Human Learning

By Edward L. Thorndike; Richard M. Elliott | Go to book overview

Lecture 2
THE INFLUENCE OF THE FREQUENCY OF OCCURRENCE OF A CONNECTION: THE PRINCIPLE OF BELONGING

IN the previous lecture we investigated the changes produced in a mind by its repeated subjection to the same situation. To-day we shall investigate the changes produced in a mind by its repeated operating of the same connection.

In the ordinary experiments upon learning the individual knows what he is to learn. He is consequently satisfied by what makes, or seems to make, progress toward it. It is then difficult to obtain any measurements of the potency of repetition alone. In memorizing lists of pairs, for example, the subject is better satisfied when he holds the material in mind for a second or so after hearing or seeing it than when he loses it. If, on hearing the first member of a pair, he anticipates the second member, he is notably satisfied when his anticipatory reaction is correct. So "number of repetitions" in the ordinary experiments means in part also "number of opportunities for satisfying or annoying after-effects to operate."

We have sought to obtain closer approximations to the activity of repetition without the influence of the consequences of the connection, by using a different form of presentation of the connected pairs, by instructing the subjects in certain ways and by concealing or disguising the learning which we later test.

The most usual plan of our experiments to this end is to

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