History of Psychology Course
F. Ballantyne, Ph.D.
The "Kerplunk" Experiment
John B. Watson (1907a) portrayed the rat's maze performance as a chain of discrete responses controlled by kinesthetic feedback which become increasingly integrated as training continues. A subsequent study with his Chicago graduate student Harvey Carr (known as the "Kerplunk" experiment) lent even more weight to this "chain of responses" hypothesis. Once the rats were extensively trained to retrieve food at the end of a long arm of a maze, it was shortened by placing a barrier about half way along. When released into this shortened arm, the rats ran squarely into it --making a 'Kerplunk' sound-- and seemed to ignore the food located there (Watson & Carr, 1908).
Watson, J. (1907a). Kinaesthetic and organic sensations: their role in the reactions of the white rate to the maze. Psychological Monographs. 8, No. 33.
Watson, J. & Carr, H. (1908). Orientation of the white rat. J. of Compar. Neurol. & Psyc. 18, 27-44.