Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Instrumental Behavior, Problem-Solving, and Tool Use in Nonhuman Animals

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_928



Instrumental behavior is action performed to reach a goal, such as to obtain a food item, achieve some other kind of reward, or remove a punishment; the behavior causes the desired outcome. Problem-solving is a subset of instrumental behavior, invoked when a direct action (such as reaching for an object) cannot achieve the goal and an indirect approach must be used (such as opening a container to get the object). To paraphrase Thorndike, a problem exists when the goal that is sought is not directly attainable by the performance of a simple act available in the animal’s repertoire. Instead, the solution calls for either a novel action or a new integration of available actions (Scheerer 1963, reprinted in Riopelle 1967). Tool use is a special kind of problem-solving involving use of an object in the problem-solving sequence. An individual uses a tool when it produces a spatial relation between the tool object and the target...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioral and Brain Sciences Program, Psychology DepartmentUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA