Edward Chace Tolman


Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Edward Chace Tolman received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from MIT. Impressed by James writings, Tolman changed to psychology (earning his Ph.D. at Harvard). Best known for introducing the term “intervening variables,” he also was a pioneer investigate of cognitive maps.

Although he had no systematic theory, Tolman called himself a purposeful behaviorist. He held that behavior is purposeful, goal directed, and molar (not reducible to instincts or reflexes).

A Quaker and a pacifist, Tolman opposed WWI (which may have cost him his teaching job) but worked as a non-combatant in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. A man of principle, Tolman was suspended from UC Berkeley when he refused to sign California’s loyalty oath. Eventually, his position was upheld by the courts, and he was reinstated.


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