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Clark Leonard Hull: Methodology & Theories

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  • 0:00 Soft vs. Hard Science
  • 1:09 Who Was Clark Hull?
  • 1:58 Hull's Drive Theory
  • 3:01 Mathematico-Deductive Theory
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gaines Arnold
Clark Leonard Hull had a tremendous effect on how psychological research was, and is, conducted. This lesson looks at who Hull was and explores his views on methodology and the theories he developed.

Soft vs. Hard Science

Psychology has often been regarded as a 'soft' science, or one that cannot be based on facts and only relies on general theories. This designation, which separates it from the 'hard' mathematically oriented sciences, has been a source of dismay for psychologists and the learned membership of other social sciences since the early years of the twentieth century. Why? Because people within the social sciences believe that they do use 'hard' mathematical reasoning to untangle the vagaries of personal action. Far from being of the 'soft' variety, individual psychology is based on tangible principles that can be both observed and measured.

The problem of being relegated to the 'soft' side of science is a question of origins. Psychology's roots are in philosophy, which is a science of thought and opinion rather than one of fact. In the early 1900s, psychologists decided to change that perception by conducting real experiments into the behavior of humans and animals using the scientific method and statistics. One of the first psychologists to practice using method rather than opinion was Clark Leonard Hull.

Who Was Clark Hull?

Clark Leonard Hull was a behavioral psychologist who believed that the science of psychology would be advanced if it followed the same rigor as other sciences. He introduced objective measurement into his research and sought to quantify the precepts he introduced. By objective measurement, Hull meant gathering data using instruments, such as an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which measures brain activity, rather than the more subjective method of observation. Hull quantified, or mathematically arrived at, his results, thus showing that psychology could use the same scientific methods as other branches of science. He also based his theories on the data he collected. Hull termed the method he used the hypothetico-deductive method because, like the scientific method presently in use, research is conducted by use of a hypothesis, which is tested using objective methods.

Hull's Drive Theory

Like many psychologists of the early to mid-twentieth century, Hull was a behaviorist. He believed in the stimulus-response framework developed by James Watson, but he saw a problem with how Watson explained an individual's reaction to a stimuli. After a great deal of research, he developed what would come to be known as drive theory. Drive theory still follows the path of stimulus-response, but Hull added the concept of a 'drive' in between the two.

Basically, an individual senses a stimulus, such as hunger, and they respond to that stimulus in some way, such as by finding something to eat. However, Hull observed that people sometimes waited for some time before responding to the stimulus and sometimes responded immediately. For example, when a parent hears their baby crying, over time they learn, by the tone, whether the cry signals an immediate need or one that can be delayed. That difference in tone indicates the person's drive to respond to the stimulus. Sometimes an individual is very hungry and eats as soon as they can, and sometimes they only feel a slight twinge of hunger and can wait to respond.

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