Human Learning

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

Lecture 3
THE INFLUENCE OF THE AFTER-EFFECTS OF A CONNECTION

WE have seen that the repetition of a sequence whose first and second parts are felt as belonging together strengthens the connection leading from the first to the second, though it does so rather slowly. Much of learning seems to involve something more than the mere repetition of relevant sequences. Obvious cases are those where the response which was repeatedly made to a situation in its early occurrences is yet in the end displaced by a response which was very infrequent at the start.

Consider the following experiment: An individual supplies letters to complete a list of 160 words like those shown below. He is to write one letter for each dot.

bet. . .f. . eaw.yp.nt
b. .edig. . . .me. .re. .
c. .ssfl. .tm.str. .d
d. .nju. .min.ss.op
fa. . .h. .rv. . .wi.e

He does this daily or oftener until he has written the series from sixteen to twenty-four times including sixteen to twenty-four completions of b.at. The records of eight individuals for the first sixteen series are shown in Table 4.

The situation, write a letter to make b.at into a word, evoked the response of writing 0 in nine out of the first sixteen occurrences (two for each of eight subjects), but by

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