaviors as well as knowledge of the environment.

Rats develop series of expectations with respect to behavior-sign significant relationships.

The Blocked-Path Study
an expectations study
An Expectations Study
  • Everything behaves as if they have expectations.

Example: A banana is placed under a cup in full view of a monkey. When the monkey is not looking, the banana is replaced with lettuce. The monkey turns the cup over expecting to find a banana. When it does not, it becomes agitated.

a place learning study
A Place Learning Study
  • Cognitive Map of the Area

*Mental representation of a physical environment where goals are reached.

*Internal representation of relationships between behavior and goals.

  • Related Expectancies
  • Directed Behavior
a latent learning experiment
Rats spent several nights in mazes with- out being fed.

½ found their way to the goal box without reinforcement.

They develop cognitive maps without rewards.

There is delayed learning which is called latent.

Latent learning shows distinction between performance and learning.

A Latent Learning Experiment
four summary principles
Four Summary Principles
  • Behavior is purposive
  • Behavior is cognitive
  • Emphasis on molar aspects of behavior
  • Reinforcement establishes and confirms expectancies
  • Tolman is best remembered for being a pioneer in cognitive psychology.
  • Cognitive maps were a precursor to concepts of spatial memory and spatial thinking.
  • Created a cognitive theory of learning.
  • He was well known for his experiments using rats and maze running.
“In the end the only sure criteria is to have fun. And I have had fun.”


Edward Chace Tolman-another neobehaviorist-deliberately gave behaviorism a different twist; he gave it a purpose (Lefrancois, 2000).