Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Insight Learning and Shaping

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_851



Thorpe defined insight in his 1964 book “Learning and Instinct in Animals” as: “The sudden production of a new adaptive response not arrived at by trial behavior or as the solution of a problem by the sudden adaptive reorganization of experience.”

Shaping is a powerful animal training method, described by B.F. Skinner, in which a novel behavior (target behavior) or a behavioral sequence is created. It works through successive steps of learning, where one desired behavior at a time is rewarded and learnt. This results in a shaped behavior or in a shaped behavioral sequence.

Theoretical Background

Complex behavior, or sequences of actions, that lead to particular goals, can be found in many animals. However, it is not possible from just observing such complex behavior to know whether they are a result of genetic programming or of different kinds of learning phenomena. Because the exact same behavior, for...

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  1. Tolman, E. C., & Honzik, C. H. (1930). Insight in rats. University of California, Publications in Psychology, 4, 215–232.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Epstein, R., Kirshnit, C. E., Lanza, R. P., & Rubin, L. C. (1984). ‘Insight’ in the pigeon: Antecedents and determinants of an intelligent performance. Nature, 308, 61–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Köhler, W. (1925). The mentality of apes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  3. Pearce, J. M. (2008). Animal learning and cognition. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  4. Thorpe, W. H. (1964). Learning and instinct in animals. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  5. Tomasello, M., & Call, J. (1997). Primate cognition. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution & Department of ZoologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden