Watson vs. Tolman about Motivation

According to Zimbardo, Johnson, and McCann (2012), motivation refers to "all the processes involved in initiating, directing, and maintaining physical and psychological activities" (p. G-10).  There may be multiple factors and processes that motivate rats to initiate and complete the maze trip.  Watson and Tolman, because of their different views on behavior, may emphasize on different factors and processes of motivation.

Watson was a radical behaviorist who stressed environmental influences on behavior to the exclusion of so-called mental events and physiological states; on the other hand, Tolman was a methodological behaviorist who was willing to theorize about internal causes of behavior such as cognitive maps and physiological drives (Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 452).  Therefore, Watson would more likely consider motivation as a stimulus-response process in which rats were trained to get food by moving forward, and the motivation for food got reinforced in process.  Tolman might argue that the motivation for rats is the learning process.  According to Tolman’s theory, an organism learns constantly as it observes its environment, thus the rats would learn the maze "with or without reinforcement and with or without motivation" (Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 341).


Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to the history of psychology (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Zimbardo, P. G., Johnson, R. L., & McCann, V. (2012). Psychology core concepts (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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