4.3 Identify the contributions Tolman made to the field of psychology, including details about his most famous experiments.
Edward C. Tolman
Tolman’s experiments with rats were very important in the history of psychology, laying an empirical foundation for a shift from behaviorism to another framework for understanding and explaining learning.
Although Tolman was firmly behaviorist in his methodology, he was not a radical behaviorist like B. F. Skinner. In his studies of learning in rats, Tolman sought to demonstrate that animals could learn facts about the world that they could subsequently use in a flexible manner, rather than simply learning automatic responses that were triggered off by environmental stimuli. In the language of the time, Tolman was an "S-S" (stimulus-stimulus), non-reinforcement theorist: he drew on Gestalt psychology to argue that animals could learn the connections between stimuli and did not need any explicit biologically significant event to make learning occur. This is known as latent learning.
Tolman experimentally demonstrated latent learning (observational learning in the absence of a goal or reinforcement). Two groups of rats were allowed to wander through a maze for 10 trials. One group always was fed in the maze, whereas the other group was never fed. Rats fed in the maze quickly reduced their time and number of errors in running the maze, but time and errors for the other group remained high. Starting on the 11th trial, some rats from the nonreinforced group received food for running the maze. Both their time and number of errors quickly dropped to the levels of the group that always had been fed; the running times and error rates for rats that remained nonreinforced did not change. Rats in the nonreinforced group had learned features of the maze by wandering through it without reinforcement. When food was introduced, the latent learning quickly displayed itself.
This is a diagram included in the article: Tolman, E. C. (1948). Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review, 55(4), 189–208.
This work, in addition to the studies defining gestalt learning, eventually led to the development of cognitivism and its most dominant learning models: information processing.