Critical Commentary

  • M. E. Bitterman


About 35 years ago, when I was an undergraduate student in Schneirla’s laboratory and just beginning to be interested in problems of learning, Warden et al. (1940) published the second volume of their trilogy on comparative psychology—the volume on Plants and Invertebrates—which summarized what we knew then about invertebrate learning. Clearly, we did not know very much, and it must be admitted that we do not know much more today. Habituation is found in a wide range of invertebrates, but still we are in the dark about its relation to associative learning, glimmerings of which also appear almost everywhere, although the controls usually are so inadequate and the measures so subjective that we are hard put to decide what the results mean. Only with few invertebrates have we progressed beyond the turn-of-the-century question as to whether they learn at all. A notable exception, of course, is the octopus, which has been studied in a variety of complex experiments patterned after those with vertebrates, but by a technique so unreliable on the whole (Bitterman, 1966; Walker et al., 1970) that we cannot have any confidence in the findings.


Classical Conditioning Critical Commentary Comparative Psychology Extinction Curve Partial Reinforcement Effect 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. E. Bitterman
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Sensory SciencesUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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