chapter  4
28 Pages

Intention and Kinds of Learning

WithT. A. Ryan

Other contributors to this volume undoubtedly are inspired by Nuttin's recent works in the field of motivation. Important as these works are, however, I wish to refer back to earlier work, Tâche, Réussite, et Échec (1953), a book whose importance has not been adequately appreciated in the United States and which is highly relevant to the theme of the volume. The failure of many American specialists in learning to take account of the book was partly due to their general tendency to overlook contributions from abroad, but it was also due to its being ahead of its time. It emphasized the role of cognitive factors in reinforcement before cognitive psychology had come into fashion. Even today, the kind of cognitive psychology that is prevalent in the United States, particularly in the field of learning and memory, is still basically behavioristic in its underlying assumptions. Greenwald's translation of parts of the book (Nuttin & Greenwald, 1968) helped to bring the work to the attention of American psychologists, but its implications often met resistance rather than understanding. A major theme of Tâche, Réussite, t Échec was of course the important, indeed essential, role of the "open task" (tâche ouverte) in learning based on reward and punishment or reinforcement. The purpose of this chapter is to explore further implications of the role of tasks in learning, particularly the open task to learn a given set of materials, information, or responses.