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Guru Index
A guide to who's who in the world of learning and organizational development

People who have influenced management theory, training and employee development

Argyris; Berners-Lee; Buzan; Csikszentmihalyi; de Bono; Deming; Drucker; Gantt; Handy; Juran; Kelly; Laban; Lewin; Lozanov; Maslow; Mayo; McGregor; Pavlov; Piaget; Skinner; Taylor; Thorndike; Watson; Weber.

Argyris, Chris

Chris Argyris is James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behaviour at Harvard University. His early research focused on the unintended consequences for individuals of formal organizational structures, executive leadership, control systems, and management information systems — and on how individuals adapted to change those consequences (Presonality and Organization, 1957; Integrating the Individual and the Organiszation, 1964). He then turned his attention to ways of changing organizations, especially the behaviour of executives at the upper levels of organization (International Competence and Organizational Effectiveness, 1962; Organization and Innovation, 1965).

This line of enquiry led him to focus on the role of the social scientist as a researcher and interventionist (Intervention Theory and Method, 1970; Inner Contradictions of Rigorous Research, 1980). During the past descade he has also been developing, with Donald Schön, a theory of individual and organizational learning in which human reasoning — not just behaviour &0151; becomes the basis for diagnosis and action (Theory in Practice, 1974; Organizational Learning, 1978). Argyris's other books include Strategy, Change and Defensive Routines (1990), and On Organizational Learning (1992).

Argyris is currently working on a project that will relate the perspective presented in Knowledge for Action, (1993) to the ideas of other researchers and practitioners.


Berners-Lee, Tim

Tim Berners-Lee was born in Britain in 1954. He studied Physics at Oxford University and, afterwards, he occupied himself as a computer expert researching real time communication and the development of text processing programs.

In 1980 he was a freelance computer software consultant for the European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva. In the Face with many, dissimilar programs for storing data on mainframe computers, it was not simple for Berners-Lee to keep track of exactly where which data were stored.

Then he had his decisive idea. In 1989, he jointly formulated with his colleague Robert Cailliau, the concept of a meta language, with which one could integrate the computers' differing content.

The program standard HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and the protocol for information exchange between computers HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) was born.

At first, this new technology was only used internally at CERN, but from 1981 the World Wide Web was opened to everyone.

Today Berners-Lee works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston and leads the W3C-Consortium. He is married with two children.

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Buzan, Tony

In 1968, Tony Buzan was working in London as editor of the Mensa International Journal and teaching ‘impossible learners’ when the BBC asked him to host a ten-part educational series called Use Your Head. This innovative program began a 25 year collaboration with the BBC.

Use Your Head, first published in 1974, is a million-copy, perennial bestseller with editions in 17 languages and popularised the use of Mind Maps.

Tony Buzan is a coach for the British Olympic Rowing Team and coaches members of the British Olympic Chess Squad. He is also a published and award-winning poet. For more than 30 years, Tony has worked closely with the learning disabled.

Related Web Sites
The Buzan Centre


Csikszentmihalyi, Milhaly

Milhaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced 'chick-sent-mee-hai') is a Hungarian professor who researched why people pursue activities such as sport and hobbies without being motivated by the need for profit or esteem.

He avoided cultural bias by collecting data from around the world and his findings form the basis of his ideas of 'flow'. The people in his studies became totally absorbed by their hobbies. It was only when they stopped, did they realize that they had a deep feeling of satisfaction. This rhythm of absorption and satisfaction is 'flow'.


de Bono, Edward (1933 - )

Dr Edward de Bono is widely regarded internationally as the leading thinker about thinking. He has written over 50 books, with translations into 27 languages.

Edward de Bono attended St Edward's College, Malta, during the war, and then Malta University. Having obtained a degree in Medicine, he then proceeded as a Rhodes Scholar to Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained an honours degree in psychology and physiology and then a PhD in Medicine. He also holds a PhD from Cambridge and has held appointments at the universities of Oxford, London, Cambridge and Harvard.

What is unique about Edward de Bono is that he works with schoolchildren, senior executives in major corporations and with governments. His ideas are based on an understanding of the mind as a self-organising information system.

Dr de Bono has provided such thinking methods as:

  • Lateral Thinking
  • PO - The Provocative Operation
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Water Logic (and flowscapes)
  • CoRT thinking for teaching thinking in schools

Books include:
  • The Use of Lateral Thinking (also published as New Think) (1967)
  • The Five Day Course in Thinking (1968)
  • The Mechanism of Mind (1969)
  • The Dog Exercising Machine (1970)
  • Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (1970)
  • Technology Today (1971)
  • Practical Thinking (1971)
  • Lateral Thinking for Management (1971)
  • Children Solve Problems (1972)
  • Po: Beyond Yes and No (1972)
  • Eureka: A History of Inventions (1974)
  • Teaching Thinking (1976)
  • The Greatest Thinkers - 30 minds that shaped our civilisation (1976)
  • Wordpower (1977)
  • The Happiness Purpose (1977)
  • Opportunities (1978)
  • Future Positive (1979)
  • Atlas of Management Thinking (1981)
  • Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve Them
  • de Bono's Thinking Course (1982) Reissued 1994
  • The CoRt Thinking Program
  • Tactics - The Art and Science of Success (1984)
  • Six Thinking Hats (1985)
  • Letters to thinkers (1982 - 1987)
  • I am Right, You are Wrong (1990)
  • Sur/Petition (1990)
  • Handbook for the Positive Revolution (1991)
  • Six Action Shoes (1991)
  • Serious Creativity (1992)
  • Teach Your Child How to Think (1992)
  • Water Logic (1993)
  • Parallel Thinking - From Socratic Thinking to de Bono Thinking (1994)
  • Teach Yourself to Think (1994)
  • Mind Pack (1995)
  • Textbook of Wisdom (1996)

Related Web Sites
The Official Edward de Bono site


Deming, W Edwards (1900 - 1993)

One of the fathers of the total quality revolution. The Japanese had noticed that the high quality of American military material was due to W Edwards Deming who had taught 35 000 American engineers and technicians how to use statistics to improve quality.

In 1950, Deming was invited to meet the heads of Japan's leading companies. In 1951 the Japanese created the Deming prize (awarded to companies who put quality first).

It took over 30 years, and the destruction of several industries, before the West took on Deming's philosophy.

According to Deming traditional quality control was a failure because it focused on inspecting for quality rather than preventing failures. Inspection, rejection and re-work can account for as much as 40 per cent of a product's costs. Build the product right the first time and you don't have to inspect.

Deming rejected the idea that defects result from workers' sloppiness, asserting that 94 per cent of quality failures resulted from the system itself.

Related Web Sites
Deming Electronic Network
W Edwards Deming Institute
Deming Co-operative
Deming Slide Show
British Deming Association
Russian Deming Association
The Deming Approach to Education: A Comparative Study of the USA and Japan
Solutions for Public Schools: The Deming Management Plan


Drucker, Peter Ferdinand (1909 - )

Peter Ferdinand Drucker is seen by many as the man who invented management.

1909 Born Vienna, Austria. Father, official in Austrian government.
1920s Gained a degree in law, became a journalist.
1933 - 1936 Investment banker in London.
1933 First book, The End of Economic Man.
1937 Emigrated to the United States.
1942 Second book, The Future of Industrial Man.
1942 First consultancy job with General Motors.
1946 Published The Concept of the Corporation.
1954 Published seminal The Practice of Management:
  • Management By Objectives
  • Risk taking
  • Decisions at lower levels in organisation
  • Make strategic decisions
  • Build self-managing, self-measuring teams.
  • Communicate information fast and clearly.
  • Motivate people.
  • Obtain responsible participation of others.
  • See the business as a whole.
  • Integrate own function with it.
  • Take in external developments.
1958 Business Objectives and Survival Needs:
  1. Human organization designed for joint performance.
  2. Objectives that enable businesses adapt to environment.
  3. Supply an economic good and service.
  4. Innovation and the pursuit of change.
  5. Profitability is absolute requirement of survival (survival is the purpose of an enterprise).

1988 Predicted that in 20 years:
  • Less than half the levels of management,
  • No more than a third the managers,
  • Knowledge-based organisations,
  • Organisations composed largely of specialists.

1995 Published Managing in Times of Great Change.

Related Web Sites
Drucker Foundation
The World According to Drucker - book by Jack Beatty


Gantt, Henry L

Gantt was a schoolteacher by training and contributed to Scientific Management by refining production and cost control techniques. Variations of Gantt's work-scheduling charts (Gantt Charts) are still in use today. He humanised Taylor's differential piece-rate system by combining a guaranteed day rate (minimum wage) with an above-standard bonus. Gantt was ahead of his time by emphasising the importance of the human factor and urging concentration on service rather than profits.


Handy, Charles

Charles Handy is visiting Professor at the London Business School and a consultant to a wide variety of organisations in business, government, the voluntary sector, education and health. Educated at Oriel College, Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management), he has worked in the marketing and personnel divisions of Shell International and as an economist in for the Anglo American Corporation. Until recently he was chairman of the Royal Society of Arts. He broadcasts regularly.

1972 Appointed Professor of the London Business School.
1977 Appointed Warden, St. George's House, Windsor Castle.
1987 Comparative study of management development in America, Japan, Britain and continental Europe commissioned.

Books include:
  • Understanding Organizations
  • Gods of Management
  • The Future of Work
  • Taken for Granted
  • Understanding Schools as Organizations
  • The Making of Managers
  • Understanding Voluntary Organizations.


Juran, Joseph Moses

1904 Born, 24 December in the city of Braila, Romania. His father, Jakob, was a village shoemaker. Sometime after 1904, the family moved to Gurahumora, a Carpathian mountain village then a part of the Austria Hungarian Empire.

1909 Jakob left Romania seeking a better life in America.

1912 Family joined Jakob in Minnesota.

1920 Enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

1924 Graduated with a BSc in electrical engineering and took a job with Western Electric. He was assigned to the Inspection Department of the Hawthorne Works in Chicago.

1928 Wrote training pamphlet called Statistical Methods Applied to Manufacturing Problems.

1937 Juran found himself as the head of Industrial Engineering at Western Electric's corporate headquarters, New York. Conceptualized the Pareto Principle

1941 Juran took leave of absence from Western Electric to be an assistant administrator with the Lend-Lease Administration in Washington.

1945 Juran left Washington and Western Electric to become an independent consultant.

1951 Quality Control Handbook published.

1954 Delivered a series of lectures to Japanese managers.

1964 Published Managerial Breakthrough

1979 Founded the Juran Institute.

Related Web Sites
Juran Institute


Kelly, George (1905-1966)

Originator of the 'Personal Construct Theory' and the Repertory Grid technique.

Laban, Rudolf (1879-1958)

A choreographer and movement theorist who was born in Bratislava in 1879.

Laban evolved a notation for body movements similar to that for music. He believed that whereas gesture (the movement of part of the body) is a social sign, body movement (which involved the entire body) is deeper and more instinctive.

Laban was employed by the British government during the second world war to improve productivity in factories.

Because body movements are so instinctive, many present-day consultants believe that posture, rather than breeding or intelligence, is the best predictor of commercial success and is harder to fiddle than psychometric testing or handwriting analysis.


Lewin, Kurt (1890-1947)

Kurt Lewin is recognized as the founder of modern social psychology. He pioneered the use of theory and experiment to test hypothesis. He made a significant impact on the discipline of group dynamics and action research.

Lewin was born in the village of Moglino in the Prussian province of Posen in 1890. He completed his requirements for a PhD in 1914 and two years later his degree from the University of Berlin was conferred. Lewin emigrated to the United States in 1933, where he became a citizen in 1940.

While at the University of Berlin, Lewin 'found many of the department's courses in the grand tradition of Wundtian psychology irrelevant and dull' and his thinking was changing to emphasize social psychological problems. He is well known for his term 'life space' and work on group dynamics, as well as t-groups. Lewin's commitment to applying psychology to the problems of society led to the development of the MIT Research Center for Group Dynamics. Lewin believed in the field approach: for change to take place, the total situation has to be taken into account. If isolated facts are used, a misrepresented picture could develop. He developed the technique of force-field analysis.

Lewin authored over 80 articles and eight books on a wide range of issues in psychology.

Related Web Site
Kurt Lewin


Lozanov, Dr Georgi (1926-)

A Bulgarian educator and psychologist who emerged in the 1970s as a leading figure in the field of accelerated learning with his theory of suggestology where various techniques, including breathing and music, were found to enhance learning.


Maslow, Abraham H (1908-1970)

Maslow is best known for his ideas on motivation published a paper in 1943 called A Theory of Human Motivation in which he identified a 'hierarchy of needs' with five levels. The most basic of needs is food. When that is satisfied we are motivated by security. The higher level needs are love, esteem and fulfilment (self-actualization).

Born in 1908, Maslow's parents, uneducated Russian immigrants, encouraged Maslow to go to law school. He went to City College of New York but found it uninteresting and dropped out during the first year. Maslow went to Cornell and then to the University of Wisconsin to study psychology. Ironically, what initially attracted him to psychology was behaviourism, particularly the works of John B. Watson.

Maslow finished his Ph.D. in 1934. After graduation, Maslow went to Columbia University to work with the famous learning theorist E.L. Thorndike. But with the birth of his first daughter, Maslow went through a mystical experience similar to the peak experiences he later studied. Looking at his new born child, Maslow realized that behaviourism was incapable of providing the understanding of human behaviour that he now needed.

After Columbia, Maslow taught at Brooklyn College for 14 years. Maslow moved to Brandeis University in 1951 and remained there until shortly before his death in 1970.

Related Web Sites


Mayo, Elton (1880 - 1949)

George Elton Mayo was an Australian-born psychologist who became an early leader in the field of industrial sociology in the United States, emphasizing the dependence of productivity on small-group unity. He extended this work to link the factory system to the larger society.

After teaching at the universities of Queensland in Brisbane (1919-23) and Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (1923-26), Mayo served as professor of industrial research at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (1926-47). The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (1933) is probably his most important book.

In 1927 Mayo initiated a pioneering industrial research project at the Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works, Chicago. His associates, F.J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dickson, summarized the results in Management and the Worker (1939). Parts of this study — those concerning the collection of data, labour-management relations, and informal interaction among factory employees — continued to be influential. Mayo also advocated a personnel-counselling programme that would address the particular needs of industrial workers unable to derive satisfaction from employment in large organizations.


McGregor, Douglas

In 1960 Douglas McGregor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published The Human Side of Enterprise, a classic book that had a major impact on subsequent management education and practice. McGregor challenged many of the prevailing managerial assumptions about worker motivation and behaviour. According to the prevailing view, which he labelled 'Theory X', workers were viewed as uninformed, lazy, and untrustworthy members of the organization. Management's task was to control workers and motivate them through a combination of control systems, fear of discipline or dismissal, and organizational rules. McGregor contrasted this with a 'Theory Y' assumption, namely, that workers are highly motivated and can be trusted to contribute to the organization's objectives if given the opportunity to participate in organizational decision making. Out of the work of McGregor and others, such as Rensis Likert, has evolved 'participative management,' a process in which managers consult with and involve subordinates in organizational problem solving and decision making.

McGregor's views were supplemented by theories that argued for the importance of integrating considerations of workers and their social environment into the design and implementation of new technologies and production systems. These concepts originated in Europe and had substantial impacts on the design of innovative work systems in Scandinavia in the 1960s and '70s. By the early 1980s they had achieved significant acceptance and use in American firms.

Worker-participation models of decision making have grown in importance and popularity in response to the rise of global competition and the rapid pace of technological change. Most contemporary organizational and industrial relations scholars have concluded that the full potential of new information and manufacturing technologies can only be realized through:

  • management processes that support participation and communication across functional lines and departments;
  • flexibility in how work is organized;
  • effective problem solving.

Yet there is still considerable debate among practitioners over the feasibility or wisdom of involving workers in organizational decision making. Therefore, vestiges of both Theory X and Theory Y concepts and practices can be found in organizations today.


Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849 - 1936)

Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who was known known chiefly for his development of the concept of the conditioned reflex. In a classic experiment, he trained a hungry dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, which was previously associated with the sight of food. He developed a similar conceptual approach, emphasizing the importance of conditioning, in his pioneering studies relating human behaviour to the nervous system. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1904 for his work on digestive secretions.

Pavlov, the first son of a priest, spent his youth in Ryazan in central Russia. There, he attended a church school and theological seminary, where his seminary teachers impressed him by their devotion to imparting knowledge. In 1870 he abandoned his theological studies to enter the University of St. Petersburg, where he studied chemistry and physiology. After receiving the M.D. at the Imperial Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, he studied physiology during in Germany from 1884 to 1886. Pavlov studied the secretory activity of digestion. This work culminated in his book Lectures on the Work of the Digestive Glands in 1897.

By observing irregularities of secretions in normal unanesthetized animals, Pavlov was led to formulate the laws of the conditioned reflex, a subject that occupied his attention from about 1898 until 1930. He used the salivary secretion as a quantitative measure of the subjective activity of the animal.

Pavlov's method of studying the normal, healthy animal in natural conditions made possible his contributions to science. He was able to formulate the idea of the conditioned reflex because of his ability to reduce a complex situation to the simple terms of an experiment. Recognizing that in so doing he omitted the subjective component, he insisted that it was not possible to deal with mental phenomena scientifically except by reducing them to measurable physiological quantities.

Although Pavlov's work laid the basis for the scientific analysis of behaviour, his work was subject to limitations. While recognizing the importance of the subjective and its independence of scientific methods, he did not clarify or define this separation.


Piaget, Jean (1896 - 1980)

Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who was the first to make a systematic study of the acquisition of understanding in children.

Piaget's early interests were in zoology — when he was 10 he published an article on his observations of an albino sparrow, and by 15 his publications on molluscs had gained him a reputation among European zoologists. At the University of Neuchâtel, he studied zoology and philosophy, receiving his doctorate in zoology in 1918. Soon afterwards, he became interested in psychology, combining his biological training with his interest in epistemology. He first went to Zürich, where he studied under Carl Gustav Jung and Eugen Bleuler, and then began two years of study at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1919.

In Paris, Piaget devised reading tests for schoolchildren and became interested in the types of errors they made, leading him to explore the reasoning process in these young children. In 1921 he started to publish his findings and was appointed director of the Institut J.J. Rousseau in Geneva. He was professor of philosophy at the University of Neuchâtel from 1926 to 1929. He then joined the faculty of the University of Geneva as professor of child psychology, remaining there until his death.

In 1955 he established the International Centre of Genetic Epistemology at Geneva and became its director. In more than 50 books and monographs, Piaget continued to develop the theme he first discovered in Paris — that the mind of the child evolves through a series of set stages to adulthood.

Piaget saw children as constantly creating and recreating their own models of reality, achieving mental growth by integrating simpler concepts into higher level concepts at each stage. He argued for a 'genetic epistemology', a timetable established by nature for the development of the child's ability to think, and he identified four stages in that development.

He described the child during the first two years of life as being in a sensorimotor stage, chiefly concerned with mastering innate physical reflexes and extending them into pleasurable or interesting actions. During the same period, children first become aware of themselves as a separate physical entities and then realize that the objects around them also have separate and permanent existences.

In the second, pre-operational stage (roughly from age two to age six or seven) children learn to manipulate their environment symbolically through inner representations, or thoughts, about the external world. During this stage, they learn to represent objects by words and to manipulate the words mentally, just as they earlier manipulated the physical objects themselves.

In the third, concrete operational stage (from age 7 to age 11 or 12) occurs the beginning of logic in the child's thought processes and the beginning of the classification of objects by their similarities and differences. During this period, the child also begins to grasp concepts of time and number.

The fourth stage, the period of formal operations, begins at age 12 and extends into adulthood. It is characterized by an orderliness of thinking and a mastery of logical thought, allowing a more flexible kind of mental experimentation. Children learn, in this final stage, to manipulate abstract ideas, make hypotheses, and see the implications of their own thinking and that of others.

Piaget's concept of these developmental stages caused a re-evaluation of older ideas of the child, of learning, and of education. If the development of certain thought processes was on a genetically determined timetable, simple reinforcement was not sufficient to teach concepts; the child's mental development would have to be at the proper stage to assimilate those concepts. Thus, the teacher became not a transmitter of knowledge but a guide to the child's own discovery of the world.

Piaget reached his conclusions about child development through his observations of and conversations with his own children, as well as others. He asked them ingenious and revealing questions about simple problems he had devised, and then he formed a picture of their way of viewing the world by analyzing their mistaken responses.

Books include:

  • The Language and Thought of the Child (1923),
  • Judgement and Reasoning in the Child (1924),
  • The Origins of Intelligence in Children (1948).
He also wrote a series of books dealing separately with children's conceptions of time, space, physical causality, movement and speed, and of the world in general.

Related Web Site
The Jean Piaget Archives


Skinner, B F (1904 - 1990)

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American psychologist and an influential exponent of behaviourism, which views human behaviour in terms of physiological responses to the environment and favours the controlled, scientific study of response as the most direct means of understanding human nature.

Skinner was attracted to psychology through the work of the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov on conditioned reflexes, articles on behaviourism by Bertrand Russell, and the ideas of John B. Watson, the founder of behaviourism. After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1931), he remained there as a researcher until 1936, when he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where he wrote The Behavior of Organisms (1938).

As professor of psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington (1945-48), Skinner gained some measure of public attention through his invention of the Air-Crib, a large, soundproof, germ-free, air-conditioned box designed to serve as a mechanical baby tender, supposed to provide an optimal environment for child growth during the first two years of life. In 1948 he published one of his most controversial works: Walden Two, a novel on life in a utopian community modelled on his own principles of social engineering.

As a professor of psychology at Harvard University from 1948 (emeritus 1974), Skinner came to influence a generation of psychologists. Using experimental equipment that he devised, he trained laboratory animals to perform complex and sometimes quite exceptional actions. A striking example was his pigeons that learned to play table tennis. One of his best-known inventions, the Skinner box, has been adopted in pharmaceutical research for observing how drugs may modify animal behaviour.

His experiences in the step-by-step training of research animals led Skinner to formulate the principles of programmed learning, which he envisioned to be accomplished through the use of 'teaching machines'. Central to his approach is the concept of reinforcement, or reward. Students, learning by use of the machine at their own pace, are rewarded for responding correctly to questions about the material they is trying to master.

In addition to his widely read Science and Human Behavior (1953), Skinner wrote a number of other books, including Verbal Behavior (1957), The Analysis of Behavior (with J.G. Holland, 1961), and Technology of Teaching (1968). Another work that generated considerable controversy, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) advanced the cause of 'behaviour technology' as being comparable to the physical and biological sciences. It also argued that concepts of freedom and dignity may lead to self-destruction. Skinner published an autobiography in three parts: Particulars of My Life (1976), The Shaping of a Behaviorist (1979), and A Matter of Consequences (1983). The year before his death, Recent Issues in the Analysis of Behavior (1989) was published.

Related Web Sites
B.F. Skinner's Bibliography


Taylor, Frederick W

Frederick Winslow Taylor was born in 1856, the son of a Philadelphia lawyer. An engineer by training, Taylor felt that the best way to improve productivity was to improve the physical techniques and methods used by workers. Consequently, he focused on specifics such as efficiency ratings, studies of arm movements, and production rates. He believed there was one best way to perform any given task, and that by performing it in this manner efficiency would be maximised. Taylor is known as the father of Scientific Management.

Taylor understood the value of training and achieved four-fold improvements in productivity by instructing workers in the 'right' technique.

Taylor viewed money as a prime motivator and believed that, if offered a sufficient amount, workers would choose productivity as a means to financial gain. This lead him to believe that piece rates were important to improved productivity. Instead of using traditional piece rate plans, where a worker received a fixed amount per piece, Taylor's plan increased the rate as productivity increased.


Thorndike, Edward L (1874 - 1949)

Edward Lee Thorndike was a U.S. psychologist whose work on animal behaviour and the learning process led to the theory of connectionism, which states that behavioural responses are established through a process of trial and error which 'programs neural connections between the stimulus and the most satisfactory responses.

Thorndike graduated from Wesleyan University in 1895. He began his studies of animal behaviour as a graduate student and received his Ph.D (1898) at Columbia University, where he spent most of his career. He first proposed his two behavioural laws: the law of effect and the law of exercise, in his dissertation: Animal Intelligence (1911).

He regarded adaptive changes in animal behaviour as analogous to human learning and suggested that behavioural associations (connections) could be predicted by application of the two laws: The law of effect stated that those behavioural responses that were most closely followed by a satisfactory result were most likely to become established patterns and to occur again in response to the same stimulus.

The law of exercise stated that behaviour is more strongly established when the connection of stimulus and response has been more frequently made.

Thorndike continued to conduct experiments on animal behaviour and in 1932 determined that the second of his laws was not entirely valid in all cases. He also modified the law of effect to state that rewards for appropriate behaviour always substantially strengthened associations; while punishments for inappropriate responses only slightly weakened the association between the stimulus and the wrong response.

Thorndike's early work is regarded as the first laboratory study of animal learning. His emphasis on measurement and the quantitative analysis of data — as opposed to merely descriptive accounts of experiments — has been enormously influential in modern psychology, particularly affecting behaviourist experimentation.

Thorndike began an association with Robert S. Woodworth to study transference of learning while he was still a graduate student at Columbia. In a paper published in 1901, Thorndike and Woodworth found that learning in one area does not facilitate learning in other areas. Where specific training in one task seemed to cause improvement in learning another, the improvement could be attributed to common elements in the two exercises — not to overall enhancement of the subject's learning abilities. This finding supported proponents of school curricula that emphasized practical, relevant subject matter and activities.

As professor of educational psychology at Columbia from 1904 to 1940, Thorndike influenced several generations of teachers and — through his encouragement of research on individual differences, learning, and mental measurement — contributed significantly to the development of a more scientifically grounded and efficient type of schooling.

An ardent advocate of the transformation of qualitative data into numerical values, he advanced the use of statistics in social science research — chiefly through his handbook, An Introduction to the Theory of Mental and Social Measurements (1904).

Other important works in the early part of his career were The Principles of Teaching Based on Psychology (1906), Education: A First Book (1912), and Educational Psychology, 3 vol. (1913-14; 2nd ed., 1921). These books were responsible for many of the earliest applications of psychology to classroom instruction in arithmetic, algebra, reading, writing, and language and also did much to expose the deficiencies and inequalities in the U.S. educational system of the time.

When his investigations in the 1920s of adult learning revealed that continued learning ability was determined by inborn personal factors (rather than age) adult education was revitalized. Throughout his career, Thorndike published a prodigious number of books and articles; among later works of note were The Psychology of Wants, Interests, and Attitudes (1935) and Human Nature and the Social Order (1940).


Watson, John B (1878 - 1958)

John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who codified and publicized behaviourism, an approach to psychology that, in his view, was restricted to the objective, experimental study of the relations between environmental events and human behaviour. Watsonian behaviourism became the dominant psychology in the United States during the 1920s and '30s.

Watson received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago (1903). In 1908 he became professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and immediately established a laboratory for research in comparative, or animal, psychology. About this time he articulated his first statements on behaviourist psychology, and in the epoch-making article Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It (1913) he asserted that psychology is the science of human behaviour, which, like animal behaviour, should be studied under exacting laboratory conditions.

His first major work, Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, was published in 1914. In it he argued forcefully for the use of animal subjects in psychological study and described instinct as a series of reflexes that are activated by heredity. He also promoted conditioned responses as the ideal experimental tool. In 1918 Watson ventured into the relatively unexplored field of infant study. In one of his classic experiments, he conditioned fear of white rats and other furry objects in an 11-month old boy.

The definitive statement of Watson's position appears in another major work: Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1919), in which he sought to extend the principles and methods of comparative psychology to the study of human beings and staunchly advocated the use of conditioning in research.

His book Behaviorism (1925), for the general reader, is credited with interesting many in entering professional psychology. Following the publication of Psychological Care of Infant and Child (1928) and his revision (1930) of Behaviorism, he worked exclusively in advertising until his retirement (1946).

Related Web Sites
Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It


Weber, Max (1864 - 1920)

Max Weber was a German sociologist and political economist best known for his thesis of the 'Protestant Ethic', relating Protestantism to capitalism, and for his ideas on bureaucracy. His insistence on the need for objectivity in scholarship and his analysis of human action in terms of motivation profoundly influenced sociological theory.

Weber was born in Erfurt, the eldest son of an aspiring liberal politician whose family had become wealthy in the German linen industry. His mother was raised in Calvinist orthodoxy.

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber's best known and most controversial work, He noted the statistical correlation in Germany between success in capitalist ventures on the one hand, and Protestant background on the other. He then went on to attribute the relationship to certain accidental psychological consequences of Puritan notions:

God's omnipotence and omniscience meant that sinful humanity could not know who had been saved — or why they had been saved. The psychological insecurity that this doctrine imposed was too great for many Puritans and they began to look for loopholes that would indicate the direction of divine will. The consequence of this was an ethic of unceasing commitment to one's worldly calling (any lapse would indicate that one's state of grace was in doubt) and abstinence from any enjoyment of the profit reaped from such labours. The practical result of such beliefs and practices was, in Weber's estimation, the most rapid possible accumulation of capital.

Related Web Sites
Max Weber's Home Page
An Essay on Max Weber's View of Objectivity in Social Science
The Spirit of Capitalism