The Experimental Synthesis Of Behavior: Reinforcement, Behavioral Stereotypy, And Problem Solving

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Psychology Of Learning And Motivation


This chapter discusses the experimental synthesis of behavior. Learning involves the formation of representations that are considerably more abstract than connections between sensory inputs and particular muscle twitches. The units of behavior may be defined functionally in terms of their effects on the environment, and generalizations should be sought relating environmental events such as reinforcement to the occurrences of these functional units. The chapter describes the effects of pretraining variations on the experiments conducted on the behavior of individuals. The pretraining confounds two variables of potential significance. It includes reinforcement and involves a contingency that produces a high degree of stereotypy. The four experiments discussed in the chapter show that a history of reinforcement contingent on particular successful patterns of behavior can have negative transfer effects in later tasks that were substantially different from the pretraining task. The chapter describes the negative effects of rewards. If the application of instructional techniques involving reinforcement contingencies becomes sufficiently widespread, the problematic category of intelligent variation may disappear as a characteristic of human behavior in need of explanation.

Published By

Academic Press


G. H. Bower


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