Human Learning

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

Lecture 5
NEW EXPERIMENTAL DATA ON THE AFTEREFFECTS OF A CONNECTION

IN the previous lecture we described an experiment with cards bearing four four-inch lines in which the subjects of the experiment strengthened connections between certain features of the card and tendencies to report the first or second or third or fourth line as longer than the others. This they did without being aware of the connection, and so without any possibility of repeating it to themselves during the learning or calling it to mind as a guide during the test. In such an experiment we have a certain feature of the external situation followed by certain responses each a certain number of times, and with certain specified after-effects controlled by the experimenter, and without interference by inner repetition, rehearsal, or recall by the subject. If we equalize frequency, any balance of strengthening or weakening must be due to the after-effects.

I have tried in the last two years to devise many experiments of this sort, attempting to reduce the danger that some special characteristic of the situation or response would make the experiments unfair tests of the potency of the consequences of a connection to modify it directly.

It is necessary either to have very many subjects with one or two experiments or many experiments each with a moderate number of subjects, because the influence, if there is any, will presumably be very slight, since the connections in question are of a response element with a situa

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