Amsels Hypothesistheory

Canadian-born American psychologist Abram Amsel (1922- ) formulated the frustration hypothesis concerning nonreward and extinction of instrumental behavior where the occurrence of nonreward at a moment when the organism is expecting a reward causes the elicitation of a primary "frustration reaction." The feedback stimulation from this reaction is aversive and has short-term, persisting motivational effects upon subsequent instrumental behavior. Amsel states that fractional parts of the frustration reaction become classically conditioned to stimuli preceding its elicitation; cues from "anticipatory" frustration are connected to avoidance responses where the connections are modifiable through training. Earlier treatments and interpretations of the non-reward situation viewed it in a passive role (e.g., E. C. Tolman assumed that nonreward served simply to weaken an organism's expectancy of reward; and C. L. Hull conceived of nonreward trials as allowing the buildup of inhibitory factors without being offset by corresponding increases in habit or incentive motivation). On the other hand, Amsel's frustration hypothesis considers the condition of non-reward as an actively punishing and aversive event, rather than as a passive condition. The consequence of Amsel's position is that many of the effects of nonreward upon responding are viewed today as analogous to the effects produced upon that same behavior by the application of punishment. Although Amsel's frustration theory is one of the dominant conceptions of extinction, it does require critical analysis in light of a few failings. For example, studies indicate that no frustration effect occurs if the organism is expecting different incentives in two different goal locations. Amsel's extinction theory seems to apply only to instrumental, appetitive responses and not to extinction in classical conditioning or instrumental escape conditioning situations. Different resistance levels to extinction may be produced by variations in the sequential pattern of reward and nonreward trials during acquisition of responses; and some studies suggest that extinction is a multiple-deter-minant process whereas Amsel's frustration hypothesis is only one component of the total phenomenon. See also CAPALDI'S THEORY; EXTINCTION THEORY; HULL'S LEARNING THEORY; INSTRUMENTAL CONDITIONING, PRINCIPLE OF; PAVLOVIAN CONDITIONING PRINCIPLES; PUNISHMENT, THEORIES OF; TOLMAN'S THEORY.

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