Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory

  • Bernard Weiner


In this section of the book we turn from the mechanistic, drive reduction theories of Freud and Hull to the cognitive, expectancy-value framework advocated by Kurt Lewin. John Atkinson, and Julian Rotter. Lewin is the key transition figure between Sections I and II of this book, for his theory contains many of the tension-reduction notions advocated by Freud and Hull. However, these ideas are incorporated within a more cognitive conception of behavior. Lewin thus provides the bridge from the past to the present. Lewin also was the first psychologist to test experimentally some of Freud’s beliefs about psychodynamics and insisted upon the study of complex, everyday behaviors. Yet he built a quasi-mathematical model of behavior that is surprisingly similar to Hull’s Drive X Habit theory. In this manner, a step was made to include the divergent goals of Freud and Hull within one framework. Later in this book, we will also learn that Lewin greatly influenced attribution theory, another conception for the study of motivation, and even initiated the “T-group” (group therapy) movement, an essential component of humanistic psychology (see Chapter Nine). The pervasive contributions and influence of Lewin often go unnoticed by psychologists. His theory has had a fate similar to what American economists label as “creeping socialism”—we do not like to admit its presence, but readily accept the benefits that it brings.


Task Recall Aspiration Level Negative Valence Comic Book Psychological Distance 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Weiner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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