Generaleneral Psychologysychology

dragons

The Tale of Loneome E. B. Twitmyer

E.B. Twitmyer began work on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania about the turn of the century. He was interested in the effect of emotions on the patellar reflex, or knee jerk. The patellar reflex was very important because it could be used to diagnose spinal injuries. Twitmyer built a little hammer that would strike the person's patellar tendon and elicit the reflex. He didn't bother telling his subjects when he was going to release the hammer--he merely let the hammer fall and measured how far the leg jerked. His subjects soon complained that the hammer caught them by surprise. They asked E.B. if he wouldn't warn them before letting the hammer drop. Twitmyer agreed, and began sounding a bell just before he activated the hammer.

I bet you can guess what happened next. One day Twitmyer was working with a person whose knee had been struck hundreds of times. He accidentally sounded the bell without dropping the hammer. Suddenly, the knee jerked even though the tendon had not been stimulated. Twitmyer realized that he had stumbled onto something important. He ceased the work on his original thesis and began to investigate this accidental finding. He presented his work at the 1904 meeting of the American Psychological Association. Unfortunately, he was far ahead of his time and his colleagues were not interested in his study. Discouraged by the lack of attention his findings received, Twitmyer did not pursue his initial experimentation and he passed into scientific history.

Twitmyer had discovered the conditioned reflex, a response pattern upon which a dozen different psychological learning theories would eventually be built. But what might have been never was. And so, credit for the discovery of the conditioned reflex is usually given to the famous Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov.
 
 
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dragons

URL: http://www1.appstate.edu/~beckhp/
Layout and Design © 2001, H. P. Beck
Revised--January 1, 2001

 
 
Generaleneral Psychologysychology

dragons

The Tale of Loneome E. B. Twitmyer

E.B. Twitmyer began work on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania about the turn of the century. He was interested in the effect of emotions on the patellar reflex, or knee jerk. The patellar reflex was very important because it could be used to diagnose spinal injuries. Twitmyer built a little hammer that would strike the person's patellar tendon and elicit the reflex. He didn't bother telling his subjects when he was going to release the hammer--he merely let the hammer fall and measured how far the leg jerked. His subjects soon complained that the hammer caught them by surprise. They asked E.B. if he wouldn't warn them before letting the hammer drop. Twitmyer agreed, and began sounding a bell just before he activated the hammer.

I bet you can guess what happened next. One day Twitmyer was working with a person whose knee had been struck hundreds of times. He accidentally sounded the bell without dropping the hammer. Suddenly, the knee jerked even though the tendon had not been stimulated. Twitmyer realized that he had stumbled onto something important. He ceased the work on his original thesis and began to investigate this accidental finding. He presented his work at the 1904 meeting of the American Psychological Association. Unfortunately, he was far ahead of his time and his colleagues were not interested in his study. Discouraged by the lack of attention his findings received, Twitmyer did not pursue his initial experimentation and he passed into scientific history.

Twitmyer had discovered the conditioned reflex, a response pattern upon which a dozen different psychological learning theories would eventually be built. But what might have been never was. And so, credit for the discovery of the conditioned reflex is usually given to the famous Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov.
 
 
Next Study Question
 
General Home Page
 

dragons

URL: http://www1.appstate.edu/~beckhp/
Layout and Design © 1998, H. P. Beck
Revised--August 20, 1998