Edward Chace Tolman

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tolman, Edward Chace


Born Apr. 14, 1886, in West Newton, Mass.; died Nov. 19, 1959, in Berkeley, Calif. American psychologist of the neobehaviorist school. Professor at the University of California at Berkeley (beginning in 1918).

In contrast to the orthodox behaviorists, Tolman—in line with the theories of Gestalt psychology—upheld the holistic and goal-directed nature of behavior. He was a proponent of the structural-functional rather than the associationist analytical method, holding that individual parts of an action are determined by their function within the whole. Tolman introduced the concept of “intervening variables” as a basic link in the structure of behavior, along with stimulus and response. The names used by Tolman for most of these variables had been used previously, in introspective psychology and in other schools—for example, need, drive, intention, goal, means, meaning, and consciousness. According to Tolman, the functional approach to behavior removes the opposition between objective external observation and subjective introspection. Taking an operationalist point of view, Tolman maintained that, in every concept, objectivity is achieved by giving the concept a twofold operational definition—that is, both in terms of the researcher’s operations and in terms of the operational behavior of the person being tested.

In elaborating these ideas, Tolman developed his cognitive theory of learning and investigated the phenomenon of latent, or hidden, learning. To a great extent, Tolman’s work determined the direction of American psychology in the 1930’s and 1940’s.


Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men. New York–London, 1932.
Collected Papers in Psychology. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1951.


Rubinshtein, S. L. “Neobikheviorizm Tolmena.” In his book Printsipy i puti razvitiia psikhologii. Moscow, 1959.
Tikhomirov, O. K. Struktura myslitel’noi deiatel’nosti cheloveka. Moscow, 1969.
American Psychologist, 1958, vol. 13, no. 4. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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