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Edward Tolman

Edward Tolman, born April 14, 1886, is known for being an American psychologist who founded purposive behaviorism a branch of modern day psychology. In fact, Tolman was a Stimulus-Stimulus, non-reinforcement theorist.

Tolman first began attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in order to study chemistry, mathematics, and physics. After reading William James’ Principles of Psychology he became interested in the frield of psychology. In fact it piqued his interest so much that he left his studies at MIT to enroll at Harvard and study psychology. In 1915 Tolman graduated with his PhD from Harvard. He spent most of his life working for the University of California, Berkeley teaching psychology.

Tolman is known for his experiments that he conducted where he trained lab rats to run through mazes in response to food stimuli. From these experiments he wrote several articles and papers. Edward TolmanSome of his most famous writings include Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men, “The determinants of behavior at a choice point”, and “Cognitive maps in rates and men”. Gestalut psychology, which he studied while in German working on his PhD, was very influential in his work. In “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men,” he introduced a new concept called a cognitive map. Today cognitive mapping can be found in almost all fields of psychology. He also made large contributions on the topics of purposeful behaviorism and latent learning.

During the 1950s, the University of California tried to dismiss Tolman because he refused to sign a loyalty to the US because he felt that it interfered with academic freedom. In response to the University’s attempt of getting rid of him, he sued the school. He spoke out against the forced signing of the oath and spoke of the necessity of freedom within academics. In Tolman v. Underhill, the California Supreme Court sided with Tolman and their decision required that institutions rehire all of those employees who were fired because of their refusal to sign the oath.

Tolman was recognized for his contributions with many awards and honors. In 1937, he was the president of the APA. In 1940 he served as the chairman for the Lewin’s Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. In 1957, he was awarded recognition for his contributions by the APAP.

Tolman died on November 19, 1959. A few years after his death The University of California named its new Education and Psychology building “Tolman Hall” to honor his memory and his contribution to the University.

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