Clark L. Hull was a renowned American psychologist who lived between 1884 and 1952 and was President of the American Psychological Association between 1935 and 1936. This author made history primarily for his theory of impulse reduction, but this was not his only contribution to psychology and others. science.
In this article, we will review the biography of Clark L. Hull and his theory of momentum reduction. We will also analyze the influence of this deeply relevant theorist on the development of behaviorism, and therefore of scientific psychology.
Biography of Clark Leonard Hull
Clark Leonard Hull was born in Akron, a city in the state of New York, in 1884. According to his autobiography, his father was an aggressive and uneducated man who owned a farm. Hull and his younger brother worked on it as a child and often skipped school to help with the family business.
At the age of 17, Hull began working as a teacher in a rural schoolBut soon after he decided he wanted to study more, so he entered a high school and later on to Soul University, Michigan. Shortly before graduating, he was on the verge of death of typhoid fever.
He then moved to Minnesota to work as an apprentice mining engineer, having majored in math, physics, and chemistry. However, he contracted polio; due to this disease, he lost the ability to move in one leg. During the recovery period, Hull began to read psychology books.
After the illness, he returned to work as a teacher and married Bertha Iutzi. He and his wife began attending the University of Michigan, where Hull graduated with a psychology degree in 1913.. After working a few years as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, he secured a position at Yale University, where he worked until his death in 1952.
Main contributions to behaviorism
Hull considered psychology to be a natural science in every way, just like physics, chemistry, or biology.. As such, their laws could be formulated using number equations, and secondary laws would exist to explain complex behaviors and even individuals themselves.
Thus, this author sought to determine the scientific laws that explain behavior, and in particular two complex and central aspects of human behavior: learning and motivation. Other theorists, such as Neal E. Miller and John Dollard, worked in the same direction as Hull to find the ground rules that would predict behavior.
On the other hand, Hull was the first author to study the phenomena of suggestion and hypnosis using an experimental methodology of the quantitative type. In 1933 he published the book “Hypnosis and Suggestibility”, for which he researched for about 10 years. He considered these methods to be fundamental for a deep understanding of psychology.
Hull proposed in his book “Principles of Behavior” (1943) the theory of momentum, “drive” in the English original. This work had a fundamental influence on the psychology, sociology and anthropology of the 1940s and 1950s and remains one of the classic theories of reference in the history of behavioralism and psychology in general.
Until Hull’s arrival, no psychologist had translated learning concepts (especially reinforcement and motivation) using mathematics. This contributed to the quantification of psychology, And consequently to its approach to other natural sciences.
The theory of impulse reduction
Hull argued that learning is a way of adapting to environmental challenges that promotes the survival of living things. He defines it as an active habit-forming process that allows us to reduce impulses such as hunger, pleasure, relaxation or sexuality. These can be basic or acquired by conditioning.
According to Hull, when we are in a “state of need,” it increases the desire, or motivation, to engage in behavior that we know from experience and that satisfies it. In order for the behavior to be carried out, the habit must have some strength and the reinforcement that will be obtained by the behavior motivates the subject..
The formula Hull created to explain motivation is as follows: Behavioral potential = Strength of habit (number of reinforcements obtained so far) x Impulse (time of deprivation of need) x Incentive value of support.
However, Hull’s theory was defeated by Edward C.’s propositional behaviorism. Such a fact called into question the basis of Hull’s approaches.
- Hull, CL (1943). Principles of behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
- Hull, CL (1952). Clark L. Hull. A history of psychology in autobiography. Worcester, Massachusetts: Clark University Press.