Reinforcement: An Enduring Problem in Psychology Selected Readings


Any effort to bring together a limited set of readings on the topic of reinforcement immediately encounters a number of difficulties. First, there is the definition of the term to consider. At least five basic definitions are currently employed, and they are by no means closely related. Second, the term is used by two major approaches to the study of learning which, despite occasional indications of mutual awareness, have tended to push along independently. We refer here, of course, to the drive reductionists and the associationists.

This volume attempts to to provide the reader with a view of the work done by the drive reductionists and their devoted critics. Beginning with Thorndike's postulation of the law of effect we see the progressive elaboration of the term "effect" in the writings of Hull, and subsequently the reworking of Hull's definition by Miller and Dollard. The portion of Guthrie's writing presented is given to provide sharp contrast with Hull's position. Part II of the readings introduces the earliest and most persistent types of researches designed to put the drive reduction notion of reinforcement to the test. These "latent learning" studies and their interpretation stirred up a good deal of controversy.

Part III contains only one article. In this section, Mowrer, initially committed to the utility of the drive reduction hypothesis, chooses to supplement it with the postulation of a two-factor theory of learning which he feels can handle data not easily explicable by either of the factors alone.

The last portion contains recent studies which raised increasingly sharp questions concerning the operational definition to be given the terms "effect" or "reduction." Sheffield and his students are represented by a paper which describes unmistakable learning in the absence of any plausible drive or stimulus reduction. Miller and his students take up this challenge and attempt to show . . .

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • Edward C. Tolman
  • Henry Gleitman
  • Kenneth MacCorquodale
  • Fred D. Sheffield
  • Thornton B. Roby
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Princeton, NJ
Publication year:
  • 1961


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