I am currently reading a review called "Behaviorism, Latent Learning, and Cognitive Maps: Needed Revisions in Introductory Psychology Textbooks". In the review, the author writes:

The prevailing behavioral theories throughout the period of experimental research into latent learning were generally stimulus–response (S-R) association theories; two of the leading S-R association proponents were Clark Hull and Edwin Guthrie

He goes on to discuss how these theories could be used to explain the phenomenon of latent learning in Tolman's 14 unit maze experiment.

What I have a hard time understanding is what, in the Tolman maze, would be considered the stimuli and what is the response?

Is the stimuli the hunger the rat is experiencing at the start, and the response is the rat moving through the maze?

Or is the stimuli the cues the rat is using to navigate through the maze, and the response is still the rat moving through the maze?


1 Answer 1


Your second guess is correct.

In the stimulus–response model, the "stimulus" typically refers to external stimuli. Internal states such as hunger are not part of the model.

As such, Jensen (2006) discusses the natural behaviour of rats in mazes with respect to their biological predispositions (phylogenic) and the structure of the maze (ontogenic). Rats tend to explore spaces rather than stay still, they seek open spaces over dead ends, and prefer novel areas over repeated visits. The availability of space to explore, open corridors vs blind alleys, and unexplored sections of the maze constitute the stimuli, to which the rats respond by choosing which parts of the maze to traverse.

  • $\begingroup$ Great, and with lever pressing as in a Skinner's box, the lever is the stimuli and the lever pressing constitutes the response? $\endgroup$
    – Leo Juhlin
    Apr 4 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ This might be better as a separate question - operant conditioning is different... Rats do not have an innate propensity to press levers as they do to explore mazes, so the trick is to change that. One can think of a queue stimulus, or lever stimulus, but traditionally the reinforcer (eg, food pellet) is considered the stimulus (ie, R-S rather than S-R). $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Apr 4 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense, thanks for the clarification. But is there another example except for a maze to illustrate the stimulus-response model? $\endgroup$
    – Leo Juhlin
    Apr 5 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ Google has lots: Reflexes (hot stove -> withdraw hand), Pavlovian (bell -> salivate), learned (phone ring -> answer the phone), etc. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Apr 5 at 17:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.