Frustration: The study of behavior without a goal

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Reviews the book, Frustration: The study of behavior without a goal by Norman R. F. Maier (1949). This is a book with a message, a message which is stated in the title and frequently throughout the book. Maier has become convinced on the basis of his well-known experiments on the abnormal behavior of rats in a jumping apparatus that motivational and frustration-instigated behavior must be sharply distinguished. “Frustration introduces a kind of behavior which is not reducible to learning and motivation concepts” (p. 92). This book represents an effort to summarize the results of his many studies on abnormal fixations in rats, to demonstrate how they require the new explanatory principle of frustration-induced behavior, and to apply the new principle to such practical matters as behavior problems in children (Chapter 6), reward and punishment in socialization (Chapter 7), and counseling and therapy (Chapter 8). It is possible that Maier did not intend this book either for the critical experimentalist or clinician, both of whom I feel will be disappointed in it, but for the intelligent lay reader. In this case many of my objections would appear to be beside the mark, but I can only warn the lay reader that as a popular account it is readable (though unnecessarily repetitive), emphatic and persuasive, given to easy overgeneralizations in the clinical area, and very narrow in failing to take into account other research and other viewpoints in the same field. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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