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Review: [untitled] Author(s): B. F. Skinner Reviewed work(s): Principles of Behavior by Clark L.

Hull Source: The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Apr., 1944), pp. 276-281 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: Accessed: 27/02/2010 10:01
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Edited by GEORGE L. KREEZER, Cornell University

Principles of Behavior.By CLARKL. HULL. New York, D. AppletonCenturyCompany,1943. Pp. vi, 422. When ProfessorHull first approached behaviortheory in earnest,more than a decade ago, the science of behavior was in a difficult position. Twenty years of the 'natural science method' heralded by Behaviorism had failed to provide a consistentand useful systematicformulation.The commonest laboratoryinstrumentswere still the maze and the discrimination box, and experimentaldata reflectedmany arbitrary propertiesof conclusions of of the apparatus. any degree generalityreferred Acceptable or limiting capacities. While many of these to aspects, characteristics, were valid enough, few were logically compelling, and individual preferenceshad led to many individual 'sciences'of behavior.ProfessorHull saw the need for a logical analysisof the vocabularyof behavior, for an explicit definition of fundamentalterms and an unambiguousstatement of principles. He adopted the rather extreme procedures of 'postulate theory,' and proposed to put order into the science of behavior by carefully defining certain primitive terms and setting up a (necessarily rather large) number of postulates',from which thousands of theorems could be deduced and experimentallytested. It is clear from his early memorandathat he first regardedhis postulatesas in general not directly testable, a condition which gives point to the postulatemethod. Deduced theorems were to be checked against the facts, but the validity of a postulatewas to be establishedby the successof the theoremsto which it gave rise. The cogencyof the postulatemethod may be said to vary inverselywith the accessibilityof a subject matter. When a process cannot be directly investigated,its propertiesmay often be inferred from a study of consequences.This conditionprevailedin the field of behaviorin the early 30s, and Hull's proposal was therefore justified. The situation was, however, changing. The growing influence of Pavlov and other developments in the field at this time revealedthe possibilityof a directattackupon fundamental processeswhich would lead to a different sort of analysis. Hull was one of the first to recognizethis possibilityand to encouragerelevant research.Moreover, he was not insensitive to its bearing upon postula276



of November 28, 1936, he confesses tional procedures.In a memorandum that "the 'geometrical'type of deduction does not permit the ready use of the higher of the calculus and thus has limitations not characteristic forms of scientifictheory." Instead of abandoningthe postulatemethod and turning to the higher forms of theory appropriateto a functional analysis, Professor Hull attempted to salvage his programby combining the two methods. In 1937 he wrote that "the postulates of the theoreticalconstructsare to be the basic laws or principles of human behavior.These laws are to be determined directlyby experiment,so far as feasible, in advanceof their use in will be quantheoreticalconstructs.. The experimentaldeterminations titative, designed to reveal functionalcurvesof basic relationships.Mathematical equationswill be fitted to . .. these curves; such equationswill constitute the postulates of the system." This program,which he called 'logical empiricism,'proved to be an unstable blend of two widely different principles of analysis. Any demonstratedfunctional relation between behaviorand its controlling variablesis not a postulate but a law, and there is little reason to continue with the ritual of postulates. The resultingsplit in ProfessorHull's thinkinghas left its markon the present volume. At one time the author appearsto be working within a formal postulate system; at another he is considering behavior as a dependent variableand relating it to controllingvariablesin the environment.These activities are not always supplementary;on the contrarythey are often mutuallyharmful. The transitionfrom 'principle'to 'process,'or from aspectto functional relation, may be traced in the changing postulate systemswhich Hull has sponsored.He began, in the case of rote learning, with a selected set of current hypotheses, assembled for purposes of clarification and held together by a common relation to a field of research.By 1939 a rough precursorof the present set had been constructed.It revealed the new interest in functional analysis by referring to a group of basic processes (e.g., stimulus excitation, conditioning, motivation) in presumably an exhaustiveway (the currentPostulate16 is said to complete'the statement of primaryprinciples'). Some of these postulateswere in effect inverted definitions; others describedquantitativeprocesses.The method was now of existing principles, being used, not merely for the logical rectification of but for the isolation a systemof variables. The new postulates proved embarrassingly un-hypothetical,however, and sometime after 1939 Hull retreatedto a more speculative level of analysis-the neurological.This is a surprising change, for we are told



will remain at the molar level, as that term is used by that the Prirnciples Tolman. "The objectof the presentwork," writes ProfessorHull (p. 17), of the basicmolarbehaviorallaws underlyingthe social "is the elaboration sciences."Yet Postulate1 begins, "When a stimulusenergyimpinges upon a suitable receptororgan, an afferentimpulse is generated. ... ," and the other postulateshold essentiallyto the same level. Our authoris not always at home in writing of neurology (as, for example, in the careless statement (page 54) that in reciprocal innervation one muscle receives a neural discharge which is inhibitory rather than excitatory in nature), and we can scarcelyexplain the maneuverexcept by assuming that the author is determinedto keep his postulateshypotheticalat any cost. The exigencies of his method have led him to abandonthe productive (and at least equally valid) formulationof behaviorat the molar level and to align himself with the semi-neurologists. of many of his scienThe same pressurehas led to a misrepresentation are often concernedmerely with showing His 'deductions' tific procedures. that complicatedinstances of behavior may be analyzed into simpler instanceswhich have been, or are at least capableof being, studied experito mentally. This is an unavoidabletask in a science of behavior, but to is theorem as the and case as the complicated postulate regard simple In usefulness. of its framework the extend sphere beyond postulational the case of the postulates which are merely quantitativepredictions of to a direct processesyet to be studied, 'deduction'often turns out to refer with the confused be not experimental determination,but this should inscientific force To simple testing of postulatesvia deduced theorems. but to contribute clarity, ferences into the postulative mold does not and confusion. ratherto awkwardness Because of the unsuccessfulattempt to embracea functional analysis, the book will hardly stand as an example of postulate method. Since the book is likely to be received primarilyas an example of method, a few defects from a more strictlylogical point of view may be listed. (1) There are no formal definitions,althoughProfessorHull originally recognized this responsibility. (2) Some postulates contain as many as five of separatestatements,so that referencesto a postulateduring the course convenience in off' never The are a proof 'pay symbols ambiguous. (3) or progress. Six and one-half pages are needed to define them, but they what has alreadybeen said in words. There are used only to paraphrase in the book of a productive manipulationof instance, no is apparently distinction between primary and derived the symbols. (4) Although the principles is frequently invoked, there is no adequatediscussion of



criteriaof primacyor of the level of analysisof the languageof the postulates. (5) The grounds for admission of a new postulateare not stated. Postulates are generally brought in when facts cannot otherwise be accounted for, but this is not always the case. The tendencyis now toward a minimal set, but this is not explicitly discussed. (At least two postulates, which refer to 'inhibition,' could be dispensed with on logical grounds. Although they are carefullyevaluatedwith respectto the statusof inhibino question is raised as to whether they are tion as an 'unobservable,' needed at all. Inhibition,as the obverseof excitation,requiresno separate reference, and none of the facts in Hull's chapter demands the term in any other sense.) Two postulatesmust be objectedto on more than general grounds.The Postulate of Afferent Neural Interactionasserts that the impulses generated by a stimulus energy are changed by each other into 'something different.' Since no provision is made for determining what this something is, the postulatemay be adequatelyparaphrased by saying that it is from to behavior the This is a wellstimulus. physical impossible predict known difficultyin behavior theory, but we have come to expect from this writer somethingmore than an explanatoryfiction. Until the properties of the resulting psychologicalor behavioralstimulus are at least suggested, the postulate serves merely to account for failure to achieve a rigorousanalysisand makes no positive contribution.The same objection applies to the Postulateof BehavioralOscillation,which assertsthe presence of an oscillatory'inhibitorypotentiality' (it might as well have been 'excitatory') which blurs 'the concrete manifestationof empirical laws.' This is another neural fiction, with the single negative function of accounting for failure to predict. In his introductory chapterHull inveighs against certaintraditionalpsychologicalghosts, but it is doubtful whether any of them is quite so ghostlike in function as Afferent Neural Interaction or BehavioralOscillation. Predilectionfor a given method is not in itself objectionable.In the present case, however, it has unquestionablydiverted the author from a frontal attack on crucial issues. The important task of formulating behavior as a system of variablesis performedonly indirectly.The 'pivotal theoreticalconstruct'is Effective Reaction Potential, which is said to be manifested by probability of reaction evocation, latency, resistance to extinction,and reactionamplitude.These measuresdo not, unfortunately, always vary together, and in the face of this difficultyHull selects 'probability' as the best single indicator.This notion appearsvery late in the book, and almost as an afterthought.It is not included in an earlier list



of the manifestationsof habit strength (where, incidentally,the lack of covariationof the other measuresis dismissedas unimportant),yet these manifestationsshould be identical with those of effective reactionpotential. Probabilitylacks the physical dimensions of latency, amplitude,etc., and might better be describedas the thing manifested. Effectivereaction potential could, in fact, be usefully defined as the probabilityof evocation, although ProfessorHull would doubtlesswish to retain some reference to a physicalsubstratum, the concept does little more than assertthat the business of a science of behavioris to predict response.This prediction is to be achievedby evaluatingthe strengthof a response (the probability that it will occur) and relating this to other variables,particularly in the fields of reinforcementand motivation ('emotion' does not appear in the index). Following Tolman, Hull prefers to fractionatethis probability, identifying one part with reinforcement (which is then called 'habit strength') and anotherwith motivation (called 'drive'). A similarly glancing and ineffective treatmentof other current problems seems due to the same methodologicaldifficulties.We expect something new and helpful in the analysisof conditioning, but are presented insteadwith threedemonstrational which areintendedto reveal experiments essential relations in learning. By using the complicatedand unexplored motive of escape (which is likely to confuse eliciting and reinforcing stimuli), the book tries to steer a middle course between Pavlovian and are admittedlydiffioperantconditioning. But his essentialcharacteristics cult to find in the Pavlovianexperiment,and the highly verbal resolution of this difficultyis unsatisfactory. Similarlythe chapter on patterning is heavily methodological,but to no real effect, since the problem is virtually disposed of in the original definition,which limits patterningto the compoundingof stimuli in the Pavlovianmanner. Although the book is not intended as a factual survey,the quantitative relationswhich the authorwould like to see in a science of behaviorare extensivelyillustrated.Except for a certainautistictendencyto create appropriatedata (one-thirdof the graphs representhypotheticalcases), the authorshows his characteristic willingness to abide by experimentalfacts. The present volume probablysets a record for the use of experimental material in a primarilytheoreticalwork. The heavy use of mathematics does not imply, as one might suppose, a more rigorousinsistenceupon a factual correspondence,f6r Bengt Carlson, who is responsible for the equations'at the end of many chapters,has been given too 'complicated much freedom in his curve fitting. The fact that he is able to find 'simple growth functions' which approximatea number of selected sets of data



offers little assuranceof the ultimateusefulness of that function, since he has been allowed to use three constantsto which fresh values are assigned at will. (In one instance (p. 276), Carlson describesthree experimental points with an equation containing three constants!) The mathematicsis also occasionallyrather wishful, as, for example, when detailed instructions are given for 'calculatinghabit strength,' although no techniques have been discoveredfor making the necessary measurements. In spite of an extensive period of development,the Principles reveals a program still in transition. There is every evidence that the postulate method is being sloughed off (comparethe earlierMathematico-deductive Theory), but Professor Hull has not yet made full use of an outright functional analysis. The uncertain theoreticalposition of the book will not lessen its stimulatingeffect in the field of behaviortheory. More important, perhaps, is the researchwhich will certainly follow. The book is wide open to experimentalattack, and it is only fair to add that the authorplanned it that way. B. F. SKINNER Universityof Minnesota Lewin's Topological and Vector Psychology: A Digest and a Critique.
By ROBERTW. LEEPER,Eugene, Oregon. University of Oregon Pub-

lications,Studies in Psychology,No. 1. 1943. Pp. ix, 218. The author of this acute monographhas placed psychologistsunder a very considerable obligation. The growth of Lewin's topological and vectorpsychologyhas been so rapidand so productiveof intriguingexperimental work that serious and comprehensiveconceptual criticism has lagged. Perhapsit is fortunate that the task is so formidable, since this circumstance has resultedin its election by a really competentand careful critic. There is such a thing as strategyin science and Lewin, with his longscience of the sciences standing interest in what he calls the comparative has an shown (vergleichende Wissenschaftslehre), incomparableappreciationof it. Indeed, his whole psychological productionmight be regarded as a single experimentin that field. He has seen the utility for scientific certain stubbornand difficultproblems inquiryof neglecting, temporarily, in the convictionthat they might yield more readilyafter a certainamount of progressin other directions.To use a currentmilitarymetaphor,he has "flowed round" a number of "strong points" or "hedgehogs" in his campaign against the unknown with results which his critic concedes to be spectacular.But eventually these strong points must be reduced or the attackbecome dangerouslyover-extendedand lose in solidity. Leeper