Latent Learning

Latent learning is a phenomenon demonstrated by Edward C. Tolman and C. H. Honzic, where learning takes place, but is not displayed until a reward is given for a behaviour that would demonstrate that the learning has occurred.

In one of their famous studies, Tolman and Hozic divided rats into three groups, each given time in a maze each day. One group received food in a “goal” box every day; another was allowed to explore the maze for the same amount of time, but received no food in the goal box until the 11th day. A third group never received food inside the maze.

From the 11th day on, the second group displayed a faster rate of learning than the first group had done during the first 11 days. This lead the scientists to conclude that latent learning had taken place in the rats assigned to the second group.


Tolman, E. C. & Honzik, C. H. (1930). “Insight” in Rats. University of California Publications in Psychology.