Human Learning

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

Lecture 4
EXPLANATIONS OF THE INFLUENCE OF THE AFTER-EFFECTS OF A CONNECTION

WE have seen that the after-effects of a connection work back upon it to influence it. Our next problem is to learn what we can about how they do so. Facts are rather scanty, and we shall report them in connection with the theories or hypotheses which have been advanced.

The first of these theories declares that they do so by calling up ideas of themselves or of some equivalents for themselves in the mind. For example, in our experiments in learning to choose the right meaning for a word, the person has these experiences: Seeing word A, response 1, hearing "Wrong"; seeing word A, response 2, hearing "Wrong"; seeing word A, response 3, hearing "Right." When he next sees word A, any tendency to make response 1 or response 2 calls to his mind some image or memory or ideational equivalent of "Wrong," whereas any tendency to make response 3 calls to his mind some image or memory or ideational equivalent of "Right." So this theory would state. It would state further that such memories or ideas of wrong associated with a tendency must inhibit the tendency, and that such memories and ideas of right associated with a tendency must encourage it to act, and so preserve and strengthen it.

In the same way this theory, which we may call for convenience the representative or ideational theory, would explain the learning of a cat who came to avoid the exit S at which it received a mild shock and to favor the exit F

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