Originality Theory


Increasing originality through instruction or practice

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … repertoire of behaviors
  • Knowing is … behaving (triggered by stimuli)
  • Learner is … an organism
  • Learning is … changes in behavior (linking stimuli to responses)
  • Teaching is … training; engineering behavior (through deliberate conditioning)




Originality Theory is one of the few Behaviorisms that deals with creative action. “Originality” refers to relatively infrequent behavior that is unlikely in but relevant to given conditions. (Creativity is seen as a consequence of, but distinct from originality.) Three methods to increase originality are identified: 1) presenting an uncommon stimulus situation that can’t be met with available responses, 2) evoking diverse responses to the same stimulus situation, and 3) evoking uncommon responses as textual responses.


Originality Theory is constrained by its parent discourse. Limited by Behaviorisms’ focus on observable actions and its assumption of cause–effect dynamics, Originality Theory is compelled to offer an account of phenomena that fall outside the frame of Behaviorisms in the language of Behaviorisms. The result is not particularly useful.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Irving Maltzman

Status as a Theory of Learning

Relative to most BehaviorismsOriginality Theory is more focused on influencing learning than interpreting or understanding learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Originality Theory is focused on influencing learning, so it is appropriately classified as a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

With regard to its scientific status, Originality Theory suffers from the same limitations as other Behaviorisms.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Originality Theory” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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