Latent learning

Latent learning

Latent Learning is a form of learning that is not immediately expressed in an overt response; it occurs without obvious reinforcement to be applied later.

Latent learning is when an organism learns something in its life, but the knowledge is not immediately expressed. It remains dormant, and may not be available to consciousness, until specific events/experiences might need this knowledge to be demonstrated. For instance a child may observe a parent setting the table or tightening a screw, but does not act on this learning for a year; then he finds he knows how to do these things, even though he has never done them before.

In a classical experiment, Tolman and C.H. Honzik (1930), placed three groups of rats in mazes and observed their behavior each day for more than two weeks. The rats in Group 1 always found food at the end of the maze. Group 2 never found food. Group 3 found no food for 10 days, but then received food on the eleventh. The Group 1 rats quickly learned to rush to the end of the maze to find their food. Group 2 rats did not learn to go to the end. Group 3 acted as the Group 2 rats until food was introduced on Day 11. Then they quickly learned to run to the end of the maze and did as well as the Group 1 rats by the next day.

See also


  • Carol Tavris/Carole Wade, Psychology in Perspective (Third Edition). ISBN 0-673-98314-5
  • Citation "Insight" in Rats, retrieved July 14, 2006
  • Tolman, E. C. & Honzik, C. H. "Insight" in Rats, University of California Publications in Psychology, 1930.
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