RC Tryon Experiment

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What is this? Does it have anything to do with psychology? I cannot find it on the internet. Thanks for any information about this subject.

-- Lorraine Carnes (jlnjcarnes@lycos.com), September 27, 2003


Run Robert Choate Tryon's name through PsycInfo for references to his work, which is well known among learning theorists. You should find references to it in learning theory texts. There is also quite a bit on Tryon and his work with Tolman in the February 1992 American Psychologist. There is a short obituary of him at the UC Berkeley website at http://dynaweb.oac.cdlib.org:8088/dynaweb/uchist/public/inmemoriam/in memoriam1969/@Generic__BookView

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (hendrika@earthlink.net), September 28, 2003.

Tryon did research in behavioral genetics to see whether "intelligence" could be selectively bred. Specifically, he bred rats to be "maze bright" or "maze dull" by interbreeding the best performers in a 17-unit T maze on the one hand and interbreeding the poorest performers on the other hand. After nine generations of such interbreeding, Tryon obtained almost complete separation between the populations of so-called "maze bright" and "maze dull" rats. Subsequently, it was determined that factors other than what we think of as intelligence or learning abilty determined whether "bright" and "dull" descendent generations of rats performed well or poorly in the maze learning task. For example, the "bright" rats were found to be less fearful of the testing apparatus, to be less distractable, and to have higher motivation for the food rewards. In other words, the two strains of rats may not have been differentially intelligent, they may have merely performed differently due to other factors. A general lesson to be learned here is to be careful of confounding ability with performance. Note also the prejudicial effect of naming the two populations of rats as he did...he might just as well have named them "maze fearless" and "maze fearful," etc.

-- Roger K. Thomas (rkthomas@uga.edu), October 10, 2003.

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