Biography of Psychologist Clark Hull (1884-1952)

Clark Hull is a psychologist known for his drive theory and research on human motivation. Through his teaching, Hull has also influenced many other well-known and influential psychologists, including Kenneth Spencer, Neil Miller and Albert Bandura.

In the 2002 ranking of some of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, Hull was listed as the 21st most outstanding psychologist.

Learn more about his life, career, and contributions to the field of psychology.

Fast Fact: Clark Hull

  • Born: May 24, 1884, Akron, New York
  • Died: May 10, 1952, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Known for: reduction drive theory, behaviorism, hypnosis research
  • Education: University of Michigan (undergraduate and graduate degrees) University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD)

early life

Clark Leonard Hull’s early life was marked by illness. He was born in New York and grew up on a farm in rural Michigan. His early education was conducted in a single school building, where he will teach for one year after graduation, and then continue to study at Alma College. After graduating from college, his education was delayed by a year due to severe typhoid fever.

At the age of 24, he was infected with polio, his left leg was permanently paralyzed, and he could only walk on iron stents and crutches. He originally planned to study engineering, but due to health problems, he turned his interest to psychology.

Although his poor health and financial difficulties caused his education to be interrupted many times, he eventually obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. In 1918, he was awarded a doctorate. From the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hull’s career and theory

After completing his doctorate, Hull stayed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to teach.During this period, he began to study ability measurement and prediction, and published his book Aptitude test In 1928.

In 1929, he won a position at Yale University, where he will continue to work for his career. He became one of the first psychologists to conduct empirical research on hypnosis.

During this period, he also began to develop what eventually became his behavior-driven theory. Hull draws on the ideas and research of many thinkers, including Charles Darwin, Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and Edward L. Thorndike.

Like other behaviorists, Hull believes that all behavior can be explained by the principle of conditioning. According to Hull’s drive reduction theory, biological deprivation creates demand. These needs activate the driving force, which in turn stimulates behavior. The resulting behaviors are goal-oriented, because achieving these goals contributes to the survival of the organism.

Hull was influenced by Darwin and believed that the evolutionary process influenced these driving forces and the resulting behaviors. He believes that learning occurs when the strengthening of behavior leads to the satisfaction of a certain type of survival need.

For example, basic needs such as hunger and thirst can cause organisms to seek to meet these needs through diet. Then temporarily reduce these drives. It is this reduction in driving force that acts as a strengthening of behavior. Hull believes that behavior is the result of continuous and complex interactions between organisms and the environment.

Contributions to the field of psychology

Hull’s drive reduction theory, as a general learning theory, helps to inspire further work by other researchers.

For example, Miller and Dollard apply Hull’s basic theories more widely, including social learning and imitation. However, they believe that motivational stimulation does not necessarily need to be linked to the survival needs of the organism.

Clark Hull also influenced many other psychologists. He became one of the most cited psychologists in the 1940s and 1950s. Before the cognitive revolution in the 1960s, his theory had a greater impact on American psychology.

He also provided advice to many graduate students who later made significant contributions to psychology, including Neal Miller, OH Mowrer, Carl I. Hovland, and Kenneth Spence.

Although the specific details of his theory have fallen out of favor in psychology, his emphasis on experimental methods sets high standards for future researchers.

Featured Publications

Hull, C. (1933). Hypnosis and suggestion: an experimental method. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Hull, C. (1943). Principles of Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Hull, C. et al. (1940). Rote deductive theory of mathematics. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.


Biography of Psychologist Clark Hull (1884-1952)
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