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Time traveling to 1948 to discuss Edward C. Tolman's "Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men" for my last and final thread for @kwassum's course on instrumental conditioning. JMO, Tolman was ahead of his time, thumbed his nose at McCarthyism, and was a Learning Theorist bad@ss. #scicomm
In his studies of learning in rats, Tolman sought to demonstrate that the mechanisms by which rats (and humans) learn to maneuver through the world involve robust, flexible, autonomous and selective mechanisms that form a cognitive-like map in the brain.
Tolman's ideology was quite different than the rival theory of the day that favored a stimulus-response (S-R) reinforcement-driven view where learning was an automatic response triggered by environmental stimuli. (Tolman pictured all by his onesies on the right 👇).
Both camps would, however, agree that if you require a hungry rat to find its way through a maze to reach some delicious food, that not only will it learn to do so but over trials the rat will get really good (fewer errors) and fast at making its way to the reward.
According to Tolman, the S-R theorist's explanation is that the hungry rat's senses are getting hammered by the sights, sounds, smells and/or other stimuli in the maze coupled with internal cues that pressure the system to move the rat through the maze to the food.
Over trials, S-R learning occurs when the connections that result in the animal going down the "correct" path leading to the reward is more open to receiving messages from the nervous system and consequently strengthening the connection which is reinforced through drive reduction
Tolman uses the analogy the rat's central nervous system to that of a complicated switchboard, where incoming calls from the sense-organs connect to outgoing messages to muscles to describe S-R process.
Now Tolman agrees that, yes the rat is exposed to stimuli while running through the maze. Yes, this influences the rats' response. But the brain didn't need any explicit biologically significant event or food reward to make learning occur.
And this is where things get really interesting in the paper as Tolman starts throwing some serious teleological shade towards those S-R mechanistics!
First off, internal mechanisms in a rat aren't simple one-to-one switches. It's more like a "central control room" taking in the info to formulate routes, paths, and other things about the environment which will determine if the rat will respond or not.
Furthermore, narrow and broad maps are formed and used depending on the demands of the environment. Tolman's grad student observed his rat climb out of the maze, run across the top and down into the food port. The rat couldn't have done this w/out forming larger rep of the maze.
Which leads into 5 sets of experiments Tolman felt most reinforced his cog-map theory, working under the assumptions that learning is a build up of nervous system functions that form a cog-map and maps come in narrow-strip and broad comprehensive varieties.
1) LATENT LEARNING originated by Blodgett, (1929). Ever study really hard for an exam, know the material cold, but then get test anxiety and bomb the exam? You knew the material but your performance doesn't show it, that's latent learning. Rats show the same latent behavior 👇
2) VICARIOUS TRIAL & ERROR (VTE) originated by Muenzinger. Rats compare their options. The more discriminating the cues the more VTEs a rat does (with some exceptions like in overtraining), quite the opposite behavior in humans who increase VTE's when a choice is less clear.
3) SEARCHING FOR THE STIMULUS. Animals need to recognize danger or dangerous situations. Hudson sought & found that rats can learn an avoidance response on the first trial but learning what object to avoid may occur exclusively during the period following a shock.
4) THE HYPOTHESIS EXPERIMENTS. Part of Tolman's theory is a self-initiated character of cog-map learning. Krech, and later Tolman observed rats systematically testing options- first try left turns, then rt turns, then dark alleys, then light ones, never an arbitrary response
5) SPATIAL ORIENTATION (Lashley, 1929). Through a series of exp.'s Tolman ascertained that rats have an ability to go beyond the narrow representations of their environment to form comprehensive maps representing a broader scope of the environment.
Tolman's paper ends on a cautionary note. The expressions of the narrow strip-maps cognitive maps often lead to "regression", "fixation", & "displacement of aggression onto outgroups". This must be avoided by broadening our maps, managing emotions, & encouraging this in our kids.
Tolman's revolutionary concepts on how we "think about thinking", his steadfastness in his convictions against the UC loyalty oath (fired briefly from Berkeley for it), and because of his unapologetic idiomatic style of writing are qualities to be admired and surely remembered.
I found this article from Nov 2014 about Cal's daylong celebration of Tolman’s legacy highlighting not just his cognitive-mapping work but also “his humanity and courage” quoted from Lucia Jacobs, event organizer, and Tolman fan. #UCBerkeley

Link to a copy of the article I found just by googling the title. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. #hippocampus #learningtheorists #PsySci #PsyAlert #PsyEdu

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